Alcohol or Marijuana

April 11, 2015

Aaron E. Carroll asks “Alcohol or Marijuana?” and answers this question from a pediatricians standpoint. A very interesting post (found via Matt’s blog with some great comments). It’s one of the best articles on the topic i read in a long time and i like the fact that it’s on a high-profile site like the New York Times. He makes some very convincing – and maybe surprising for some – points about the comparison of alcohol to marijuana.

I also can’t ignore what I’ve seen as a pediatrician. I’ve seen young people brought to the emergency room because they’ve consumed too much alcohol and become poisoned. That happens thousands of times a year. Some even die.

And when my oldest child heads off to college in the not-too-distant future, this is what I will think of: Every year more than 1,800 college students die from alcohol-related accidents. About 600,000 are injured while under alcohol’s influence, almost 700,000 are assaulted, and almost 100,000 are sexually assaulted. About 400,000 have unprotected sex, and 100,000 are too drunk to know if they consented. The numbers for pot aren’t even in the same league.

I think the public opinion on drugs is completely distorted today. If you talk to people about drugs, it’s pretty common to refer to drugs when talking about so many substances (mostly the illegal ones) yet at the same time not even seeing alcohol as a drug. Which is bad because it’s not possible to have a real discussion and to compare things if you categorize them differently to begin with.

Fact is, humans liked to alter their minds ever since and some substances can help in that regard. Whether someone is smoking pot, drinking a beer or taking any other substance, it is on a fundamental level for the same reason: Alter your brain activity. If your use of a substance will lead you to abusing it later on has several complicated reasons beyond just which kind of drug we’re talking about.

Another fact is that prohibition created way more problems and harmed more people than it ever helped and it created a whole lot of criminality along the way. It never stopped anyone from taking something but instead created a market for dirty, unclean and dangerous substances of which many people died. Happened during the alcohol prohibition in the states as well as with any other drug prohibition i know of.

We really need to have this public discourse about drugs and we need to change the way we treat this topic. The legalization of marijuana – which is inevitable if you ask me – and the more differentiated public discussion that seems to come with it, is one first step in the right direction.

Alcohol or Marijuana? A Pediatrician Faces the Question

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