There is a degree of recidivism in Alcoholics Anonymous and similar 12-step “recovery” processes. It’s not enough to do away with these programs that have helped so many. But it’s enough to make you look at the approach.
It seems 12-step addiction programs are life-changing to the extent the participants attend meetings regularly. In other words, it’s not the program itself that benefits addicts; success stems from their commitment and willingness to attend and share experiences at meetings.
Marijuana use offers a chance to wean yourself off the alcohol habit, and many see it as a bridge to sobriety. So, more people are thinking about replacing alcohol with cannabis.
Alcohol: what’s in it for you?
♦ Creative boost! Tests show an improved problem-solving capacity in subjects at certain alcohol levels (±0.075). It does suggest a link between alcohol and creativity. However, the influence drops sharply when levels reach higher levels.
Alcohol relieves inhibitions and fears allowing for moments of clarity can creativity. But after one more drink, you may find your focus and alertness disappear into confusion and disorientation.
♦ Heart support! Moderate drinking, particularly drinking wine once daily, will dilate blood vessels preventing contraction, blockage, and clots formation.
Heart.org says. “If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. This means an average of one to two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. (A drink is one 12 oz. beer, 4 oz. of wine, 1.5 oz. of 80-proof spirits, or 1 oz. of 100-proof spirits.) Drinking more alcohol increases such dangers as alcoholism, high blood pressure, obesity, stroke, breast cancer, suicide and accidents.”
♦ Sugar count! Test subjects imbibing one or two drinks a day have seen their sugar count go down and reducing their chance for the development of type 2 diabetes. On the other hand, regular, even moderate, alcohol use will add calories to your diet.
People with diabetes should watch their intake carefully. Some beverages are higher in carbs and others in sugars. Alcohol affects the body’s delivery of insulin, so diabetics must manage their blood sugars.
♦ Addiction potential! Binge drinking or alcoholism seems inevitable for about 15 percent of alcohol drinkers. American Family Physician claims, “Alcoholism is one of the most common psychiatric disorders with a prevalence of 8 to 14 percent. This heritable disease is frequently accompanied by other substance abuse disorders (particularly nicotine), anxiety and mood disorders, and antisocial personality disorder.”
Continuous drinking or excessive drinking alters the brain with long-lasting neurobiological changes which contribute to continued cravings and relapsing.
♦ Real dangers! Drinking more than three drinks per day and/or seven drinks per week us a threshold to habitual drinking. More than this and you increase your risk of liver and kidney failure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and more.
There is also increasing concern about the lesser-known “alcoholic myopia.” According to Alcohol.org, “Alcoholic myopathy is considered to be a toxic myopathy resulting from the body’s response to long-term and/or heavy exposure to alcohol. It can either be acute, after the individual has binged on alcohol, or chronic, developing over time with regular, heavy alcohol consumption.”
Cannabis: what’s in it for you?
♦ Brainpower! Researchers are excited about the potential administration of cannabis for Alzheimer’s disease. There are encouraging signs that THC reduces the accumulation of amyloid-beta peptides in the brain’s channels.
However, related research also found exposure to THC at very young ages reduce their ability to manage stress later in life. Additional studies indicate cannabis use can affect the developing adolescent brain circuits increasing the later likelihood of forming dependent habits.
♦ Lung strength! To get the most out of your cannabis experience, you inhale deeply and hold the smoke in your lungs in contrast to the quick inhale and exhale of cigarette smokers. Moderate smoking at two or three times may increase your lungs’ capacity — although this seems a bit of a stretch.
Smoking cannabis does mean inhaling a combusted material introducing carbon by-products and other toxins. There is not enough research to clarify the damage. While it may not produce the known negative effects of tobacco smoke, the jury is out on cannabis’ total effects. But there are other ways to consume and administer cannabis with positive benefits.
♦ Take it to heart! Inhaled cannabis moves through the lining for the lungs directly to the bloodstream where it constricts arteries. As it does, it increases heart rate and blood pressure, a risk to those with hypertension or pre-existing cardiac conditions.
There is also a more serious warning for adolescent users. The Journal of Thoracic Disease (2017) “cannabis use is a risk factor for acute coronary events in young persons, especially men, who do not have any other risk factors for cardiovascular diseases besides smoking. The events also appear to be triggered by highly strenuous physical activity.” But smoking is not the only way to use cannabis.
♦ Relieve stress! On the plus side, cannabinoids affect neurological receptors in the brain’s amygdala to modulate its flight or fight response. On the negative side, chronic use may desensitize the receptors and increase the stress.
Still, THC content produces different outcomes than CBD. Smart shopping and some trial and error will help you assess which strain and what combination works most comfortably for you. Bearing in mind that new strains have more THC potency and that very high THC content can produce extreme paranoia, you should look for a strain in which the CBD count offsets or balances the THC.
♦ Slow cancer: Research has found CBD reduces the influence of a gene that encourages the metastasizing of breast cancer cells.
♦ Kill pain! CBD relieves inflammation in cells, joints, and muscles to reduce related pain. It has been a recommended therapeutic support for symptoms of Chron’s disease, Lyme disease, multiple sclerosis, and nausea caused by chemotherapy.
While alcohol may numb pain transmitters to distract drinkers from their pain, researchers have affirmed cannabis’ effective (at least modest) influence on chronic pain, neuropathic pain, spasticity associated with epilepsy and multiple sclerosis, cancer-related pain, migraines, and fibromyalgia, and more (Practical Pain Management)
Weight the difference!
If you are looking to replace one bad habit with another, this isn’t for you. I have deliberately chosen research from conservative sources to keep the contrast balanced. All things considered, cannabis and alcohol use conscientiously and prudently present few problems for most people.
Over the long-term, alcohol presents a high physical and psychological risk. Alcohol excess produces more negative short- and long-term side effects. It’s not enough to justify the chronic use of chronic or to use cannabis without information and advice. But it would suggest replacing alcohol with cannabis is a prudent option.