By Lanny Swerdlow, RN
When I worked as a nurse in the cardiac wing of a hospital, I found that about one-fourth of my patients were there with problems with their heart directly related to their use of alcohol. When I worked on surgical floors, many of my patients were there due to health problems caused by their use of alcohol, such as cirrhosis of the liver, pancreatitis and cancer.
But no matter where I worked in the hospital, I never had a patient there due to their use of cannabis, and neither did any other nurse I worked with.
A nurse colleague told me he had worked in emergency rooms for over 20 years and in all that time, he cannot recall a single instance of anyone ever coming to the emergency room due solely to their use of cannabis—not one! He then told me that he started as an emergency-room nurse right out of nursing school and that during the first 30 days he worked, he lost count of the number of patients coming to the emergency room with problems due entirely to their use of alcohol.
Here are some alcohol statistics:
• Approximately 80,000 deaths are attributable to alcohol use each year in the United States.
• Alcohol use is the third leading lifestyle-related cause of death for the nation.
• More than 1.6 million hospitalizations and more than 4 million emergency room visits due to alcohol use occur every year.
The human species likes to party, and alteration of one’s conscious state is associated with that type of activity. We’ve been doing that for such a long time that there could very well be a genetic component involved. Cannabis offers a viable solution to altering one’s consciousness without the problems or horrors perpetuated on society by alcohol.
For many people, marijuana is all they need to effectively alter their consciousness. Our giant alcohol corporations are well aware that a significant number of people who drink will significantly cut down on the amount they drink or abstain altogether if good quality cannabis is available. That’s why they spend millions of dollars every year in support the Office of National Drug Control Policy’s programs to keep marijuana illegal.
I am totally amazed at the number of people who tell me how their use of cannabis significantly reduces their drinking or helps them abstain from drinking alcohol totally. In a 2003 published study conducted by medical-marijuana pioneer Dr. Tod Mikuriya, 92 alcoholics received physician recommendations to use marijuana and every single one of them was able to either significantly reduce their use of alcohol or end their use of it altogether.
This is a success rate that leaves every other alcohol treatment program in the dust, whether it is the “higher power” faith-based 12-step program of Alcoholic Anonymous or some well-meaning, but uninformed, M.D. writing prescriptions for disulfiram (Antabuse), naltrexone (Revia, Vivitrol) and acamprosate (Campral)—the most commonly used medications used for treating alcoholism.
If your life (or the life of a family member, friend or co-worker) is being destroyed by alcohol use no matter what you try and you just cannot stay on the wagon, then it’s time to check out cannabis. You have nothing to lose and a healthy heart and liver to gain.
Easy access to cannabis is essential for people to get off of alcohol, but whenever marijuana legalization is discussed, it is always discussed in terms of tax revenue raised and law enforcement resources consumed. The fact is those taxes and costs pale in comparison to the $185 billion estimated to be lost every year due to problems associated with the use of alcohol.
Marijuana first and foremost needs to be legalized so people will not need alcohol to get high. They will have a safe and very enjoyable alternative that will not lead to violence, broken homes, spousal abuse, diseased hearts and non-functioning livers. For more information on using cannabis in place of alcohol, go to www.saferchoice.org.
Lanny Swerdlow, RN is director of the Marijuana Anti-Prohibition Project, an Inland Empire medical marijuana patient support group and law reform organization. For more information on Dr. Mikuriya’s study, contact (760) 799-2055 or email@example.com.