The Stigma Surrounding Alcohol and Marijuana

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Photo Credit Trinity Vessells

Americans reject marijuana but accept alcohol.

Trinity Vessells, Copy Editor

Starting at a young age, we are always told to say no to drugs because, to put it simply,  drugs are bad. This is an indisputable fact considering the negative effects they can have on your body and overall life, but what about the drug that is sitting in your kitchen right now? No, I’m not talking about the one your doctor prescribed or the one you take when you have a cold; I’m talking about the most consumed drug in the world—alcohol.

First, alcohol is classified as a depressant, meaning it slows down vital functions, resulting in slurred speech, slower reaction time, unsteady movements and disturbed perception. When consumed in small amounts, the drinker experiences the stimulant effect, which creates the feeling of loosening up. This stage is harmless, but when the drinker exceeds their body’s alcohol tolerance, they enter the depressant stage.

Everyone’s tolerance for alcohol is different. Factors such as age, weight, gender, rate of consumption and even ethnicity all determine how much alcohol a person is able to consume before they reach the depressant stage and become drunk. During this stage, the person begins “to feel ‘stupid’ or lose coordination and control,” (Drug Free World). If the person continues to drink copious amounts, the depressant effects worsen. They might experience an inability to feel pain, vomiting, unconsciousness and even coma or death.

Moreover, alcohol has long-term effects on the body as well. Repeated high doses can cause liver damage, death of brain cells, stomach and intestinal ulcers, increased blood pressure, decreased sperm production in males and lower levels of iron and vitamin B.

After reading about all of these effects, you may be wondering “why is alcohol so widely accepted but marijuana isn’t?” They are both drugs with some similar effects, so isn’t it sort of hypocritical to openly accept one and not the other?

Marijuana, despite its legalization in most states, still has a stigma attached to it, particularly amongst older generations and Republicans. According to Newsweek, 62 percent of Republicans oppose recreational marijuana legalization, and 50 percent of Americans over the age of 65 oppose it.

 

Why the opposition?

Alcohol and marijuana share some of the same effects. “A study of 129 college students found that, among those who smoked the drug at least 27 of the 30 days before being surveyed, critical skills related to attention, memory and learning were seriously diminished,” (Drug Free World). Like alcohol, it can also lead to car accidents when driving under the influence.

However, there is a major difference between the two, which might be the cause of the strong enmity. Marijuana is known as a “gateway” drug, meaning some users move on to “harder” drugs after smoking weed for a while. “However, the majority of people who use marijuana do not go on to use other, ‘harder’ substances,” (Drug Abuse). Even though alcohol is also a “gateway” drug, most people refuse to acknowledge this harsh reality (Alcohol Rehab).

Additionally, another reason for being against recreational use of marijuana is there is no measurable way to test if users are driving under the influence. When a reckless driver is pulled over, police officers can use a breathalyzer, which estimates the driver’s blood alcohol concentration by measuring the amount of alcohol in their breath. There is no equivalent for this when it comes to marijuana. Usually, officers look at the driver’s eyes and see if they can follow their finger, but it doesn’t give any specific numbers in regards to how much is in their system. If there was a way to accurately measure this, people might not be so opposed.

It is important to remember that alcohol was also once viewed negatively like marijuana is today. Less than 100 years ago, American citizens were protesting to get alcohol banned, which was known as Prohibition. Nevertheless, in today’s world, alcohol is a social activity with entire festivals centered around enjoying it. This makes me wonder: will marijuana become as socially accepted one day?