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Research Paper: Research Question- Is Marijuana Safer than Alcohol?

A Beer or a Joint?

The public has been told how bad marijuana is for the longest time without ever addressing the facts behind what it does to the human body. Meanwhile bars stay open till 2 am every night and no one questions that alcohol is very detrimental to a person's health and can even kill when consumed. Which one is really safer though, marijuana or alcohol? Although some authority figures may claim that marijuana is a gateway drug or can lead to heart attacks most research shows that these impressions are false. Marijuana has actually been proven to be safer than alcohol due to the mental, physical, and long term effects they each have on the body.

Research done by Dr. Lachenmeier and Dr. Stein has shown that the effects marijuana has on the body are of low risk when compared to other drugs such as alcohol and tobacco. When compared to a deadly dose marijuana is ranked in the lowest risk category while alcohol was in the highest risk (Comparative Risk Assessment of Alcohol, Tobacco, Cannabis and Other Illicit Drugs). When compared on a scale of how much safer marijuana is than alcohol in terms of deadly dose using the MOE (margin of exposure) the study found marijuana to be 1000 times as safe as alcohol (Comparative Risk Assessment). This study alone proves that marijuana in excess is safer to consume than its legal counterpart, alcohol. Other research done has found that there are no known overdoses for marijuana recorded in medical records (Marijuana Less Harmful than Alcohol or Tobacco).

The immediate effects that marijuana has on the body and its side effects are pretty minimal to say the least. Although there are little studies done for marijuana what has been done shows that it has only a slight impact on motor function skills in comparison to alcohol (Is marijuana as safe as - or safer than- alcohol?). Some users of marijuana also experience temporary paranoia or hallucinations but they never drive a person insane or to do something out of character. And then of course the most known and least harmful side effect of them all (unless on a diet) is the munchies, or an increased appetite in food (Is marijuana as safe as- or safer than- alcohol?). Unless the user has a problem with eating a lot of food this is hardly a downside to the drug compared to alcohol's side effects.

The side effects alcohol has on the body is well documented as is known that even in ancient times Egyptians drank beer and Greeks drank wine. There are even movies named after what happens after a night of too much drinking (Hangover), but what exactly does alcohol due to the user in the 24 hours he consumes it? For starters if the user drinks too much of it they'll die, which happens over 1600 times a year in just the United States (Is marijuana as safe as- or safer than- alcohol?). Not only can it kill the user if they decide to have "one too many" but it can also impair their motor skills making them unable to drive a car. Out of every twenty-people injured by car crashes, one of them is by cause of a drunken driver behind the wheel (Is marijuana as safe as- or safer than- alcohol?). Not only can alcohol impair motor functions but it can also leave the user feeling dehydrated and lead to vomiting (Beyond Hangovers 4). But how do these drugs effect a longtime user who abuses the drug over a long period of time?

What does alcohol do to a longtime user? Well it can affect the person's brain, heart, liver, pancreas, and increase the person's chances of cancer. "Long-term, heavy drinking causes alterations in neurons, such as reductions in the size of the brain cells." (Beyond Hangovers 6) as stated in a handout by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. This means the brain cells will no longer be growing to normal size thus reducing the brains ability to think and comprehend. The heart can be damaged by long term drinking as well (Beyond Hangovers 10-11). This can cause the user to have a heart attack or stroke leading to a sudden untimely death (Beyond Hangovers 11). Liver disease is common among long time users with over 2 million reported cases caused by alcohol in the United States alone (Beyond Hangovers 13). In some severe cases of liver disease, the user may require a liver transplant and all this because of excessive drinking. After years of drinking the user may begin to suffer acute pancreatitis which affects the user's pancreas' ability to break down harmful chemicals consumed (Beyond Hangovers). This can lead to the user experiencing vomiting, fever, and diarrhea. Unfortunately, the news only gets worse for people who drink alcohol as opposed to smoking marijuana. This use leads to increased chances of 6 different types of cancers including, mouth, esophagus, pharynx, larynx, liver, and breast cancer (Beyond Hangovers). Overall amongst mouth cancer patients 7 out of 10 say they drink heavily showing just how easy it is to contract cancer from a lifelong use of alcohol (Beyond Hangovers).

