Majority of people consider alcohol more harmful than marijuana, according to recent survey

As opinions differ regarding marijuana legalization all over the country, an important question is how amending the national marijuana policy can affect the use of other substances, such as alcohol.

A new research study, conducted by researchers at North Carolina-based nonprofit organization RTI International conducted a survey of over 1,900 adults in Oregon before the legalization of marijuana in the state and found out that more than half (52.5 percent) believe that alcohol is more harmful than marijuana while few (7.5 percent) say that marijuana is more harmful to a person’s well-being.

The study, which was published in an issue of the journal Protective Medicine, showed that younger people are more inclined to give the viewpoint that alcohol is more harmful than marijuana to a person’s health. Almost six in 10 Democrats (57.9 percent), independents (56.3 percent), and people with no political affiliation thought alcohol was more harmful than marijuana, as compared with less than one-third of Republicans (30.7 percent).

Furthermore, among people who partake of both marijuana and alcohol, 67.7 percent considered alcohol more harmful than marijuana, as did half of those who never used either substance (48.2 percent).

“This study is the first to measure perceptions of the relative harmfulness of marijuana and alcohol. The findings surprised me somewhat, because there is widespread acceptance of alcohol for adult recreational use, and in contrast, marijuana is classified at the federal level as a Schedule I drug,” said study author and RTI‘s Center for Health Policy Science and Tobacco Research public health analyst Jane Allen.

“There seems to be a disconnect between the legal and social status of the substances and people’s perceptions of harmfulness.” (Related: Big Pharma and the government are suppressing marijuana’s medicinal benefits.)

The study further noted that the legalization of recreational marijuana will influence the use of other substances, such as alcohol and opioids, and that views on the substances’ varying harmfulness can play a role on the use of said substances.

Mixing alcohol and marijuana rarely ends well

Most of you already know that alcohol is a depressant, but in minimum doses it causes someone to have lower inhibitions and emotional release. Marijuana is also popular for its calming qualities, but also induces different results based on how much and what strain of it someone smokes. What then happens when you mix the two of them together?

According to Harvard Medical School professor of psychiatry and pharmacology Scott Lukas, “Not everyone responds to alcohol and marijuana the same [way].”

Lukas conducted two studies that compared how both substances affected people. In one study, the researchers looked at how smoking weed influences the absorption of alcohol, while in another study it was examined how drinking alcohol can influence the body’s absorption of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

In the first study, it was found out that smoking cannabis boosts the function of the body’s cannabinoid 2 receptors, which can affect how quickly the body absorbs alcohol. “Marijuana does a unique thing to your small intestine that alters the motility [the way things move through your intestines] of your GI tract in such a way that it causes your blood alcohol levels to actually be lower than…if you had just consumed alcohol by itself,” Lukas said.

However, in the second study, it was found out that alcohol had the reverse effect on THC: If you drink first before smoking weed, such action causes the levels of THC in your plasma to reach sky-high, intensifying the hit that the substance gave you.

Therefore, if you drink too much before you smoke marijuana, you may experience a negative sensation called “greening out”.

“Individuals may go pale and sweaty, feel dizzy with ‘the spins’, nauseous, and even start vomiting. This is often followed by the need or strong desire to lie down,” said Constance Scharff, an addiction specialist in California.

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