The Difference Between Alcohol and Cannabis – A Stoner’s Encounter
As an experienced psychonaut, I’ve experimented with most substances under the sun over the years. But of all of them, good old cannabis and booze remain staples. Now I enjoy both in moderation, but it’s clear alcohol is far more destructive when over-consumed. A rough night recently reminded me how different they really are.
Last weekend we were celebrating a kid’s birthday at the pool. I had some drinks but didn’t even get drunk really. I think at max I had about 3 drinks and two beers. Of course, for me, that’s a lot. I don’t drink nearly as much as I smoke. Yet, since these people were not really “stone-inclined”, I decided to go a bit heavier on the juice. However, the next day’s hangover was a doozy – pounding headache, overwhelming nausea, total lethargy. I felt like I was poisoned!
It got me thinking about the dramatic contrast between going overboard with alcohol versus weed. With cannabis, you may get uncomfortably high, but it isn’t potentially lethal like alcohol poisoning. Let’s examine the difference.
Too Much Weed: Unpleasant but Not Dangerous
When you consume cannabis past your personal limit, a phenomenon known as “greening out” may occur. Symptoms include dizziness, anxiety, paranoia, cold sweats, and general misery. I’ve written about this extensively and provided guides to people who might find themselves in this exact situation. Nonetheless, the worst expression of cannabis in excess is “the green out”.
But crucially, it’s next to impossible to fatally overdose on THC. The LD50 (lethal dose for 50% of subjects) has never been determined because cannabis’s toxicity is so low. At worst you’ll have a terrible time, but your life is never at risk.
This doesn’t mean that some people might “think” that they are dying. This is common, “I’m dying man!” when in reality you’re just tripping balls. Green outs are the reason people run towards ERs because they can’t handle their shit. This is because the experience is intense, and I don’t blame those for going to the ER.
Of course, it’s best to simply remain calm, eat some food, lay back and relax.
With supportive friends and rest, greenouts pass. Remaining hydrated and breathing deeply calms the mind. The cannabis didn’t harm you, only your own poor dosing decision. It’s uncomfortable, but not life-threatening.
And this is an important difference between alcohol and cannabis. Where with cannabis you can have “one too may” and have a disorienting time…you won’t die! Yet, currently at the time of writing this article – cannabis still sits as a “Schedule I narcotic” meaning it has no inherent medical value and a high potential of abuse (according to Uncle Sam).
Too Much Alcohol: Potentially Lethal
In contrast, alcohol is quite easy to fatally overdose on. Being fully blackout drunk is acute alcohol poisoning. Respiratory depression and vomiting lead to aspiration. Blood alcohol over 0.4% can induce coma and death.
Additionally, drunk actions often cause injury or irresponsible behavior like violence, drunk driving, risky sex. Even according to the FBI, alcohol is responsible or at least was present in 40+% of all murders and is present in most rape situations. Loss of control leads to actions you’d never take sober. Hangovers alone can be debilitating.
But that’s not the worst part. It fuels violence, it fuels crime, it destroys the individual and the community around those individuals heavily under the influence of chronic alcoholism. But unlike cannabis, alcohol isn’t even on the Controlled Substance Act. It’s regulated by an entirely different agency known as the ATF, which for some reason lumped alcohol, firearms and tobacco under one jurisdiction.
This means, that alcohol producers can get subsidized by the government, and the liquid poison can be purchased at virtually any convenience store. What about the children? Well, the children don’t matter when it comes to alcohol as you can sell it near schools and playgrounds.
And for those who says you can’t, the truth is – you can. As long as you sell it from a Walmart, 7/11, or any big name store…then you can sell ethanol as much as you want irrespective if there’s a school nearby.
And long-term heavy alcohol use can destroy the liver, heart and brain. No substance compares to booze’s sheer toxicity when abused.
Yet this is the “socially accepted drug” which is promoted on television as the “All American Drug”, except of course when you put Dylan Mullvaney on a can – then it’s not “American” enough. However, every other drink is proud sponsors of “Super Bowls” and other major sporting events. It’s being drunk on morning television as a “wake me up”, and nobody bats an eye.
