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Alcohol vs Marijuana

There is no culture in the history of mankind that did not ever use some kind (kinds) of drugs. Despite the well-known consequences of drug addiction, millions of people constantly consume different legal and illegal drugs. Affecting people's mind and changing their behavior, drugs become one of the most threatening factors of social risk, resulting in increasing rates of mortality, aggressive and criminal behavior, and dissolution of social ties. This paper is devoted to comparison of social science outcome characteristics for two of the most commonly used drugs in the groups of legal and illegal drugs--alcohol in the first and marijuana in the second. It is argued that hardly any of two can be seen preferable over the other, and both have negative impact on the society through changing the behavior of individuals consuming them.

General discussion:

Social problems of drug abuse or, more correctly, substance abuse (Timmons & Hamilton), can be divided into two groups. The first consists of problems resulting from the phenomenon of drug addiction, which are similar for any kind of drugs that caused this addiction. The second has to do with particular patterns of changed behavior and medical problems affecting someone's social position, characteristic for different kinds of drugs both immediately after intoxication and in long-term perspective.

The symbolic interactionism theory does not depend on the drug but how people interpret the drug. Physicians may view a drug as a way to help people with an illness. Police usually see a drug (including alcohol) as a menace to society. Alcohol is usually accepted as a social interaction in the United States , as well as other countries.

Functionalism study drugs, not on if they are legal or illegal, but on the functions and dysfunctions it has in society. They also identify a latent function that is associated with making a drug legal or illegal. "To make a drug illegal is to strengthen the agencies that have been established to control them." The moral entrepreneur has a lot of power and money to make drugs legal or illegal, whatever is in their best interest. Conflict theorist emphasize how drugs are used as a political tool. They decide whether a drug is criminalized or not. The conflict theorists used the laws against the Chinese immigrants in the 1800's.

Continuous use of a certain drug results in the need to consume higher doses in order to achieve the same effect and by negative and painfully felt effects of sudden withdrawal of the drug. "The drug not only acts as a reinforcer, but sets the stage for the development of the motivation to obtain the drug." (Timmons & Hamilton). When this motivation develops, it becomes "...the major focus of a person's life to the exclusion of other activities"... and begins " harm the individual or others physically, mentally, or socially..."(Engs). This stage of drug abuse is known as addiction. Addicts become obsessed of the object, seeking it they get engaged in harmful behavior, which draws them away from family, friends, and studying. Substance abuse compromises psychological and social development and corrupts the processes of formation of a strong self-identity, emotional and intellectual growth, pursuing a career, and development of positive interpersonal relationships. (Center for Substance...).

The danger of developing addiction in the case of alcohol consumption is well-known and does not need to be discussed here. The question of marijuana is more complex, as it raised an ongoing discussion (Leshner; Alcohol vs. Marijuana; Say it Straight...; Cuda). The researchers reported that the negative effects of physical withdrawal from the use of marijuana (loss of appetite, sleep problems, weight loss, and shaky hands (Say it Straight...) are felt much less painfully than those characteristic for most other drugs, including alcohol. However, as others argue, these symptoms do not fully determine the phenomenon of addiction, they rather accompany it. The psychological aspects are far more important. Alan I. Leshner, Director of the US National Institute of Drug Abuse and one of the leading specialists in this area noted: "Physical dependence is not that important because, first, even the florid withdrawal symptoms of heroin and alcohol addiction can be managed with appropriate medications. Therefore, physical withdrawal symptoms should not be at the core of our concerns about these substances... What does matter tremendously is whether or not a drug causes what we now know to be the essence of addiction: uncontrollable, compulsive drug seeking and use, even in the face of negative health and social consequences." (Leshner).

Marijuana is known to create a very strong psychological dependence (Marijuana Facts). Consequently, this drug can be responsible for developing addiction like any other drug. This assumption is supported by empirical evidence: "...every year more than 100,000 people, most of them adolescents, seek treatment for their inability to control their marijuana use. They suffer from compulsive, uncontrollable marijuana craving, seeking and use." (Leshner). If so, the marijuana addiction hardly can be regarded better comparing to addiction caused by, for instance, alcohol. Both are the same phenomenon and the social problems rising from it are similar in both cases, and in both cases some people avoid developing the addiction, while others cannot. Proponents of marijuana point to the fact that alcohol is responsible for much higher level of mortality incidents and various forms of destructive behavior, especially immediately after intoxication. This is supported by statistics: "Alcohol kills 6 Ð... times the number of people killed by cocaine, heroin, and every other illegal drug combined." (Myths about...) Alcohol is responsible for nearly half of traffic incidents with lethal consequences (Center for Substance Abuse Treatment). Moreover, when alcohol is consumed, there exists a real risk of overdose and death resulting from it. Marijuana does not have an overdose effect--in order to get it one needs to smoke 40,000 times (Alcohol vs. Marijuana). These addictions usually start out as a personal problem, but evidently end up hurting the public in one way or another. It also lies on the fact that alcohol is socially excepted by the general public, but marijuana is not accepted.

Is Marijuana really safer in



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