We all know that alcohol comes with its fair share of downsides. There’s the horrible hangover, the potential for addiction, the long-term health consequences, and of course that moment when you wake up after drinking and remember all of the things you wish you hadn’t said or done the night before.
But let’s face it. Alcohol also plays an important role in many of our lives. For some, it’s our way of celebrating or marking an important occasion. For many, drinking can be a way to socialize with friends. Alcohol may also be a tonic for relaxation at the end of the day. And sipping on a cocktail, beer or glass of wine can be a way to lift our moods, forget our problems and plant ourselves in the present moment.
But to avoid the downsides of alcohol without giving up all of its benefits, many are taking a different route: They’re switching to cannabis. While these two popular recreational substances have a lot of differences, they also have much in common. By substituting marijuana for alcohol, many are finding a healthier alternative for their social, relaxation and celebratory needs.
Why Replace Alcohol With Cannabis?
If alcohol fills such an important niche in our lives, why replace it with cannabis? Well, if you look at the data comparing alcohol and marijuana, the answer is simple: Alcohol puts you at far greater health risk. In fact, many underestimate the dangers associated with alcohol, which include immediate worries like fatal overdose, increased risk of accidents and addiction. Alcohol’s long-term risks include cancer, brain damage and liver disease.
In one study that compared health risks for substances like alcohol, tobacco, cocaine, heroin and cannabis, only alcohol fell into the “high-risk” category for all methods of evaluating risk in the study. This shows alcohol to be more dangerous than drugs we already consider highly unsafe like tobacco, cocaine and heroin.
Cannabis, on the other hand, fell into the “low-risk” category in each method of evaluation, ranking far below all of the other substances. Researchers estimated that cannabis is 114 times better for your health than alcohol is.
When it comes to a question of dangerous health risks, the answer is clear: Cannabis is the better bet for your health.
When Could You Swap Alcohol for Marijuana?
While alcohol may not be the healthiest choice, it still brings us joy through its many roles in our lives. Luckily cannabis can help with many of the same things.
Marijuana Can Help You Relax
If you enjoy drinking as a way to unwind after a long day, cannabis can help. One study showed that cannabis not only diminishes users’ self-reported stress levels, but that non-cannabis users have higher levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. When you consume cannabis, your stress response is lessened, even in response to new stressors. So instead of opening up a beer or a bottle of wine at the end of your day, maybe you should spark up a joint, or fire up your vaporizer to find relaxation without the serious health risks associated with alcohol consumption.
Microdose Cannabis to Lift Your Mood
Perhaps you enjoy alcohol more as a means of mood elevation, drinking when you want to feel a little happier. Cannabis can also fill this role by providing a burst of positivity. Research shows that low doses of THC can boost serotonin levels, a chemical associated with happy moods.
However, high doses of THC reverse this effect, and your serotonin levels may actually go down. So, consuming small doses of THC is the best plan for mood elevation. Try cannabis flower or oils with lower levels of THC and higher levels of CBD. Or you could microdose your favourite cannabis product if you’re looking for this effect.
Let Marijuana Help You Socialize With Friends
Cannabis can be just as celebratory and social as alcohol is. If you’ve ever sat in a circle of friends passing around a joint and talking, you probably know what I mean. With its mood-elevating and calming properties, marijuana can prime you for mingling.
Of course, we don’t all have friends who consume cannabis, and not every venue allows for smoking marijuana. If you’re trying to shift your habits while still socializing with those who drink, try making yourself a cannabis mocktail. With cannabis in your cup, you can fit seamlessly into any occasion, have an amazing time and not drink a drop of alcohol.
What Does Science Say About Replacing Alcohol With Cannabis?
Now we know the reasons why many replace alcohol with cannabis, and how we might be able to substitute one for the other, but is it really realistic? Can people replace their drinking habits with cannabis? The research shows that they can.
One study looked at whether cannabis met the criteria for being an alcohol substitute. The study concluded that marijuana at least partially met every factor in the previously published seven-point criteria for deciding whether a drug should be recommended as a substitute. A few of these points are that cannabis is safer in overdose than alcohol is and can reduce alcohol-related harms.
In another study looking at self-reported responses from cannabis users, researchers found that 40% of cannabis consumers had already replaced alcohol with cannabis. Yet another study looked at alcohol purchases in U.S. states with medical marijuana laws and found a decline in alcohol purchases after medical cannabis laws were enacted.
These studies show that it’s possible to replace alcohol with cannabis, and they give hope that more can follow on this healthier path.
Photo credit: Kelsey Chance