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Yes, women over 50 like getting high, and I am one of them. In fact, I have discovered the virtues of cannabis vs alcohol. Using cannabis is a far better experience than drinking alcohol. Here’s why more women in their prime should consider ditching their wine and reaching for a pot gummy instead.
California, the state I live in, has legalized recreational pot for a while now. The world as we know it has not collapsed. Admittedly, I never used pot when I was young – I was a cannabis novice going into my dotage. But I was curious when it became legal, so I tried it. And, wow, getting high is a very nice experience! (Is there a more “mom” way of saying that? Don’t know, too stoned to care. JK)
Let me be clear: I am a scientist, a toxicologic pathologist to be specific. I spent nearly three decades of my professional life-determining if drugs were safe for people to take. I don’t take drug safety lightly. So, I do have some disclaimers about cannabis:
- In my opinion, there is not enough data to make many substantiated medical claims for the use of cannabis to treat diseases. That said, if you believe it works for your pain or sleep or seizures… it isn’t likely to hurt you, so use what works for you.
- If you are under 25, sorry to be a buzz-kill but I don’t think to get high–especially not often–is a good idea for you just yet. The brain is still growing a lot during that time, and the data suggests that chronic, high exposure to pot might be detrimental to brain development. (Remember, though, the same can be said for alcohol.)
- Pregnant or breastfeeding women – stay away from cannabis.
- People with Major Depressive Disorder or another serious mental health disease – don’t use cannabis.
- If you have propensities for addiction, don’t play with fire: don’t use pot.
Okay, with that out of the way…
Cannabis Safety – no one has ever died from a cannabis overdose
Cannabis is a generally safe drug, and I say that as an expert in drug safety (again: toxicologist). While using it in excess can make you feel lousy–i.e. anxious, nauseous or dizzy–there is not one confirmed report of a person or animal dying from cannabis toxicity. (Yep, you heard me, alcohol. Check and mate). If you take too much and end up going to the ER, they are most likely just going to let you sit (maybe leaving you with a barf bag) until you feel better. Typically no intervention is needed.
In all my years working as a toxicologist, I can say that the inability to find any reports of marijuana consumption causing death is a very unusual claim. Almost anything can kill you if you ingest enough of it – even water – but I am unaware of any death related to marijuana toxicity.
Collateral damage from cannabis use is still not well studied, though. By that, I mean car accidents and other injuries. We know a LOT about alcohol’s collateral damage, though. What is known is that alcohol can exacerbate violent behavior. The jury is still out regarding cannabis’ ability to elicit aggression in healthy recreational users. There IS some association between cannabis use and increased aggression in users with serious, persistent mental illness, in heavy users undergoing withdrawal, and in persons already predisposed to violence (Rafiai and Kolla 2021).
Is the risk of minor injuries increased when you use pot?
There are some very weak data suggesting minor injuries may be slightly more common among older pot users. Because the investigators reporting this study could establish no correlation with the amount or frequency of use, I am not convinced this is a substantial risk. But that said, as with alcohol: don’t drive, play with knives or build fires if you are high. Stay put and watch a movie or listen to music.
Some pot strains may cause anxiety
Pot can make some people anxious – but that may be more related to the strain of marijuana (Sativa versus Indica-dominant varieties) than an innate property. Withdrawal from heavy marijuana use can make a person irritable, especially younger people. (But remember my disclaimers – adolescents should NOT use pot.)
Cannabis vs alcohol: Alcohol is worse than pot – in every way
All that said… compared to the risks to women from drinking alcohol? Alcohol is a disaster. The CDC summarizes how alcohol increases liver disease, cancer risk, and damages the heart. In younger women, it negatively impacts fertility and causes birth defects. Alcohol, even in modest amounts, is a bad hombre.
Now, if you are an abstainer of all recreational mood-altering substances, this article is not for you. But, if you drink alcohol socially and recreationally, maybe you should consider the safety of cannabis vs alcohol and switch to cannabis.
Two big advantages? No hangover and no calories (well maybe a few calories in a gummy or piece of chocolate). So zero to minimal calories. Alcohol is loaded with carbs and calories – loaded. If you drink a glass or two of wine every day, that’s 120-300 calories per day. Cutting this out could translate to 1-2 pounds per month – or 12-24 pounds in a year.
So how does a woman safely and intelligently use pot?
- Visit a dispensary and talk with a budtender. Yes, the people working behind the counter at pot dispensaries are called budtenders and they, in my experience, are extremely helpful.
- Know the difference between Sativa and Indica strains of pot. Sativa works more on your mind, enhancing cerebral experiences. Sativa dominant strains are what to go for if you want to stay awake and listen to music, create a piece of art or watch some Netflix and chill. And, trust me, “chilling” is a whole new and greater experience when high. Indica-dominant strains, on the other hand, relax your body and help you sleep. Hybrids have both and can have differing effects.
- Today’s pot is strong, with many varieties at almost 30% THC (the active ingredient). If you decide to smoke pot, only take one or two inhalations and then stop, wait and see. Remember how if you are on fire you are taught to stop, drop and roll? With pot you stop, wait and see.
- If you choose edibles, only take one 10 mg dose – or even half that – the first time. Most edibles come in 10 mg pieces. Start with one and stop, wait and see. You should wait at least an hour with edibles. Don’t eat a whole friggin’ candy bar like a famous journalist who will not be named did. My favorite is the sour gummies. I don’t really like the taste of pot-laced chocolate. If I want chocolate, I want it to taste like pure unadulterated chocolate. So, gummies for me.
- Pot products are well-labeled. Novices- look at the label, and make sure you understand it. TALK to your budtender.
- If you are new to cannabis, take one 10 mg dose, stop, wait and see, and enjoy. If you feel anxious, talk yourself down and just wait it out – you won’t die, you will not otherwise be hurt. You may be in the minority of people who have this reaction. Check the strain. Sativa strains are more likely to cause anxiety. As a novice, consider starting with a hybrid or Indica-dominant variety.
- Don’t double-dip – DO NOT drink alcohol and use pot at the same time. It is a waste of good pot, for one thing. It may also make you feel lousy – or, more likely, you will just fall asleep and miss the entire experience.
- And, of course, keep your stash away from kids – lock it up or store it with the medicines you don’t want them taking. Especially important for edibles, which may look like a fun treat!
Cannabis is a fun recreational product that is here to stay. It has been around and used for eons and is readily accessible. The only difference is that today it’s mainstream: over 50% of the adult population has legal access. In the debate of cannabis vs alcohol, cannabis is the safer choice, hands down.
Pot prohibition is going away. Even if you live in a nonlegal state, it’s a good idea to educate yourself on cannabis – not necessarily to use it but to make decisions and vote using evidence, not emotion.
As Willie Nelson says,
The biggest killer on the planet is stress and I still think the best medicine is and always has been cannabis.