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Is Replacing Alcohol with Weed a Good Idea?

  • Using cannabis regularly is much safer than using alcohol. Excessive drinking can cause organ damage, cancer, other serious diseases, and even overdose or death.
  • Unlike alcohol, cannabis is a legal medication in the majority of U.S. states. Non-smoking applications aren’t linked to cancer, and overdosing is extremely difficult, if not impossible, no matter your chosen administration tactic.
  • Cannabis safely and effectively treats a wide array of medical conditions; you can gain access by obtaining a medical recommendation from a qualified clinician.

Alcohol loosens your body, numbs physical sensations, and slows racing thoughts—it’s tempting to use it to self-medicate chronic conditions like pain and mental health issues. However, alcohol use can quickly slip into alcohol abuse, which heightens your risk of injury, illness, and death.

Cannabis produces many of the same effects as alcohol. Depending on the type you consume, it fills you with euphoria, relieves pain, and relaxes your body and mind.

But there’s one significant difference: cannabis is much, much safer than alcohol.

Keep reading to learn the contrasting impacts of consistent cannabis and alcohol use and how, when it comes to your health and safety, there’s truly no comparison. Then, find out how you can gain access to medical cannabis conveniently and efficiently with help from TeleLeaf.

Alcohol vs. Cannabis: Health Impacts

Drinking occasionally and responsibly is a normal and accepted part of adult life. It’s how many people unwind, socialize, and celebrate important events.

But drinking heavily (more than 4 to 5 drinks per night) and frequently (more than 8 to 15 drinks per week), or relying on alcohol for symptom relief can pose several serious health concerns.

Many people also use cannabis recreationally. Unlike alcohol, cannabis is also used to treat and manage medical conditions—legally, and with a doctor’s recommendation.

Cannabis is the superior therapeutic because it simply doesn’t cause the harm that alcohol does, even when used frequently. Let’s look closer at the major differences between them.

Liver and Kidney Function

Your body is only equipped to handle small amounts of alcohol at a time. When you drink, your liver and kidneys jump in to break down intoxicating alcoholic compounds and filter them from your blood. But you can easily overwhelm these essential organs after just a few drinks.

Liver and kidney damage is linked to both acute and chronic health conditions, including:

  • Alcohol-associated liver disease
  • Cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver
  • Liver cancer
  • Acute kidney injury
  • Chronic kidney disease

Cannabis doesn’t negatively affect either your kidneys or your liver. Even compared to NSAID pain relievers like ibuprofen, cannabis is easier on your kidneys, and it doesn’t cause cirrhosis or liver failure like alcohol can.

Cancers and Diseases

Excessive, chronic drinking also causes or increases your risks of developing certain cancers and other serious illnesses, including:

  • Mouth, throat, and esophageal cancers
  • Breast cancer
  • Colon cancer
  • Stroke
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Alcohol use disorder
  • Digestive and immune problems
  • Memory and mental health issues

When ingested via edibles, tinctures, or oils or applied topically, cannabis doesn’t cause cancer. It’s as simple as that.

Smoking cannabis (like smoking tobacco) poses some health risks—you can learn more about those in our in-depth guide.

Sleep

Though perhaps not as concerning as the other health risks, alcohol also disrupts your natural sleep cycle, both short- and long-term.

People commonly assume that alcohol helps you fall asleep because it often makes you feel drowsy. While that may be true, drinking before bed decreases your quality of sleep and leads to more sleep disturbances later in the night after your body has processed the alcohol.

Heavy drinking can cause and exacerbate sleep conditions such as:

  • Obstructive and central sleep apnea
  • Insomnia
  • Circadian rhythm disruptions

No doctor would recommend using alcohol to aid with sleep. Many would recommend cannabis, though.

Cannabis, especially products high in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), can:

High-THC cannabis reduces the amount of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep you get. This is the stage of sleep where your body is closest to wakefulness, as well as when you dream. By reducing REM sleep, you’ll remain in a deeper state of more restorative sleep. You’ll also dream less, which benefits people with stress disorders who regularly experience distressing nightmares.

It’s important to note that doctors usually recommend sleep aids for short-term use, including cannabis. Additionally, your experience with cannabis as a sleep aid may differ from others, and may even change over time.

You can speak with a medical marijuana doctor to explore the best options for your individual needs.

Addiction and Overdoses

Doctors and researchers agree that alcohol is more addictive than cannabis. The long-term effects of alcohol addiction (also called alcohol use disorder) are much more severe than cannabis dependence.

It’s also possible to drink enough alcohol on one occasion to develop alcohol poisoning, which requires immediate medical attention and is potentially fatal.

Here are the statistics for alcohol and cannabis overdose deaths:

  • Alcohol – 1,600 deaths annually in the U.S.
  • Cannabis – Zero.

It is extremely difficult—if not impossible—to overdose on cannabis. Consuming too much might produce unpleasant side effects, but it won’t cause a medical emergency, unlike alcohol poisoning.

