A comparison of Marijuana and Alcohol

(Written for a postbachelor drug addiction science psychology class in May 2009.)

Common alcoholic beverages contain ethanol, a central nervous system depressant. The word alcohol can refer to a large number of organic compounds besides ethanol, but in this paper the term alcohol will be used synonymously with ethanol. The earliest evidence of alcohol use was around 9000 years ago in Northern China. Jars which were used to store wine were found at an old Chinese settlement named Jaihu, founded in 7000 BC, flooded and subsequently abandoned in 5800 BC. Analysis of the Jars by scientists at the University of Pennsylvania found residue of an alcoholic drink made from rice, honey, and hawthorn berries. The alcoholic drink was made using a specific type of mold to break down rice carbohydrates into simple sugars which could then be fermented (9000-year).

Marijuana is considered a psychedelic hallucinogen. Psychedelics alter thought processes and perceptions of reality. The earliest evidence of marijuana use can be traced back to an ancient burial site in present day Romania where burned marijuana seeds were discovered. The earliest evidence besides the site discovered in Romanian, is in China where seed and leaf fragments were discovered alongside a mummified shaman found in the northwestern Xinjiang region of China, and identified to be 2500 years old (Hong-En, 2006). Marijuana has been used medicinally in China since at least 28 BC, where it was used to treat constipation, female weakness, gout, malaria, rheumatism, and absent mindedness (Voth, 1997).

Ethanol is a very small organic molecule that is able to easily permeate the blood brain barrier, and reach all areas of the brain. Alcohol has been used as a pain killer, an expectorant, to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases (La Porte, 1985), to lower blood pressure (Gillman, 1995), to help people with diabetes (Kopper, 2005), decrease stress and depression (Lipton, 1994), temporarily relieve anxiety (Chastain, 2006), and more.

Marijuana contains many cannabinoids, which bind to cannabis receptors; at least 66 cannabinoids have already been isolated in marijuana. The most well known cannabinoid is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is considered the primary psychoactive component of the marijuana plant. There are many…

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