Marijuana is Becoming the New Alcohol – and Why it’s a Concern

Even though marijuana is not new, its legalization across numerous states has made it socially acceptable. Marijuana was once shunned, but this is no longer the case today. THC is available in everything from fruit-flavored gummies and chocolates to pain relief creams and salt soaks. In a way, marijuana has become the new alcohol, prompting people to experiment with different types, strains and methods. 

While Pennsylvania only allows medical marijuana patients to legally buy and consume cannabis from state-approved dispensaries, at least four surrounding states have legalized weed for recreational purposes. Additionally, the underground market is hot, as Philly is among the top 15 cities in the world for weed consumption. According to the 2023 Cannabis Global Price Index, Philadelphia residents are consuming an average of 10.6 metric tons of weed every year. 

Pennsylvania’s marijuana laws could change in the near future, as the legislature is considering everything from expanding who can get medical marijuana to full legalization. Let’s cover why the drug is becoming the new alcohol—accessible and acceptable—and why it’s a concern. 

More States are Legalizing Cannabis 

Colorado and Washington were the first states to legalize marijuana, but this has quickly grown into 24 states (plus the District of Columbia) as of February 2024. Another 14 states allow the drug for medical use only. Additionally, 27 states have decriminalized recreational marijuana use. And, it appears that the general public agrees with the legalization of cannabis. 

According to a 2022 Pew Research Center survey, 88 percent of adults said the drug should be legal, either for recreational or medical use. Whether people choose personally to use cannabis or not, the legalization of the drug means that it’s easier to obtain than ever. And as the cannabis industry grows, so will the consumer base. People will find reasons to use the drug, especially when it’s made to be attractive and fun. 

Marijuana is More Addictive than People Think 

A common misconception about marijuana is that it’s not addictive. However, this is not the case. Research shows that people who use cannabis have a 10 percent chance of becoming addicted. The risk of developing a marijuana use disorder is greater in people who start using the drug during adolescence or use the drug frequently. 

Furthermore, marijuana can quickly become a coping tool, just like alcohol is for some people. Let’s say that you use marijuana recreationally with friends, but you go through a tragedy and are finding it hard to cope. As your marijuana use increases, so does your tolerance. You begin consuming more of the drug and learn to rely on THC’s effects to feel good. Fortunately, marijuana use disorder can be treated. 

Cannabis is Touted as a “Safer” Alternative (It’s Not)

Another reason why marijuana is becoming the new alcohol is because it’s often touted as being a safer alternative to “harder” drugs like heroin or cocaine. Alcohol has filled this role for many years, as people believe that it’s a safer way to relax, have fun and loosen up around others. However, as more information comes out about the dangers of alcohol, including its risk for several cancers, marijuana is stealing this spot. 

Today, many people assume that marijuana, especially when not smoked, is a healthier alternative to drinking alcohol or engaging in other substance use. People also argue that cannabis doesn’t involve hangovers or painful withdrawal symptoms. However, it takes time to learn about the true effects of drugs, and growing evidence shows that cannabis use increases the risk for heart disease and stroke

Bottom line: There is no “safe” option when it comes to weed and alcohol. 

Woman sitting alone outside

Some Alcohol Now Contains THC 

For those who want to combine the effects of alcohol and THC, there is now the option to do so. Drinkable weed is a new trend in the craft beer industry, and it’s often advertised as being safer than smoking the drug. However, there are real dangers to combining THC and alcohol, as the effects of both drugs are enhanced. 

Alcohol not only revs up the effects of THC, but also its active ingredient ethanol works on the same parts of the brain as THC. This can make it especially difficult to process information and make good judgments. The combination of cannabis and alcohol also increases the risk for hallucinations, paranoia, overdose and overall negative experiences. 

Treating Marijuana Use Disorder 

Marijuana use disorders appear to be similar to other substance use disorders, though clinical outcomes seem to be less severe. On average, adults seeking marijuana addiction treatment are those who have been using marijuana daily for at least 10 years and have tried to quit many times. 

There are also other factors that can complicate the treatment process, such as co-occurring disorders and other substance use disorders. By choosing a treatment center that offers integrated treatment, you can address all disorders simultaneously. 

The main options for treating marijuana use disorder are: 

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy. This form of psychotherapy teaches people strategies to identify and correct problematic behaviors that may be contributing to substance use. CBT also helps people learn new, healthy ways to cope. 
  • Contingency management. This therapeutic approach gives immediate rewards for desired changes in behavior. For instance, if you remain sober for a month, you may receive a gym membership or gift certificate to a restaurant. 
  • Motivational enhancement therapy. Another therapeutic approach, motivational enhancement therapy is a short-term treatment that helps people overcome their ambivalence regarding drug and alcohol use. 
  • Healthy lifestyle modifications. Building a sober lifestyle also involves healthy habits, such as eating nutritious meals, exercising, spending time with friends and family, finding new hobbies and getting enough rest. 

Currently, there are no FDA-approved medications for treating cannabis use disorder. 

Start Your Recovery at Our Marijuana Addiction Treatment Center in Lehigh Valley 

Some people are hesitant to seek treatment for marijuana use because of the growing social acceptance of the drug. However, it’s important to know that treatment is available. Recovery Cove in Easton, PA offers marijuana addiction treatment where you will be surrounded by others working their recoveries as well. We also treat other substance use and mental health disorders, ensuring you are able to receive a full continuum of treatment under one roof. Contact Recovery Cove today at 484-549-COVE to overcome addiction.