People of all ages, but especially those in younger generations, are drinking less and smoking cannabis more. According to the annual Monitoring the Future survey, sponsored by The National Institute On Drug Abuse at The National Institutes of Health, 44% of college students reported using cannabis in 2020, with 56% reporting alcohol use. In 2015, only 38% of college students admitted to using cannabis, and in 2019 62% reported drinking.
No one can claim to know the reason for this phenomenon, but there are some benefits to switching from alcohol to cannabis that are worth considering. Whether you are looking to lose the beer belly or cut down on sugar, cannabis has been a welcome alternative for people looking to cut out some of the unwanted side effects of alcohol use.
Here are a few reasons people might choose to trade their wine glasses for joints.
Editor’s Note: The following article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen.
1. To Lose Weight
Alcohol can have a lot of calories. Even a shot of vodka has about 100 calories. But cannabis provides a pathway to get a nice buzz without all the unwanted calories (unless, of course, you get the munchies).
Many cannabis products come in forms that do have some calories, like gummies or sodas. But in general, smoking cannabis or eating one gummy will be a lot less damaging to your weight loss journey than drinking three to six beers.
For some, cannabis products provide that special sense of celebration and reward at the end of the day, without all the bloating and calorie intake involved in drinking. However, just using cannabis is certainly not a fast track to weight loss. If you are trying to lose weight, you will want to add some additional strategies like exercise and healthy eating to your routine.
2. Better Sleep
People often believe that alcohol helps you sleep more, and while it will put you to sleep faster, research shows it typically disrupts sleep patterns and causes you to have less restful sleep overall. Additionally, if you’re sensitive to sugar, sweetened cocktails and wines may be keeping you awake.
Cannabis has been known to help promote sleep and can get someone back to their normal sleep schedule if they get thrown off due to work or other circumstances. Many medical marijuana doctors recommend it for insomniacs for just this reason. It isn’t as well studied to be a regular sleep aid, but anecdotal evidence does support the idea that it can help people achieve deeper and more consistent rest.
3. More choices
When it comes to alcohol, unless you’re getting very experimental with where you put it, drinking is how you consume it. Cannabis products come in all shapes and sizes and can be eaten, drunk, or smoked. There are even highly effective cannabis tinctures on the market that are dropped under the tongue, and you can use cannabis creams to target sore muscles.
Plenty of people use both weed and alcohol, but switch to cannabis when they need flexibility of consumption. For example, you may not be able to bring a flask to a concert, but you can certainly pop an edible before you go.
4. Less long-term risk
Both alcohol and cannabis can be addictive, but the long-term risks associated with addiction to these two substances are very different.
Alcoholism can lead to pancreatitis, liver disease, heart problems, infertility, cancer, and more. It can also make people more violent and physically dangerous to themselves and others.
Cannabis addiction is also dangerous. It leads to problems with your lungs if smoked over a long period of time, and contributes to brain development issues if used by minors. But other than that, the latest research has shown very few harmful side effects associated with cannabis use, leading some health experts to concede that, generally speaking, there are fewer risks involved with consuming cannabis than there are with alcohol.
The primary reason for this? There are no recorded instances of cannabis overdose. A recent study showed a person would have to consume between 238 and 1,113 joints in one day to absorb a fatal dose of THC.
Additionally, while alcohol makes people more violent, THC generally makes those who consume it drowsy, making it less likely for them to harm themselves or others. A study observing couples in their first nine years of marriage indicated that those who used cannabis had lower rates of intimate partner violence than those who did not.
That said, addiction to any substance will inevitably contribute to the deterioration of social connections and make people withdrawn from loved ones, along with possibly triggering depression and other mental health issues. Regardless of which is healthier, it is important to use both with caution.
5. No hangover, no problems
One of the biggest pros for cutting out alcohol and making the switch to cannabis is saying goodbye to brutal hangovers. As people get older, hangovers tend to get more severe and harder to deal with. A bad hangover can cause vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, and more.
Cannabis use can also lead to some after-effects like drowsiness, brain fog, and headaches, but these effects do tend to be less severe than a hangover. This could be a reason why people choose to switch or cut down on alcohol use.
6. The effects
Alcohol is a depressant, and while a glass of wine can be calming at the end of a long day, much more than that can lead to more violent behavior and mood changes that impact others in negative ways. Cannabis products can also alter mood and even cause hallucinations, but it generally isn’t linked to violent situations like domestic violence or bar fights.
Marijuana tends to relax people, and can even be used to help treat anxiety. While it can cause panic attacks when used in excess, these episodes typically do not lead to outbursts of violence (though there are exceptions).
Should you replace alcohol with cannabis?
Cutting down on alcohol is good for your health, and if you’re hoping that cannabis use can help you do that, there’s a chance that it will. But there is no guarantee that strategy will help you achieve your goals. Due to its status as a Schedule 1 substance under the Controlled Substances Act, scientists and medical professionals still lack the research needed to derive conclusions on its benefits and adverse effects.
Cannabis can help people feel calmer, less anxious, and less stressed, but many long-term effects have yet to be studied scientifically. Overall, if you’re looking to cut out some of the negative side effects of alcohol by making the switch to cannabis, that could be the right choice. Just proceed with caution and explore other options as well.