Using Weed As a Safe Alternative to Alcohol
Disclaimer: Nothing in this article should be taken as medical advice. If you are an alcoholic, seek professional help.
The legalization wave is only getting started, and if you aren’t in one of the places it’s already hit (Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and both Washingtons), you can expect it to soon be playing on a station near you. In a recent article here at Dead Mailbox Society, you learned how dangerous a different legal drug (alcohol) is your health. This week, it’s time to sing the praises of its green alternative, and how it can be used as a safer, superior substitute at parties, sporting events, or even at home alone.
But before we get into all of that, let’s examine how the two substances differ experientially.
What It Feels Like – Cannabis vs. Alcohol
If you’ve gotten high before, there’s no need to explain why it’s so awesome. You just know.
However, if you haven’t gotten high, the experience is hard to put into words. Imagine that the world is jazz, and you are are the music. Food tastes better. Jokes are funnier. Records sound fucking sweet. It’s like your cares melt away, and the universe has transformed magically into an episode of Rocko’s Modern Life.
In the simplest terms, weed is an enhancer.
Contrast this now with alcohol. Shortly after imbibing, you will feel a slight, pleasurable “buzz.” Your confidence increases – rather, your inhibitions are lowered some – meaning that you find it easier to talk to people or try things that normally intimidate you.
That’s about all the positives I can say for booze. And since most people drink stupidly (rapid-fire, binge), they quickly hit the point of diminishing returns where the buzz retreats, and the fun, funny and charismatic person the alcohol had you thinking you were is quickly replaced by a hostile, emotional asshole who can’t walk straight and vomits in the upstairs bathtub. Some hours later, you’ll wake up in a fine and perfect misery with burning, itching eyes, a throat on fire, headache and nausea. If you’re lucky, the puke will vacate your stomach expeditiously; if not, you’re in for a day of pain.
And that’s assuming you didn’t really overdo it, in which case none of the above will happen when you wake up. Because you just fucking killed yourself. Ooops.
Unlike weed, alcohol subtracts.
That’s why I get pissed off when I hear well-meaning idiots talk about how marijuana is “dangerous” because people can use it to “escape.” Ridiculous. Alcohol is what people use to escape. They’ve done it for thousands of years, and with disastrous results.
Smoking a joint, by comparison, doesn’t numb you to the world like alcohol does. In fact, it gets you back in touch with the tiny (but all-important) details of life. How long has it been since you sat listening to the birds sing? When’s the last time you really looked at the lines covering a crimson maple leaf? Marijuana, unlike alcohol, pulls you into a deeper union with the world.
But surely, you say, something with such a potent effect can’t be good for you, right? After all, marijuana is a “drug.” And drugs are addictive! Well listen here, cum-slut. There are some things you need to learn.
The Endocannabinoid System
The secret of why weed is different from “drugs” lies in the unique mechanism behind getting high. Humans have long known and used the cannabis plant for medicinal or recreational purposes – its use goes back at least 5,000 years, and it is mentioned in ancient Chinese medical texts, the Vedas, and can even be found on Egyptian bas-reliefs.
But for the longest time, nobody really knew why it does what it does. Sure, the rise of modern biochemistry made it possible to identify THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) as the active compound in marijuana, but it wasn’t until just a few decades ago that mankind began to piece together the full picture.
Cut to a 1990 meeting of the National Academy of Science’s Institute of Medicine. One Lisa Matsuda and her National Institute of Mental Health colleagues announced a game-changing discovery: the exact DNA sequence responsible for a THC-sensitive receptor had been found – in a rat’s brain, no less (apparently, this was the real secret of NIMH).
What Matsuda and the others discovered was an identifiable, in-built, physiological system in the brain (soon to be found in humans, and then all vertebrates, implying an origin deep in the swirling mists of the dawnless past, to borrow from Darwin) built to interact with cannabinoids in order to regulate psychoactivity. A second type of endocannabinoid receptor was soon found, this one related to immune function, followed by the equally remarkable discovery that the human body actually produces its own THC-like substance.
Do you see the amazing implications of this yet? Human beings are literally built to get high off marijuana.
I hope you’re beginning to see how all this makes weed very different from other substances. Whereas indisputably dangerous drugs like opiates (heroin, prescription painkillers), amphetamines or alcohol disturb the chemical balance of the brain, the cannabis plant has for its active ingredient a substance humans are not only equipped to process safely, but actually produce organically in small amounts, in order to keep things functioning properly.
