A few weeks ago, I began to show from extensive studies and evidence how alcohol use and marijuana use compare in terms of addiction, withdrawal and using motorized vehicles.
This week, I will discuss in greater detail how alcohol and marijuana compare in their effects on our minds, bodies and relationships. And then I want to conclude by addressing the most overlooked aspect of the marijuana legalization debate: its effects on the youth of America.
CNN recently reported on multiple studies on alcohol and marijuana use. Of course, we know that long-term drinking can lead to neurological and psychiatric problems, liver disease, and increased risks of many forms of cancer. But not always apparent is the fact that compared with cigarette smoking, marijuana smoking increases by fourfold the concentration of tar chemicals, which can cause lung cancer, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Studies also show how both drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana lower inhibitions and therefore can increase risky behavior, including unprotected sex, which can lead to catching sexually transmitted diseases and having an unwanted pregnancy. Studies on men show that marijuana use promotes greater rates of sexual dysfunction, too, including loss of sexual pleasure and erectile dysfunction.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, excessive alcohol use kills roughly 88,000 Americans a year. Though an overdose of marijuana is highly unlikely, cannabis users have a 4.8-fold increased risk of a heart attack during the first hour after smoking. And again, as I pointed out last week, a study published in the British Medical Journal showed that marijuana users who drove within three hours of smoking nearly doubled their chances of causing a crash compared with sober drivers.
Regarding relationships, in the Psychology Today article titled "Weeding out your significant other? Marijuana and relationships," Adi Jaffe, Ph.D. -- the executive director of Alternatives addiction treatment and a lecturer at UCLA and California State University, Long Beach -- demonstrated how there can be a direct relation between adolescent pot smoking and later relational conflicts, irrespective of social upbringing, personal hardships or other potential conflict exacerbations.