While both substances can have detrimental effects on your memory, a number of recent studies suggest that alcohol is far worse than marijuana in a number of ways.
What about the aloof, zoned-out stoner stereotype? Some say it's real, and the short-term and long-term memory loss from regular cannabis is more severe if you start young. Additionally, smoking marijuana, the most common method for consumption, is bad for your lungs (though not as bad as cigarettes).
But the same has been said for alcohol: Regular alcohol use during adolescent or teen years can damage one's motor skills and even stunt long-term motivation. Studies have also shown that alcohol has tremendous negative effects on short-term memory. After reaching a certain blood alcohol level, the booze blocks the brain's ability to create new memories (known colloquially as "blackout").
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Advantage weed: Despite their shared negative effects, cannabis has a unique trait that may help it win the battle of which drug is less harmful to the brain.
Though weed damages your memory function, it also repairs some of that damage. While large doses of THC, the active ingredient in cannabis, can be detrimental to brain development, CBD, another compound in marijuana, has a variety of medical applications. One is that it increases neurogenesis, repairing the neural connections frayed by THC.
Alcohol doesn't have such a counteractive element within its own chemistry. Instead, it simply destroys your brain and leaves it that way. In fact, research has shown that CBD treatment may actually help undo the neural damage from prolonged alcohol use.
Still, there's a huge research bias against pot. For the past several decades, government-sanctioned and supplied research on cannabis has targeted its negative effects, not its therapeutic value. And most private research proposals into its medicinal value have been denied, partially because the substance's Schedule I classification makes obtaining and testing marijuana very difficult.
In the debate over which is the more dangerous drug, these biases severely handicap marijuana. But now that cannabis research is finally rolling, it's very possible we'll soon view pot not just as a drug that alters your perception and screws with brain activity, but a versatile substance with a multitude of therapeutic applications as well. It's about time common sense prevailed.