It shouldn’t be much of a surprise that alcohol and marijuana comprise the two most commonly abused drugs by young adults in America. But while many would ask why young adults use these drugs, it’s more important to understand how these drugs affect the body. What exactly do these drugs do to the body and how does the body process them? Are the effects always negative? Does the amount consumed make a significant difference? First I will give a brief history of each drug, followed by the physiological processes of digesting each drug in the body, and I will conclude by examining the short and long-term effects of prolonged use of each substance. My goal is to give honest explanations about the effects of each drug using the most recent and accurate scientific data and statistics.
To understand these drugs more effectively, it is important to give a brief history of each. Marijuana use has been documented as early as 2737 B.C. in ancient China. It spread through India, North Africa, and Europe as an “agent for achieving euphoria” and as a medicine for a variety of illnesses (“History of Marijuana”). It was first introduced in America in 1611 in Jamestown, Virginia. Up until the 20th century, it was never made illegal in the United States because the users didn’t seem to cause harm to themselves or others while on the drug. It wasn’t until the 1930’s that legislation was introduced to portray marijuana as a dangerous, addictive drug that would lead to narcotic addiction. 40 years later, in the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, marijuana was legally classified as a Category 1 drug (the same category as LSD and heroin). During the Reagan administration, very strict marijuana laws were passed in attempt to further discourage teenagers from using the drug. The end result was a decrease in usage in the short term, but there has been a steady upward trend of usage since the early 1990’s (“History of Marijuana”).
The history of alcohol also dates back thousands of years. Fermented grain, fruits, and honey have been used for alcohol production since 7000 BC. Again, the first documented use is in China. Gradually, the use of alcohol spread through India, Babylon, and Europe. By the 16th century, the British government actually encouraged alcohol use for “medicinal purposes” (“Alcohol: A Short History”). Not coincidentally, alcoholism became a widespread problem for Great Britain during that time period. But it wasn’t until the late 19th century that attitudes around the world starting changing in regards to alcohol. A movement for prohibition was rising and by 1920, the United States had outlawed production and distribution of alcohol. 13 years later, in response to an enormously uncontrollable black market for alcohol that the government indirectly created, Congress repealed the law. Today, alcohol is widely used by not just those legal to buy it, but also by teenagers and young adults. An estimated 15 million Americans (all ages) suffer from alcoholism and 40% of all deaths due to car accidents involve alcohol. (“Alcohol: A Short History”)
It is important now to focus on the physiological process of digesting marijuana in the body. An article titled “How Marijuana Works”, written by Kevin Bosner gives extensive detail on how the body processes the drug. Marijuana is most commonly ingested through smoke. The strongest chemical in marijuana is THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannnabinol), which gives a “high” feeling to users. When smoke from marijuana is inhaled, THC goes into the lungs and is exposed to millions of tiny sacks called alveoli. The alveoli are responsible for the gas exchange between capillaries and lungs. THC enters the alveoli where it is transferred to the blood stream, which then brings the compound into major organs like the brain. Typically, THC reaches the brain within seconds after it is inhaled. After THC reaches the brain, it affects the neurotransmitters in the...