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Marijuana vs Alcohol: Which is Worse?

Both have been called "Gateway Drugs," but what is the truth?

Marijuana vs AlcoholAlcohol and marijuana are two of the most common recreational drugs, and many people experiment with a combination of both. However, if you consider the social impact, side effects, and legal regulations on each drug, they occupy two very different worlds. So, which substance is worse for you? That depends on the following criteria:

Before you get started on your path toward personal accountability, it's important to know the following facts:

Legal Consequences

Alcohol is legal if you're older than 21, but marijuana is only legal for recreational use in four states and for medicinal use in 19 more. Even in these states, employers may choose to forbid the drug's use through zero tolerance policies in the workplace. If an arrest or failed drug test would ruin your career, marijuana is probably riskier than alcohol for you.

However, if you tend to gravitate toward instant gratification or you have trouble turning down things that are bad for you, alcohol use will leave you more vulnerable. Because it's legal and socially acceptable almost everywhere, it's more accessible than marijuana.

Physical Consequences

If you've ever thrown up after drinking or woken up with a hangover, you've experienced the short-term side effects of alcohol. One night of drinking can cause everything from dehydration to death as alcohol poisoning can be fatal. Because your reasoning skills and coordination are also affected, you may also face alcohol-related risks. By engaging in risky behaviors such as drunk driving, bar brawls, and sexual activity, you can face unintended consequences of accidents, injuries, unintended pregnancy, or sexually transmitted diseases.

Alcohol also prevents your body from absorbing vitamin B1 and other nutrients. If you drink excessively for years, this deficiency may lead to brain damage known as "wet brain" (Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome). Alcohol isn't always bad for your body, though. Because it's a blood thinner, some cardiologists even recommend a glass of wine every day to combat heart disease and blood clots.

Marijuana is not as toxic to your body as alcohol can be. However, it does cause some short-term damage to your memory and concentration skills, and its psychoactive "high" can be traumatizing or uncomfortable if you don't know what to expect. Of course, how you take it in also affects how it may or may not affect your health. If you already have respiratory problems, smoking marijuana may exaggerate them. It also destroys lung fibers and suppresses your immune system. Oils and edibles may be a better choice for those seeking some medical benefits without lung irritation issues as a side effect.

"Addictive" Potential

Saint Jude Retreats doesn't promote the myth of "addiction", we do understand that some substances may seem more appealing than others to you. If you're wondering which substance is harder to stop using, substances have no additional powers outside of the chemical properties they possess already. 12 Step programs and treatment programs would have you believe that inert chemicals can have some extra power over you but this is simply not true. They have no more power than their chemical makeup and, of course, whatever power you choose to give them by using them.

Whichever is harder for you to give up is really more personal. One person may have no trouble at all giving up alcohol and another never miss using marijuana but would really have difficulty abstaining from alcohol completely and vice versa.

Even this idea of "giving something up" totally is based on a belief of total abstinence that 12 Step programs maintain as the only measure of sobriety. Saint Jude Retreats knows you have the power to make your own choices about your relationship with substances, whether it's in your best interest to abstain or moderate given your own personal situation, history, values, behavior, and factors that you decide for yourself.

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