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For as long as alcohol has been a part of human culture, it has had a worrisome impact on relationships and human health. Before the rise of potable water and municipal filtration systems, drinking alcohol was a daily activity for many humans (although they did drink water, too).
At this point in history, we arguably have the best water filtration technology our species has ever seen in most developed nations (ignoring, of course, how capitalism often reduces access for huge swathes of the population, such as much of Flint, Michigan).
That improved access to safe, clean drinking water should mean that fewer people consumer alcohol daily. However, alcohol consumption and abuse is actually on the rise. There is evidence to support this claim, based on a study published by a University of Michigan Medical School doctor. This study analyzed death data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Young adults in the United States in their 20s and 30s are currently experiencing a sharp spike in deaths related to liver diseases, including cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer. The study attributes these diseases to increased alcohol consumption. In fact, between 1999 and 2016, the number of people between 25 and 34 who died of alcohol-related liver disease tripled.
There have been other studies that also found increases in liver disease. For example, the CDC has also reported that the death rate from liver cancer has gone up 43% since 2000, and they adjusted those findings for age.
In other words, my generation is miserable, and it is slowly medicating itself to death with booze. Now, I’m not here to denigrate alcohol. I personally enjoy a glass of wine or a tasty local craft beer with friends on occasion. We also already know that banning alcohol won’t do anything to stop demand for it. What we need to be considering is how public policy can help mitigate or reduce the deadly effects of alcohol on younger Americans.
The answer, in my opinion, is obvious. We need to legalize cannabis for all adults. Many people can and would choose the less-harm option of cannabis if it were possible without serious legal risk. While self-medicating with any substance isn’t ideal, cannabis doesn’t have any known correlation with deadly diseases. It also doesn’t contribute to drunk driving deaths or spousal abuse.
For those who want to conquer their demons, not just sedate them to get through the night, cannabis can also help facilitate the therapy process and help make people more aware of their own internal workings. Alcohol sales drop about 15% in states with legal medical access to cannabis. Complete legalization for adults could do even more to reduce alcohol abuse.
It breaks my heart to imagine that other people in their early and mid-30s are dying slow, painful deaths because their lives are so miserable, they can’t stop drinking. Legalizing cannabis would go a long way toward saving some of the people who would otherwise drink themselves to death.
For previous Ladybud articles about alcohol, click here.