Alcohol and Marijuana

The two most popular drugs among teens are alcohol and marijuana. However, these are two distinctly different drugs, that affect the body in different ways. Keep reading to learn the effects and dangers of alcohol and marijuana use and abuse.

When most people think of teenagers and substance abuse, alcohol and marijuana are the drugs that seem to come up most often -- and for good reason. These are the two most abused drugs out there when it comes to teenagers. The Marin Institute reports that 11,318 teenagers in America try alcohol for the first time each day. The second most tried drug is marijuana, which sees 6,488 teenagers each day. So, even though alcohol is even more used than marijuana, it is clear that alcohol and marijuana together make up a large amount of the substance use by teenager in the U.S.

Perception of Reduced Danger

One of the main reasons that alcohol and marijuana are so popular is due to the fact that there is a lower perceived danger with these substances. They both provide a type of escape, and alter the mind state in ways that are considered pleasant. And these effects are achieved by substances that are not considered particularly dangerous. Most teenagers do not consider alcohol terribly dangerous. After all, it is a legal substance (for those over 21), and chances are that their parents drink alcohol on occasion. In the case of marijuana, the drug is considered fairly low risk, since it does not have the same dramatic effects of other illegal drugs, like cocaine, heroin or meth.

However, this can be misleading. Even though alcohol and marijuana come with lower perceived risks, the truth is that there are real health effects. Both can raise the chances of developing cancer down the road, and both have effects on the brain. Additionally, judgment is altered when alcohol or drugs are used, and that can lead to injury, poor decisions, and even death if a car accident is involved. Alcohol poisoning can lead to death as well.

Effects of Alcohol and Marijuana

Alcohol and marijuana are two very different drugs, with different effects on the body. Alcohol is a depressant, meaning that it slows the way the central nervous system functions. The way that alcohol blocks some of the signals being sent to the brain is the reason that the mild altering effects can be felt. Marijuana, though, is less easy to classify. Marijuana can act as a stimulant or a depressant, depending on the mood and the chemical makeup of the user. In some cases, marijuana can also exhibit some of the properties of a hallucinogen. Marijuana is difficult to classify for that reason.

Alcohol has a more noticeable intoxication effect than marijuana, which has a more subtle effect. When under the influence of alcohol, people are more likely to respond quickly, trading off accuracy for speed. With marijuana, though, people are more likely to move with greater deliberation, trying to work through a problem. However, judgment is still impaired with marijuana, and although accuracy is better with marijuana than with alcohol, best decisions are made when there is no substance use.

It is worth noting that marijuana does not change the rate of absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream. Indeed, the two drugs rarely have direct effects on each other. However, it can be difficult to tell the level of marijuana intoxication if the person has been intoxicated by alcohol, according to an interesting study done at the University of Sydney in Australia.

Which is More Dangerous, Alcohol or Marijuana?

The debate over the legalization of marijuana focuses to some degree on the danger of marijuana as compared to the danger posed by alcohol. Many have asserted that alcohol is more dangerous. There is evidence that it is more addictive than marijuana, and that the greater impairment of judgment with alcohol leads to more deaths. Indeed, alcohol is involved in more deaths each year than marijuana. Additionally, many point out that those who use marijuana are more likely to stay put, limiting the danger they pose to others, while those under the influence of alcohol are likely to head out into public, and possible pose a danger to others.

These arguments reason that if alcohol, with all the danger posed by intoxication to persons and property, is legal, then marijuana should be as well. However, no matter where you stand on the debate, it is important to realize that there are health implications associated with both drugs. They each have effects on the body that can lead to disease and possibly to death. It is important to be careful about how you use any substance, and this includes alcohol and marijuana.

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