Alcohol – they great destabilizer!
“That’s The Last Time I Drink!”
It’s cliché, but how often have you sworn off booze completely during a brutal hangover? The nausea, headaches, and shame have convinced you never to touch it again. Until next weekend. I don’t ever really get to the severe hangover because at most, I have one or two drinks a month. I may buy a bottle of booze, and it will last me weeks or even months depending on how much weed I have.
Personally, I drink only every now and then. A cold beer on a hot day. A glass of brandy and coke after a long day of work to accompany my joint…a glass of wine with some food. I don’t “drink” to get drunk…I have weed for that!
With weed, I’ve never once regretted overdoing it. At most you lament eating too many munchies or passing out early. Cannabis laps don’t leave you wavering on death’s door like a three day bender. With cannabis, I have greened out on three occasions – two of them was because I mixed booze with the weed. The third one was because I over indulged in brownies. With the brownie OD, I managed to simply sleep it off – for 16 hours!
But, I woke up feeling refreshed and ready to go. Can’t say the same for alcohol.
And cannabis clouds judgement far less than alcohol. Sure, you may watch some ridiculous movies stoned or sleep in too late. But you likely won’t drive wasted or get into bar fights. Alcohol lowers inhibitions cannabis does not.
When I had a few drinks this past weekend, I woke up on Monday ready to start my exercise routine but couldn’t. I felt like I was poisoned. My head was pounding, my body was weak. I took like 3 shits in the morning!
This was not entirely alcohol’s fault either. I also had junk food, which is something I hardly do either. Too much Pizza, too much alcohol = OMG my body is dying! I also think the lack of sleep played a role, and combined, created a situation that floored me for an entire day.
While definitely this won’t be “The last time I drink”, it was a stark reminder why I drink so little. The truth is I stopped drinking heavily when I was 23, and decided to make weed my main substance of choice.
Life’s been much better since, and I look about 10 years younger than my peers. Was that the weed? Maybe. Maybe I just have good genes. Nonetheless, I do think that the fact I swayed away from excessive alcohol consumption in my twenties played a huge role!
Alcohol Defies All Logic of “Controlled Substances”
Given these vast differences in risk and harm, it baffles me that alcohol remains federally legal while most states still prohibit cannabis. Alcohol contributes to millions of deaths annually via overdose, drunk driving, violence and health impacts. Cannabis contributes to zero.
By any rational standard, alcohol should be America’s Schedule I drug, not cannabis. But it has its own powerful lobbies and tax base. Our drug laws are arbitrary and nonsensical.
This is why I can’t get behind the Controlled Substance Act. They claim that they use science and reason to determine the potential risk factors and classifications for the substances – however, they don’t include things like alcohol and tobacco.
These drugs are far more dangerous than all of the illegal drugs combined. Yep, alcohol alone kills more people than all the illegal drugs combined…even fentanyl!
Yea, you see those “Dancing Zombie” videos of people tripping on fentanyl on the side of the road and think, “We’re in a crises!” when in reality, if they were to have footage of drunk people doing dumb shit, the crises would be far worse.
Alcohol is the most dangerous legal drug available. Tobacco is the most lethal legal drug. Both of them are subsidized by the government who claims that the CSA exists for your health and protection. But how is this possible when they literally fund the most dangerous and most lethal drugs in America?
The Sticky Bottom Line
The bottom line is while both alcohol and cannabis can be reasonably enjoyed, alcohol becomes far more destructive when consumed recklessly. My rough night was reminder enough.
Ultimately, we should have the freedom to make our own choices. But let’s be real – alcohol causes infinitely more damage to lives and communities. Our drug laws should reflect facts, not outdated moral judgements.
Let’s be clear, people should be allowed to choose to consume alcohol. They should be allowed to smoke cigarettes. They should be allowed to smoke weed. They should be allowed to do heroin, LSD, eat mushrooms, do meth!
If we truly live in a free society, they should have the freedom of choice to exercise what substances they put in their bodies. However, we live in a society where “some drugs are cool”, others aren’t…and only a handful of people benefit from this system at the expense of everyone else.
Cannabis is a superior drug to alcohol. That’s my conclusion.