Alcohol and Marijuana

2:53 pm alcohol, drug abuse, marijuana

In an interview with the New Yorker’s David Remnick, President Obama said, “As has been well documented, I smoked pot as a kid and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a y0ung person up through a big chunk of my adult life.  I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol” (Molly Reilly,, 1/19/2014 updated: 1/25/2014).
Perhaps we should ask, “how dangerous is alcohol?”  There are approximately 88,000 deaths attributable to excessive alcohol use each year in the U.S.  This makes excessive alcohol use the 3rd leading lifestyle-related cause of death for the nation.  Excessive alcohol use is responsible for 2.5 million years of potential life lost annually, or an average of about 30 years of potential life lost for each death.  In 2006, there were more than 1.2 million emergency room visits and 2.7 million physician office visits due to excessive drinking.  The economic costs of excessive alcohol consumption in 2006 were estimated at $223.5 billion.  (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention–Fact Sheet Alcohol Use and Health).
The standard measure for a drink is 0.6 ounces (1.2 tablespoons) of pure alcohol.  Generally, this amount of alcohol is found in:  12-ounces of regular beer or wine cooler; 8-ounces of malt-liquor; 5-ounces of wine; or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits or liquor (gin, rum, vodka, whiskey) (Center for Disease Control and Prevention).  Binge drinking is defined for women as 4 or more drinks during a single occasion.  For men, 5 or more drinks during a single occasion.  Heavy drinking for women is more than 1 drink per day on average and for men it is more than 2 drinks per day on average!  A small amount of alcohol becomes very dangerous very quickly.
Here is a list of the immediate health risks of excessive alcohol use:  unintential injuries, including traffic injuries, falls, drownings, burns, and unintential firearm injuries;  violence including intimate partner violence and child maltreatment.  About 35% of victims report that offenders are under the influence of alcohol.  Alcohol use is also associated with 2 out of 3 incidents of intimate partner violence.  Alcohol is the leading factor in child maltreatment and neglect cases, and is the most frequent substance abused among these parents;  risky sexual behaviors, including unprotected sex, sex with multiple partners, and increased risk of sexual assault.  These behaviors can result in unintended pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases;  miscarriage and still birth among pregnant women, and a combination of physical and mental birth defects among children that last throughout life;  and alcohol poisoning, a medical emergency that results from high blood alcohol levels that suppress the central nervous system and can cause loss of consciousness, low blood pressure and body temperature, coma, respiratory depression, or death.
Some of the long-term health risks of excessive alcohol use are:  neurological problems, including dementia, stroke and neuropathy;  cardiovascular problems, including myocardial infarction, cardiomyopathy, atrial fibrillation and hypertension;  psychiatric problems including depression, anxiety, and suicide;  social problems including unemployment, lost productivity, and family problems and  cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, colon, and breast.  In general, the risk of cancer increases with increasing amounts of alcohol.  Liver diseases including, alcoholic hepatitis, cirrhosis, which is among the 15 leading causes of all deaths in the United States, and among persons with Hepatitis C virus, worsening of liver function and interference with medications used to treat this condition. Excessive alcohol use also causes gastrointestinal problems, including pancreatitis and gastritis (Center for Disease Control and Prevention).  I gave this list because I wanted you to read what the President of the United States left out of his statement that marijuana is not any more dangerous than alcohol.  Do you see how dangerous alcohol is?  Do we need another drug that destroys the brain and other vital organs of the body?  Do we need another drug that will rob of life, peace and happiness?  By our choices we reflect a penchant for the indulgence of the flesh at the expense of our own well-being and that of others.  Such self-indulgence leads to self-destruction!  Be not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is!  The President of the United States was minimizing a grave danger.  Don’t be fooled.

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