Even though it’s fairly evident these days which is the more healthier substance of the two, the public’s opinion wasn’t always so cannabis-sympathetic.
Actually at times it wasn’t sympathetic at all.
This occurrence naturally didn’t happen all by itself, but in fact was a direct result propagated by the American government, which had a forceful anti-marijuana campaign during the 1930’s.
Prior to that there were numerous cannabis-infused remedies available in pharmacies across America, but a combination of a large-scaled Mexican immigration that was going on at the time (Mexican citizens were the first recreational consumers of pot in the US), and the government’s requirement for a common enemy to unite the people (especially after the Great Depression and The Prohibition), the completely unfair oppression of cannabis began.
You can learn more about the complete history of cannabis in this article of ours.
On the other side of the medal, the history of alcoholic beverages goes a little something like this:
From the ancient Egyptians, old China, India and Babylon, the use of fermented fruits, honey, rice and corn to create alcoholic drinks was a reality anywhere from around 7000 B.C., and most likely even earlier in the history of mankind.
During the 1500s alcohol was almost entirely used for medical reasons, and somewhere at the start of the eighteenth century the British parliament passed a law which allowed using grain for the production of alcoholic “spirits”.
This very rapidly turned into quite a trend, and widespread alcoholism became a real problem in the United Kingdom, and because of this there was a decline of compsuntion in all of the western world during the 19th century, followed by a total prohibition in the new continent in 1920.
This didn’t last long because the illegal manufacturing and distribution of alcohol skyrocketed very quickly, and the American government called off the prohibition in 1933.
I wanted to share with you how exactly alcohol and pot affect our minds, in case you’re unfamiliar with how they work, or if you just need a quick reminder.
We’ll start with alcohol first and then continue with cannabis.
Alcohol — How It Works
The most important part in all alcoholic beverages is ethanol.
This chemical compound also known as just alcohol, ethyl alcohol or drinking alcohol is responsible for the number of reactions in the brain and body which we call getting tipsy or drunk.
Once the drink enters our stomach, our digestive system spreads ethanol through our bloodstream, entering the heart, brain and other important parts of our organism.
What goes on in the brain is particularly crucial for the buzz we feel.
Ethanol acts as a depressant of our central nervous system, connecting with a neurotransmitter called glutamate, which is normally in charge of exciting neurons, but the ethanol slows down the function of these neurotransmitters, causing us to react more slowly to any outside stimulant.
It is also responsible for the release of dopamine, which is an organic chemical compound in charge of reward-motivated behaviour, present also in plants and the majority of all living things on Earth.
When we get drunk, the elevated secretion of dopamine is responsible for making us feel happy and confident.
The connection between GABA receptors and ethanol is also quite important for the complete understanding of how drinking affects our behaviour and sensations.
Gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors make us feel drowsy and calm, and because ethanol additionally activates them, so the feelings of calmness and serenity are magnified.
Now let’s look at how cannabis affects us.
Cannabis — How It Works
The active chemical compounds found in cannabis (THC, CBD etc) engage our own internal endocannabinoid system, which is basically a very large network of cells and receptors located in many different parts of our body, who react accordingly every time they come into contact with cannabinoids from cannabis.
THC is the main psychoactive compound in marijuana, and is responsible for some unordinary thought patterns, because its presence in our body shortens the time between breaks of neural transmissions of information, and by doing so it makes our thoughts became more easy flowing and generally more spontaneous.
Also cannabis is responsible for the added secretion of dopamine (just like alcohol), which makes us feel euphoric, confident and laid back.
But, unlike alcohol which can be beneficial for our health only in very small amounts, cannabis can be responsible for a truly wide array of medical benefits, ranging from regulation of appetite, mood disorders like depression and anxiety, stress, appetite, the regulation of our body heat and weight, and much much more.
What can be said about the long term effects of these substances to our own psychical and mental health?
Let’s find out.
Alcohol — Long Term Effects
Consuming alcohol regularly over an extensive period of time can cause some serious health issues, the first one being the death of brain cells, which is responsible for lowering our mental and physical functions.
