If you have ever considered switching from drinking alcohol to smoking and consuming marijuana the book Marijuana is Safer—So Why Are We Driving People to Drink? is a must-read.
Prohibition was repealed on December 5, 1933. Alcohol has been consecutively legal for eighty-six years. For Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millenials, and Generation Zs, it’s hard to fathom beer, wine, or spirits being outlawed. Sometimes, it’s even hard to remember drinking is bad for your health since it is so readily available and deeply ingrained in American life. We drink for every situation and event; any hour of the day. Americans have been inundated by beverage advertising. According to a University of Texas in Austin study, alcohol advertising has increased by 400% in the last decade. Advertising and other cultural influences may have normalized habitual drinking without considering health consequences.
It’s common knowledge heavy drinking is detrimental to your health. But what are the health effects and risks of moderate or occasional drinking? There is a wide range of information on the internet and in the media. Some information can be sponsored by alcoholic beverage companies which can cloud the facts. Steve Fox, Paul Armentano and Mason Tvert write in-depth about the alcoholic beverage advertising industry, weed prohibition history, comparing health effects of weed and alcohol, cultural battles against cannabis and more in the book Marijuana is Safer.
Two Main Reasons Drinking is Harmful
The authors of Marijuana is Safer are obviously pro-marijuana. However, they speak objectively about some of the harmful respiratory effects of smoking pot and cognitive anomalies in youth cannabis users. They mention two main reasons why drinking alcohol is harmful to health. First, mentioned in the book, “alcohol acts primarily upon receptors and ion channels that, when stimulated, depress the inhibitory control mechanisms of the brain.1 When low to moderate levels of alcohol are consumed, complex mental faculties such as memory, concentration, and judgment are affected, as well as one’s mood and motor coordination. When a person ingests larger quantities of booze, lower brainstem centers are adversely affected. Since this region of the brain regulates cardiac and respiratory function, depression of this system may result in a loss of consciousness, breathing, or even death.”
Secondly, drinking is harmful is because ingestion can have a toxic effect on the body’s cells and major organs2. After alcohol is consumed, the body converts it into acetaldehyde, which is a carcinogenic substance that can cause a plethora of effects to cells and vital organs3. Since acetaldehyde is harmful, the body quickly converts it to acetate. Acetate is eventually broken down into carbon dioxide and water4. Drinking too much alcohol in one session can hinder the body’s ability to break down acetaldehyde. Over time a buildup of toxic material can be harmful to cells and major organs.
Since this region of the brain regulates cardiac and respiratory function, depression of this system may result in a loss of consciousness, breathing, or even death.Marijuana is safer
Herding American’s Towards Alcohol
In Marijuana is Safe, it calls out secretive alcohol studies that were silenced by pay-offs. For example, there was a study in the mid-1990s by World Health Organization in which they studied the health and societal consequences of cannabis use compared to the use of alcohol, nicotine, and opiates. As a result, the researchers concluded: “Overall, most of these risks (associated with marijuana ) are small to moderate in size. In aggregate, they are unlikely to produce public health problems comparable in scale to those currently produced by alcohol and tobacco…On existing patterns of use, cannabis poses a much less serious public health problem than is currently posed by alcohol and tobacco in Western societies.”4
The deeper societal impact of Michael Phelp’s Infamous Bong Hit Photo
An interesting chapter in the book speaks about the infamous 2009 photo of the USA Olympic medal winner, Michael Phelp’s taking a hit from a bong. The photo had large implications from the media and social reaction. If you can recall, Michael Phelps had just won 28 medals at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. A few months later, a photo of Phelps smoking out of a bong surfaced on the web. Within days, his sponsors cut ties with Phelps. A spokesperson at Kellogg’s Company said his behavior “was not consistent with the image of Kellogg.” He was suspended from competitive swimming for three months by USA Swimming. USA Swimming is the governing body for the sport of swimming in America. That wasn’t all. The sheriff of Richland County, South Carolina, where the bong photo was taken had launched a major investigation over a photo of marijuana use. A few weeks later, twelve armed deputies burst into the home where the photo was taken. They seized computers, laptops, and an electronic storage device. The police found six grams of marijuana in the home. Multiple people were arrested. The sheriff concluded there was not sufficient evidence to charge Phelps. All of this because of a photo of marijuana use.
Michael Phelps’s story and other headlines like it help perpetuate cannabis prohibition. Phelps was unfairly punished for marijuana use. Especially when there are reports of Phelps debatably abusing alcohol. He was also photographed grabbing woman at a Las Vegas Playboy Club. Would the alcohol and groping be worthy of suspensions, being fired from sponsors, or police investigations? News stories like Micheal Phelps’ have a large cultural influence and perpetuate prohibition on marijuana.
In conclusion, Marijuana is Safer is a unique read. The book is packed with surprising stats and facts. Marijuana is Safer helps dig deep under the layers of cover-ups and big beverage industry payoffs. As marijuana becomes legal in more U.S. states, you may be curious whether marijuana might be a better choice than your post-work or weekend binge of beer, wine or spirits. Check this book out if you want to see alcohol in a new light.
|Page count: 256 pages|
|Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing|
|Authors: Steve Fox, Paul Armentano, and Mason Tvert|
1Hobbs et al., “Hypnotics and Sedatives; Ethanol,” in The Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics, 9th ed., eds. Goodman and Gilman (New York: McGraw Hill, 1996).
3Molly Siple, Eating for Recovery: The Essential Nutrition Plan to Reverse the Physical Damage of Alcoholism (Cambridge, Mass.: De Capo Press, 2008).
4Wayne Hall, A Comparative Appraisal of the Health and Psychological Consequences of Alcohol, Cannabis, Nicotine, and Opiate Use (University of North Wales: National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, 1995).