The Therapeutic Benefits of Medical Cannabis

Doctors can (and often do) recommend cannabis use to treat and manage a wide variety of medical conditions. The same can’t be said for alcohol.

Here are just a few of the conditions that cannabis use benefits:

  • Chronic pain
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Seizure disorders, including epilepsy
  • HIV and AIDS
  • Multiple sclerosis and other spasticity conditions
  • Glaucoma
  • The side effects of cancer and cancer treatments

How can one plant help treat such a diverse array of conditions? By establishing balance in your body and mind.

Cannabinoids, the chemical compounds found in cannabis, work directly with your body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), which maintains internal homeostasis (balance) through receptor feedback loops. You probably already know of two cannabinoids already: THC and cannabidiol (CBD).

The cannabinoids in cannabis supplement your natural endocannabinoid levels; they interact with ECS receptors to:

  • Neutralize pain and inflammation
  • Improve mood
  • Increase appetite and reduce nausea
  • Promote sleep

Many cannabis products and strains are specifically designed to treat certain symptoms and achieve the most desirable effects, making it even more advantageous as a therapeutic agent.

There are three main categories of cannabis strains, each with their own unique properties:

  • Sativa strains – Generally produce an energizing and bubbly “mind high”
  • Indica strains – Deeply relaxing, stomach-settling, and pain-relieving strains
  • Hybrid strains – Display varying combinations of both sativa and indica characteristics

You don’t have to get high, either. If you want to skip the intoxicating effects but still want potent pain relief and blissful (non-psychoactive) relaxation, you can use CBD products instead.

Gaining Access to Medical Cannabis

38 states now have functional medical marijuana programs that grant cannabis access to patients who need it.

In order to qualify, you must have:

  • A qualifying medical condition
  • A medical recommendation from a state-licensed physician

Qualifying conditions can include the ones listed above, but they vary between state programs.

Some states, such as Louisiana, also allow physicians to have the final say on whether your condition qualifies for a medical card. If they believe your condition is debilitating and would benefit from cannabis use, they can recommend it to you.

To receive your recommendation, you’ll need to meet with a licensed provider. Want to make an appointment as early as today? Get started with TeleLeaf.

TeleLeaf streamlines the medical marijuana recommendation process so you can start healing sooner. During your appointment, your experienced, state-licensed provider will assess your health condition and give you an answer that same day. No waiting, no confusion. Just compassionate care and efficient service.

Our virtual platform also allows you to meet with your physician from the comfort of your own home; all you need is a video-calling device. Schedule your appointment now—it only takes 5 minutes.

Discover a Safer Way to Heal with TeleLeaf

Indulging in a fancy cocktail at a bar with friends or a glass of wine after a busy day is normal; heavy and frequent drinking is not. If you rely on alcohol to numb chronic pain or soothe anxiety, consider substituting it for a safer, more effective, doctor-recommended treatment: medical cannabis.

Once approved by one of TeleLeaf’s medical marijuana doctors online, you’ll continue to receive personalized support and guidance on the best cannabis products and dosage regimens to treat your specific symptoms. And when it’s time to work on renewing your medical card, we have you covered.

Learn more about our lifelong medical cannabis services and how you can begin benefitting today.


Sources:

Marijuana Policy Project. Marijuana Is Safer Than Alcohol: It’s Time To Treat It That Way.
https://www.mpp.org/special/marijuana-is-safer/

Northwestern Medicine. What Alcohol Does To The Liver.
https://www.nm.org/healthbeat/healthy-tips/What-Alcohol-Does-to-the-Liver

Cleveland Clinic. How Alcohol Affects Your Kidney Health.
https://health.clevelandclinic.org/how-alcohol-affects-your-kidney-health

EatingWell. Alcohol vs. Edibles: Is One Worse for Your Health Than the Other?
https://www.eatingwell.com/alcohol-vs-edibles-8418680

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Alcohol Use and Your Health.
https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/about-alcohol-use/index.html

Sleep Foundation. Alcohol and Sleep.
https://www.sleepfoundation.org/nutrition/alcohol-and-sleep

Mayo Clinic. Does Smoking Marijuana Increase Lung Cancer Risk?
https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health/marijuana-and-lung-cancer-risk

Healthline. Can You Use Cannabis to Restore Your Natural Sleep Cycle?
https://www.healthline.com/health/medical-marijuana/cannabis-for-sleeping

Nevada State Legislature. It’s a Fact: Marijuana is Safer than Alcohol.
https://www.leg.state.nv.us/Session/77th2013/Exhibits/Assembly/JUD/AJUD725Q.pdf

ProCon.org. State-by-State Medical Marijuana Laws.
https://medicalmarijuana.procon.org/legal-medical-marijuana-states-and-dc/

Healthline. A Simple Guide to the Endocannabinoid System.
https://www.healthline.com/health/endocannabinoid-system

Healthline. Sativa vs. Indica: What to Expect Across Cannabis Types and Strains.
https://www.healthline.com/health/sativa-vs-indica

National Conference of State Legislatures. State Medical Cannabis Laws.
https://www.ncsl.org/health/state-medical-cannabis-laws

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