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On Being Stoned
Charles T. Tart, Ph. D.
Chapter 28. Alcohol and Marijuana
THE 150 USERS had been drinking alcohol longer than they had used
marijuana, but for the six months preceding their filling out
the questionnaire, they had been using marijuana with greater
frequency. Given a free choice, 43 percent would never use alcohol,
and 37 percent would use alcohol in preference to marijuana less
than a quarter of the time (see Chapter 4).
To the question, "Could you compare the effects of alcohol
and marijuana on yourself? When do you prefer to use the one,
when the other?" eighty-three percent of the users volunteered
answers, from very short ones ("Alcohol makes my mind fuzzy,
and I prefer not to use it anymore") to long and detailed
comparisons. I shall report the major comparisons in several categories,
giving a ratio in each case (M/A) where the first number is the
number of users mentioning the effect for marijuana and the second
the number mentioning it for alcohol.
Sensory and Bodily Effects
Alcohol was more frequently reported to worsen sensory perception
and appreciation (0/29), produce unpleasant physical sensations
such as nausea (2/19), and have negative aftereffects (0/27).
Marijuana was more frequently reported as enhancing sensory perception
(27/3). Effects mentioned with about equal frequency were pleasant
physical sensations (4/4), relaxed or sleepy feelings (17/20),
or energetic feelings (5/6).
Alcohol was reported to more frequently induce chatter and laughter
in groups (1/7), as well as boisterous aggression and violence
(0/9) and childishness (1/15). Group effects mentioned with about
equal frequency for marijuana and alcohol were extroversion (9/12),
serious conversation (2/1), and enhanced sexual desire (6/5).
Marijuana was reported to improve cognitive processes (31/1),
and lead to personal and spiritual insights ( 17/0), while alcohol
was reported to worsen cognitive processes (2/11).
Marijuana and alcohol were mentioned as inducing pleasant emotions
equally frequently (16/15), and unpleasant emotions equally frequently
Marijuana was generally praised because the user did not lose
control of himself and could "sober up" immediately
if necessary (9/1).
The users indicated that alcohol was best used in large or impersonal
groups as a social lubricant (3/25), but that marijuana was best
for getting intoxicated alone or in small, intimate groups (14/4).
Concern with being arrested was mentioned as an effect of marijuana
intoxication but not for alcohol (9/1).
Several years before the present study, with the aid of Carl Klein,
I carried out a survey of the incidence of marijuana use at a
West Coast university. Many of the users of the present study
were later obtained from the same university. These students were
asked, in the questionnaire of the earlier study, to describe
the major effects of alcohol and marijuana on themselves. As they
were rustled for time, most of them gave very brief answers. Comparisons
of qualities reported for alcohol and marijuana in that (unpublished)
study are summarized in Table 28-1. The table summarizes answers
from 150 students who had used alcohol, 86 of whom also had used
marijuana at least once.
These older data are generally consistent with the present data.
People who have used both alcohol and marijuana to intoxicate
themselves perceive the effects as different in a number of ways.
Marijuana is preferred for becoming intoxicated alone or in small
intimate groups, and reportedly leads to enhancement of sensation,
pleasant physical sensations, both improved and worsened interpersonal
relations, improved cognitive processes, personal and spiritual
insights, and fears about being arrested more frequently than
Alcohol is preferred for large and impersonal group situations
and reportedly leads to worsened sensory perception, unpleasant
physical sensations, childishness and lowering of inhibitions,
violence, worsened cognitive processes, and more unpleasant aftereffects
Users generally choose marijuana if given a free choice and/or
tend to restrict their use of alcohol to small amounts.
TABLE 28-1Note.The percentages in this table do not add up to exactly 100% due to rounding errors and/or some users skipping the question.
COMPARISON OF ALCOHOL AND MARIJUANA INTOXICATION
Tart-Klein Study, 1968
|Sensory & Bodily Effects:|
| Sensory enhancement||1%||35%||.001|
| Sensory worsening||13%||0%||.001|
| Pleasant physical sensations||2%||8%||.05|
| Unpleasant physical sensations||13%||7%||NS|
| Inhibitions lowered||15%||2%||.01|
| Improved cognitive processes||2%||21%||.001|
| Worsened cognitive processes||10%||5%||NS|
| Personal insights||1%||8%||.01|
| Spiritual experiences||0%||2%||NS|
| Pleasant mood||18%||31%||NS|
| Unpleasant mood||5%||13%||NS|
| Fear of being arrested||0%||6%||.01|
[a] Because of the brief answers given in this earlier study, the figures in the various categories represent one answer per student
and were therefore amenable to statistical tests of the significance of the differences.
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