Marijuana's long term effects are far from few but also are harder to come by as we just are experiencing a new wave of legalization making it possible to test the drug under lab circumstances to further find out more about its components. Long term use has shown to change the reward circuit function of the brain making the user feel more excited about marijuana than other things that were previously offered (Long-Term Marijuana Use Changes the Brains Reward Circuit). Marijuana use in early ages has also been associated with a possible drop in IQ points and other abnormal brain functions (Early Marijuana Use Associated with Abnormal Brain Functions). Dr. Ousch stated that "These findings suggest that using marijuana does not correct the brain abnormalities or symptoms of depression and using it from an early age may have an abnormal effect not only on brain function, but also on IQ," (Early Marijuana Use Associated with Abnormal Brain Functions). Other side effects upon use of marijuana that have been stated but are harder to prove include breathing problems and an increased heart rate (Marijuana). It is also being noted that pregnant women should avoid marijuana as there are no studies yet to show any possible side effects of marijuana may have.

The users brain and how it affected by each drug is still being studied further as neuroscience is still young but there is enough research to create a picture of what each does already. While high on marijuana some people experienced temporary hallucinations as well as temporary paranoia that later faded off with the high of the drug (Marijuana). It has been noted that with people who have a family history of schizophrenia should avoid marijuana use due to studies showing that it can elevate the potential risk for the person to be diagnosed with schizophrenia (Marijuana). Other studies also show a correlation in marijuana use and bipolar disorder and depression. A marijuana user who starts using before the age of 18 has an increased risk for both bipolar disorder as well as depression (Early Marijuana Use Associated With Abnormal Brain Function, Low IQ). As for addiction to marijuana and if one can be addicted to the dug itself it must be known that although marijuana addiction has been reported and observed it does not make a user physically dependent nor does it change the minds ability to know what it really needs as is seen in methamphetamine and cocaine users (Marijuana).

Alcohol is horrible for mental health no matter the way the research is looked at. As reported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, "Users can experience: anxiety, depression, shortened attention span, coordination problems, including asterixis, which results in hand shaking or flapping, sleep disturbances, and mood and personality changes." (Beyond Hangovers 8). This does not include the mental aspect of addiction either. Alcohol abusers face dependency on the drug and problems with their personal relationships as they further use the drug also rationalizing their mistakes (Comparative Risk Assessment).

When the two are put up against each other with all the real facts it is clear to see how much safer marijuana is than alcohol. Not only can a person fail to overdose on marijuana but there are no major life threatening long term health effects involved with usage either. Alcohol proved to be no better for health and actually can deteriorate the human body enough to kill someone. Factor in the chances of being in an accident caused by a drunk driver and that is a deadly combination. Although one of the two may be legalized throughout the country only one of them is "safe" for human consumption and that is marijuana.

Center for Brain Health. "Long-term Marijuana Use Changes Brain's Reward Circuit." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily
Join Together Staff. "Report: Marijuana Less Harmful than Alcohol or Tobacco - Partnership for Drug-Free Kids." Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. Drug-Free Kids
Lawson Health Research Institute. "Early Marijuana Use Associated with Abnormal BrainFunction, Low IQ." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily
Lachenmeier, Dirk W., and J├╝rgen Rehm. "Comparative Risk Assessment of Alcohol, Tobacco, Cannabis and Other Illicit Drugs Using the Margin of Exposure Approach." Scientific Reports. Nature Publishing Group

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Beyond Hangovers: Understanding Alcohol's Impact Your Health. Bethesda, MD: U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

National Institute on Drug Abuse. "Marijuana." National Institute on Drug Abuse. DrugFacts
Taite, Richard. "Studies Show Long-Term Effects of Cannabis on the Brain." Psychology Today. Psychology Today
Wilson, Jacque, and Jen Christensen. "Is Marijuana as Safe as -- or Safer than -- Alcohol?" CNN. Cable News Network

Nov 30, 2016   #2
David, this type of research paper must be delicately balanced between the good and bad effects of both alcohol and Marijuana. This is because the topics you chose to discuss are both highly debatable and, as some health sectors will say, also have an equal amount of health benefits and drawbacks. By presenting the pros and cons of each topic, you will be able to better inform the reader and allow them to come to their own conclusions regarding which is safer between the two.

What you have to do is do more research on the projected "health" benefits of alcohol on the system of a person. In the overall essay, I noticed a lopsided argument in favor of Marijuana. While this may be the case, it is important to consider the other half of the discussion that states "A glass of wine a day has health benefits for individuals". We are highly familiar with the projected health benefits for Marijuana users but not everyone sees the health side of beer because of all the bad publicity that it gets.

Aim to present an informed and balanced discussion of the two sides, as the researcher you have the option to weaken the argument that supports alcohol as being beneficial to individuals, health-wise. It is all about how you present your evidence. That is a necessary presentation in your essay because you cannot do a proper comparison of the two unless you have enough facts to base your statement and final opinion on. Right now, your information only supports one side of the discussion. Try to "weakly" support the other point of view as well in order to help strengthen your "strong" point of view.

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