Wednesday, April 20, 2011


The date is 4/20, which evidently has some numerological significance to hopheads. As different states loosen their laws regarding cannabis and medical marijuana is no longer just a pipedream, it's worth casting a sober eye toward the actual chemistry of cannabis. Of course, that's hard to do, since we've been raised in a moralistic culture with a love/hate relationship to drugs. We condemn drugs and lump them all together--from pot to heroin, methamphetamines to barbiturates--yet we joyously consume alcohol like it's going out of style, smoke cigarettes, pop Vicodin and Valium and various other prescription pharmaceuticals. Alcohol is a social lubricant, and to believe the advertisements it will make you carefree and clever and popular with the opposite sex. It relieves stress. It calms the nerves. It's legal and available and very sophisticated.

But there's a downside to this depressant. Alcohol is responsible for over 100,000 deaths each year. By comparison, there are virtually no marijuana-related deaths according to the health department. That doesn't mean you should suddenly start smoking bales of pot, but it's good to put booze, a legally-sanctioned, socially-acceptable drug, into perspective.

# 5% of all deaths from diseases of the circulatory system are attributed to alcohol.
# 15% of all deaths from diseases of the respiratory system are attributed to alcohol.
# 30% of all deaths from accidents caused by fire and flames are attributed to alcohol.
# 30% of all accidental drownings are attributed to alcohol.
# 30% of all suicides are attributed to alcohol.
# 40% of all deaths due to accidental falls are attributed to alcohol.
# 45% of all deaths in automobile accidents are attributed to alcohol.
# 60% of all homicides are attributed to alcohol.

(Sources: NIDA Report, the Scientific American and Addiction Research Foundation of Ontario.) Also see Alcohol Consumption and Mortality, Alcohol poisoning deaths, CDC report)

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