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Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.
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Some Thoughts About Marijuana and Alcohol

Allan N. Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Apr 16th 2009

 Important Note: (The ideas and comments found in this posting are those of Dr. Schwartz only and do not reflect the ideas of Mental Help Net).

It has been my observation that each time new evidence emerges about the harmful effects of chronic marijuana abuse, users of the substance react by attacking alcohol abuse. I suppose the reason for this is that those who use marijuana assume that those who attack it are hypocrites because the very same critics of marijuana use alcohol. There are two things that the defenders of marijuana overlook: 1) Alcohol abuse is extremely harmful and life threatening and 2) The chronic use of any substance is harmful.

The chronic use of a substance usually means that an individual is not simply using a substance every day but using it all day. Speaking for myself, I fail to see how being under the influence of a drug all day long can be anything but harmful. The reason for my skepticism is that we are discussing substances that create an "altered state of being."

Most people are familiar with the harmful effects of alcohol abuse. Alcohol abuse leads to addiction, liver damage, and, ultimately, loss of employment, family, friends, home and life itself.

Thus far the harmful effects of chronic marijuana abuse is that it brings about depression in those predisposed to depression, psychosis in those predisposed to psychosis, loss of motivation and difficulty concentrating. For those individuals diagnosed with severe mental illnesses such as Bipolar disorder, Schizophrenia and others, marijuana negates the effects of their medication and leads to serious exacerbation of their symptoms. However, there is no evidence that I am aware of that physical addiction occurs with marijuana. Nevertheless, there does appear to be a variation of "psychological addiction" that does take place.

The legalization Issue:

There is an ongoing debate across the United States about the medical usage of marijuana. There is evidence that cannabis reduces the side effects connected with chemo therapy in cancer patients, reduces pain associated with cancer and other diseases that cause terrible pain, and has other beneficial medical uses. Among the advocates for the medical use of marijuana are some physicians who favor its use if it is legalized. Critics of this simply see the medical use of marijuana as a veiled way to decriminalize the substance.

Actually, the State of California has approved the selling of prescription marijuana for medical purposes. This has placed legal officials in an awkward position because Federal Law takes precedence over state law and Federal Law continues to make marijuana use illegal.

History and Logic:

History tells us that when people want a substance they will find ways to obtain it regardless of law enforcement. The most recent example of this was the period of Prohibition during the early twentieth century. The governments attempt to end the sale and consumption of alcohol ended in total failure. In fact, prohibition encouraged the rise of major crime syndicates in the nation and abroad. Ultimately, prohibition was repealed and alcohol once again became a legal and easily manufactured and available substance.

In my opinion, we are in a very similar situation with marijuana. Cannabis is widely used by people of all ages and across all economic, social class, ethnic and racial lines across the United States and elsewhere in the world. I knew of upstanding and law abiding citizens who purchased and used this substance with no difficulty at all. In recognition of this fact, many state and local governments have already legalized the possession of very small quantities of this substance.

Therefore, it seems logical to me that marijuana be legalized. I want to make it clear that this is strictly my opinion and does not reflect the opinion of Mental Help Net.

Legalization would take this drug out of the hands of criminals. The raising of marijuana crops would add to quality control so that users no longer run the risk of buying the substance laced with unknow and dangerous chemicals. There are different types of marijuana that could be used for medical conditions. This drug could be taxed in much the same way that tobacco is taxed. Federal, state and local governments can control the ages of those to whom the drug is sold much as is done with alcohol. Finally, government efforts could be focused more on the criminals who trade in truly dangerous chemicals that must be stopped because of the damage they do. In this way, we could end the connection between marijuana and illicit dangerous drugs.

A cautionary reminder: If the day ever comes when marijuana is legalized it will remain important for people to use it with care. Any substance that is misused will have harmful effects whether people want to admit it or not.

This is only an opinion. I am interested in learning your thoughts and ideas about this controversial topic. Your comments and questions are encouraged.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at dransphd@aol.com for details.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

marijuana-license - marijuana-license - Nov 1st 2010

Marijuana is far less toxic and less addictive than alcohol.
Long-term marijuana use is far less damaging than long-term alcohol use.
Alcohol use contributes to aggressive behavior and acts of violence, whereas marijuana use reduces the likelihood of violent behavior.
Alcohol use is highly associated with violent crime, whereas marijuana use is not.
Alcohol use contributes to the likelihood of domestic violence and sexual assault and marijuana use does not.