Another terrible aspect of frequent drinking has an end result of cirrhosis of the liver, which is a horrendous medical condition where the patients require a transplant of the liver just to survive.
Pancreatitis is also very common, which is basically a very damaging inflammation of the pancreas, causing wrecking nerve damage.
Increased tolerance is another high-risk issue with alcohol, where the person cannot sense the short term effects like hangovers and headaches because of the elongated compsuntion.
This causes the users to feel like alcohol isn’t causing so much harm to them, but in fact they just cannot sense the havoc that alcohol is wreaking to their system.
Once the user reaches the dependence level, commonly known as alcoholism, things become really serious.
When our brain becomes so used to alcohol, the neural transmitters will start to malfunction without the constant presence of alcohol in it.
In this phase it’s excruciatingly difficult to stop drinking without any professional help, because the body and mind become so used to ethanol, they don’t properly work without it anymore.
Over indulgence of alcohol is responsible for a large number of health issues, and the main ones are high blood pressure, the risk of stroke and other serious heart related problems, liver disease, irreversible neural and brain damage, troubles with the libido and loss of sexual appetite, the risk of poisoning, ulcers, gastritis, malnutrition and of course cancer.
All of these issues make alcohol one hell of a dangerous substance, which should be taken quite seriously, and consumed very responsibly.
But what about pot? What are the dangers of ingesting cannabis on the regular over an extensive period of time?
Cannabis — Long Term Effects
Unlike with alcohol, extensive clinical research on long term effects of cannabis is still very limited, and the end result of these studies often deliver results that are conflicted with one another.
This comes to show that science still needs to pick up the pace regarding cannabis, in order for us to have a clearer picture with what really goes on with our bodies and minds after long periods of pot consumption.
Nonetheless, here’s what we know so far.
Possible Cognitive Troubles for Adolescents
There is a current ongoing debate if cannabis is responsible for causing long term issues in adolescents. Two studies from 2016 showed that teenage pot consumption isn’t connected with any kind of IQ lessening.
They used identical twins to determine if environmental factors are more important than genetic ones. In this study there was a decline of IQ test results over a long period of time in both the twin who was using weed, but the decline was also present in the other twin who never ingested any marijuana. The result was perfectly clear, an environmental factor was responsible for this fall of cognitive function for both twins.
Another study from 2014 shows that frequent teen users had a change of the white matter of the brain (which causes issues with with impulse control and the longevity of their attention span).
This was only evident in subjects who started using pot before the gentle age of 16, but the study had some serious failings in showing that marijuana was solely responsible for this this negative trend of the IQ, it just offered a suggestion that these two phenomenons are possibly connected.
The problem of increased tolerance can’t really be described as a long term effect, but it does happen after a significantly long period of weed compsuntion.
Tolerance happens because cells become resilient after being exposed to THC and other cannabinoids for an extended and frequent period of time, and this happens in our cannabinoid receptors, which downregulate the cells after being faced with too much THC.
This makes the cells in charge of absorbing THC far less absorbent, which in favor makes us feel less under the influence of cannabis.
Because of this the user will have to increase the amount of cannabis intake the feel the desired effects, but luckily this tolerance is only temporary as this study shows, and the only real problem that users who abstain for pot usually have is slight troubles with sleeping, and being in a somewhat lousy mood until the receptors naturally refresh themselves.
Possible Problems for People Struggling with Psychotic Disorders
This is a particularly delicate issue, because some clinical studies show that individuals who have a predisposition for specific mental illnesses are better off without cannabis.
Even though weed definitely cannot cause schizophrenia, there is a substantial amount of evidence that it can quicken the process where this illness can take full effect.
Unlike the teenage consumers in the previous study, this study shows that fully grown adults with psychotic illnesses can experience health improvements from consuming marijuana.
Hopefully now you can boast with a much better understanding on what exactly weed and alcohol can do to our bodies and minds, both momentarily and in the long run, and of course if you have any suggestion or questions, please let us know in the comment section.