Incidentally, this is also the reason cannabis has proven to be such a miracle promoter of health. Many different bodily systems are implicated in connection with the endocannabinoid: digestion, mood, memory and the sensation of pain, among others. That it helps people suffering from glaucoma or undergoing chemotherapy (by providing immediate relief to nausea) is now uncontested; signs that it helps with other conditions (among them: Crohn’s disease, brain cancer, post-traumatic stress disorder, epilepsy, Tourette’s, eczema, chronic inflammation, insomnia, HIV/AIDS, migraines, multiple sclerosis, and more) grow more numerous by the year.
Of course, one doesn’t need to be sick to benefit from weed. Even if you are fortunate enough to be free of painful or debilitating health problems, marijuana still can have benefits to you, whether by elevating your mood, or by stimulating creativity (all those Beatles albums didn’t just fall from the sky, you know). Or, best of all, providing a safer, healthier way to alter your consciousness that won’t hurt you the way beer and liquor do.
Weed as an Alternative to Alcohol
So alright. You know now that Mary Jane is different from the other girls. But how do you use it in place of alcohol, especially when alcohol is so plentiful, and there’s so much social pressure to drink?
Well, one of the great things about weed is that it can be a group activity. The time-honored tradition of passing around a joint is an easy way to meet new people and make friends. No one can accuse you of being a lame-o or pussy for turning down a beer if you whip out a bag of weed afterwards, and they definitely won’t think less of you if you offer to share.
If you’re accustomed to drinking alone, you might consider dabbling with cannabis edibles. The high is longer lasting (as long as seven hours in my experience with higher doses), and has a more full-body effect (though you need to start small when ingesting weed-infused products). If you’re worried about hurting your lungs, this can be a good (and tasty) option; all sorts of edibles are out there, whether for sale at a recreational pot shop, or for your own DIY recipes: peanut butter cups, brownies, candies…even pasta sauce.
Anecdotally, there is evidence that it dampens the urge to drink alcohol. If you have come to terms with the fact that you are abusing alcohol, but find that you can’t shake the habit, consider weaning yourself off by making the switch to this better substance. It’s a whole lot easier (and more effective) than cold turkey solutions, and you won’t feel like you’re missing out.
You don’t, of course, have to quit drinking entirely if you start using cannabis, but many (myself included) have found weed to be so much better than alcohol that the latter quickly loses its appeal. Not only is the experience more enjoyable, you’ll be less prone to doing something stupid while high (as opposed to drunk), you won’t be damaging your brain, liver or pancreas, and perhaps best of all, you can go to sleep assured that there will be no nasty hangover waiting for you when you wake up. I hardly drink at all since taking up weed, and I’m far from alone in that.
A Brief Warning
While you will never die from marijuana poisoning, that doesn’t mean you should approach the stuff with a cavalier attitude – it’s still totally fucking possible to get, well, too high. As fun and pleasurable as a mild baking can be, too much too fast can conversely be a horrible experience: paranoia, muscle spasms, loss of coordination. The smart thing to do if you’re an absolute beginner is start with a low does of cannabis to see how it affects you before heading to the deep end of the pool.
Also, a small handful of people have an allergy to cannabis. It pays to start out with small, sane steps to make sure you aren’t one of them.
Lastly, keep in mind that your body can build up a THC tolerance quite swiftly if you’re using weed daily. It’s good to take a multi-day break occasionally.
The Final Word
With attitudes and perceptions changing – both towards weed, which is more and more regarded as a plant beneficial to human health and happiness, and towards alcohol, which more and more people now recognize as the harmful, destructive drug that it is – along with forward-thinking legislation reducing or outright removing penalties for carrying, using or buying marijuana, now is the best time in a century to find new and better avenues to getting high. A future where people smoke pot instead of getting drunk, resultatively getting in fights or horrific car accidents or ruining their health, is a brighter future indeed. One no longer needs to choose between being a teetotaler, or one (and only one) option to alter your consciousness; with weed, you really can have your cake and eat it too. If Bob Marley was right in saying that the herb will be the healing of the nation, one can certainly say that it will also be the healing of the individual, whether the sickness lies in the body, or in the mind.
What an age we live in.