What Are the Pros and Cons of Substituting Marijuana for Alcohol?

It’s a debate that’s gone on for years: alcohol or marijuana?

Both are mind-altering chemicals that work on different parts of the body. Sometimes, they’re even used together (what some people call “cross-faded”). This kind of use can make some people more prone to marijuana or alcohol addiction.

Ever since marijuana was legalized for medicinal and recreational purposes in several states starting in the early 2000s, many have considered switching their main relaxing substance from alcohol to marijuana. Others may have run into problems with excessive drinking, but because they feel complete abstinence from any sort of high is not realistic, they decide to strictly smoke weed and stay away from alcohol. 

There are several pros and cons of trading in your bottles of beer for some green buds. One major argument for those in favor claim that you will never find yourself in a drug and alcohol rehab center for smoking too much weed. Though it’s typically true that marijuana has been found to be less harmful than alcohol to the body, brain, and society, marijuana is not without its drawbacks. In this article, we will discuss the pros and cons of substituting marijuana for alcohol. 

Physical and Mental Health

In general, marijuana has many health benefits over alcohol. Compared to alcohol, there are fewer health problems that arise from marijuana use. Alcohol is a toxin, sometimes used to clean and disinfect everyday household items and machinery. Heavy drinkers suffer damaged mental health and have even experienced hallucinations and bouts of delirium. 

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Data on excessive drinking from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that during 2015 to 2019, excessive alcohol use was responsible for more than 140,000 deaths. Even in moderation, drinking alcohol can have harsh long-term effects on the kidney, liver, and brain.

On the other hand, marijuana has been prescribed by doctors to help with pain relief, eating disorders, and insomnia. Even though it can cause lung disease, this is usually a result of smoking it in “old-school” ways, such as blunts and joints. Nowadays, there is a slew of options available to decrease the likelihood of serious harm, such as vapes and dab pens. These tools eliminate the “smoke” and turn it into vapors.


Many believe that alcohol is an easier and more harmful substance to become addicted to than marijuana. Alcoholism, or alcohol use disorder (AUD), is and has been a consistent problem in the United States. There are several alarming alcohol facts and statistics, such as the fact that 14.5 million adults aged 12 and up in the United States had an AUD in 2019. Having an alcohol use disorder causes many long-term problems beyond the health concerns laid out in the previous section. People with AUD usually have problems at work, in their relationships, and in their emotional health.

The withdrawal symptoms from alcohol can be life-threatening if not properly treated, and abstaining from alcohol after making a declaration of sobriety isn’t easy. 

Heavy marijuana use is mostly seen as unharmful if the person engaged in it is responsible and experienced. Some find they are able to balance and weave in marijuana use with work, social life, and family time. This may be true in some cases, but for those with drinking problems and looking to switch out alcohol for marijuana, it may be good to consider that marijuana is a mind-altering chemical that can lead to dependency in the same way that alcohol does. You will not die from detoxing from cannabis, but marijuana abuse can lead to depression and anxiety, and can also act as a trigger for you to drink again. 

Society’s Toll  

Reckless driving, physical altercations, and dangerous accidents from heavy drinking are commonly heard when speaking against alcohol. Even though alcohol is a depressant, it can cause someone to act violent, confrontational, or overemotional. While it does not happen to everyone, heavy alcohol use can cause a blackout, a period of time when a person doesn’t remember what they did. During these blackouts is where a person may decide to drive, start a fight, or commit a crime against their normal inclinations. Society as a whole pays dearly for alcohol-related incidents. Excessive drinking, including binge drinking, cost the United States $249 billion in 2010, or $2.05 per drink. 

Marijuana is also considered a depressant, but it can be considered a stimulant and a hallucinogen because it can have a variety of effects on people. It can make one person feel extremely relaxed, and another paranoid or anxiety-ridden. For this reason, it may be hard to decipher what marijuana’s true toll on society is. There are various marijuana-related driving incidents, but not as many as alcohol. Its strain on the healthcare system pales in comparison to the effects of alcohol.

Final Word 

Deciding to substitute marijuana for alcohol can bring health benefits to your kidneys, liver, and brain. You will not have to worry about uncomfortable hangovers or the possibility of blacking out and doing something you otherwise wouldn’t have done. However, for some, marijuana can create dependency, leading to all the pitfalls of addiction. It’s best to speak with healthcare professionals to determine the best course of action.