Marijuana and Alcohol and Mark - Allan N. Schwartz, PhD - Dec 3rd 2009

Mark,

Part of your comment is repeated below.

You see, Mark, we are not discussing "logic." This is not a philosophical debate. Rather, it is a discussion about the harmful effects of drugs, among them, alcohol, cocaine, and etc.

We get endless numbers of E. Mails from people of all ages who defend the use of marijuana and insist that there is no such thing as "chronic use" of it because they see it as a "harmless" weed. Then, they go on to insist that alcohol is damaging while marijuana is not. For some reason, they seem to believe that, in defending marijuana they must attack alcohol.

Furthermore, for some people, marijuana is more dangerous or just as dangerous as alcohol. Among these are people suffering from Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder and Major Depression.

In my opinion, Mark, you know the spirit of this article and you are attacking for the sake of attack and nothing more. The question is why? And, why the personal nature of the attack. What is your problem???

Allan

"I'm not sure what a "defender of marijuana" is but they (like most people) know alcohol is more dangerous than marijuana, for many, that's why they use it.

Very few people would argue that chronic use isn't harmful. And why would the few that do be "defenders of marijuana"? Straw man again!

We should receive better logic from a Ph.D."


prohibition has failed (like always) - Mark - Dec 3rd 2009

"There are two things that the defenders of marijuana overlook: 1) Alcohol abuse is extremely harmful and life threatening and 2) The chronic use of any substance is harmful."

This is a "straw man" argument. I'm not sure what a "defender of marijuana" is but they (like most people) know alcohol is more dangerous than marijuana, for many, that's why they use it.

Very few people would argue that chronic use isn't harmful. And why would the few that do be "defenders of marijuana"? Straw man again!

We should receive better logic from a Ph.D.

Cannabis laws are jailing adults for "health reasons", but the truth is that jail is more unhealthy than marijuana. The U.S. and the world have more important issues to solve than wasting resources on a failed policy of marijuana prohibition.

we are nice kind people - sennja - Apr 26th 2009

I use to help with my fibro pain, i only eat it mostly in cookies, I can break off pices as not to get high but as need for pain, no i dont use it every day. Im sick & tried of people saying pot make you lazy, and  bad person. Most peoplewho are kind law bying persons, except buying illegal. IM lucky i live in a state & ihave a medical card, beening a grand mother , iv belive the groverment has help keeping pot use illlegal adds to all harder drugs, they can keep the poor in jail and prison . im been off all drugsover 20 years before being sick and no i dont drink.  But i could get all the pain pills i wanted my point why use thier poisn, let me use mine if mam made drugs kill to?  sennja

Being ignorant isnt the way to go - - Apr 24th 2009

i think the reason marijuana smokers "attack drinking" is because alcohol is a much more harmful substance than marijuana. How many reports of overdosing do you see a year about marijuana compared to alcohol? How do the affects of marijuana compare to that of alcohol. Being ignorant isnt the way to go =]

Drugs harm....nobody wins - Dr.T - Apr 18th 2009

Not only is alcoholism the "new death wish" but so is marijuana usage. I know someone who uses marijuana to ease anxiety and fear while performing on stage. He is a musician/director and most of his life I assume (because he is so comfortable with it) has revolved around smoking marijuana to ease anxiety. Not only do I worry about the short-term effects this drug has on an individual, but I'm also concerned about the long-term effects. His behavior is so changeable that I'm not always sure I'm communicating with the same person. Anything that controls the mind and behavior (such as any illegal substance and some prescribed substances) can truly change the personality, and sometimes the way an individual thinks, perceives life, and approaches life. This is why so many parents refuse to place their children on certain medications. They are "man-made" substances that alter brain chemistry. Illegal substances alter brain chemistry and is sometimes mixed with so many other agents. If only people could see just how much harm they are doing to themselves and also those who love them, would our drug epidemic become a progressing history.

alcoholism - todd - Apr 17th 2009

Alcoholism is the new death wish…..thats all I have to say. we need to offer a hand to those in need of help. Help by helping others, not by ignoring the pain…   http://www.recoveryconnection.org /?utm_source=blog&utm_medium=pv&utm_content=zs&utm_campaign=home

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