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Are Edibles Healthier Than Alcohol? A Detailed Comparison

Key Takeaways:

  • Comprehensive Comparison: Understand the immediate and long-term health effects of edibles and alcohol.
  • Benefits and Risks: Discover the unique benefits and potential risks associated with consuming edibles and alcohol.
  • Legal and Health Considerations: Learn about the legal implications and health guidelines for responsible consumption of both substances.

 

At Soul, we pride ourselves on providing clean, efficacious, and delicious wellness products backed by science. Our mission is to help individuals achieve their best health with natural, rigorously tested ingredients, ensuring both quality and safety. In this comprehensive comparison, we will delve into the health impacts of edibles and alcohol, offering insights into their benefits and risks.

Edibles offer a smoke-free, often medically beneficial way to consume cannabis, but come with risks such as delayed onset and potential psychological effects. Alcohol, integral to many cultures, enhances social interactions but poses significant health risks like addiction and liver disease. Understanding these substances' immediate and long-term effects is crucial for informed decision-making.

In this piece, we will be discussing the differences between edibles and alcohol, including their consumption methods, effects, risks, and benefits, to help you make informed choices about their use.

 

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What Are Edibles?

Edibles are food products infused with cannabis extracts, typically containing either THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) or CBD (cannabidiol). These extracts can be incorporated into a wide variety of foods and beverages, including brownies, gummies, chocolates, and drinks. Unlike smoking or vaping cannabis, edibles are consumed orally and metabolized by the digestive system. This method of consumption results in a slower onset of effects, typically taking 30 minutes to 2 hours to feel, but the effects tend to last longer compared to inhalation methods.

Edibles offer a discreet and convenient way to consume cannabis, especially for those who prefer not to smoke. They also allow for precise dosing, as the amount of THC or CBD is usually clearly labeled on the packaging. However, it's important to consume edibles responsibly, as the delayed onset can sometimes lead individuals to consume more than intended, increasing the risk of overconsumption.


What Is Alcohol?

Alcohol, specifically ethanol, is a psychoactive substance found in beverages such as beer, wine, and spirits. It is produced by the fermentation of sugars by yeast. Alcohol consumption has been a part of human culture for thousands of years and remains a popular social and recreational activity worldwide.

When consumed, alcohol is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream through the stomach and small intestine. It affects the central nervous system, leading to its characteristic effects such as relaxation, lowered inhibitions, and, at higher doses, impaired coordination and judgment. The onset of alcohol's effects is typically felt within minutes, making it a fast-acting substance.

Alcohol is available in various forms and concentrations, ranging from low-alcohol content beverages like beer (around 4-6% alcohol by volume) to high-alcohol spirits such as vodka and whiskey (around 40% alcohol by volume). The amount and speed of consumption, as well as individual tolerance, significantly influence alcohol's effects on the body.


Consumption Methods For Edibles

Edibles are consumed orally and can be found in a variety of food and beverage forms. They offer a smoke-free and often discreet way to consume cannabis, appealing to those who prefer not to inhale. Here are some common types of edibles:


Baked Goods

Brownies, cookies, and cakes are popular options for consuming edibles. These can be homemade using cannabis-infused butter or oil, allowing for customization of potency and flavor. Licensed dispensaries also offer a wide variety of professionally made baked goods, ensuring consistency in dosage and quality.


Candies And Gummies

These are one of the most popular forms of edibles due to their taste and convenience. Gummies, chocolates, and lollipops are easily portable and offer a controlled way to consume cannabis, with each piece often clearly labeled with its THC or CBD content. Their appealing flavors and textures make them a favored choice among both recreational and medicinal users.


Capsules And Tablets

These provide a precise dosage of cannabis in a pill form, making it easy for users to manage their intake. Capsules and tablets are often favored by medical cannabis users who need consistent and reliable dosing. They are discreet, easy to transport, and can be taken without the need for any additional preparation or equipment.


Savory Snacks

Chips, popcorn, and even infused nuts offer a non-sweet option for those who prefer savory over sweet. These snacks provide a tasty and convenient way to consume cannabis, often appealing to those who enjoy munching on something while experiencing the effects. Savory edibles can be a healthier alternative to sugary treats, particularly for regular users.


Consumption Methods For Alcohol

Alcohol can be consumed in various forms, each offering different experiences and effects. These forms cater to diverse preferences and social settings, enhancing the versatility of alcohol consumption. Here are some common consumption methods:


Beer

A fermented beverage typically made from barley, hops, water, and yeast. It usually has an alcohol content of 4-6%, making it a moderate option for social drinking. Beer comes in many varieties, including lagers, ales, stouts, and IPAs, each with unique flavors and brewing techniques, making it a staple at social gatherings and pubs.


Wine

Made from fermented grapes or other fruits, wine generally contains 12-15% alcohol by volume. There are several types of wine, such as red, white, rosé, and sparkling, each offering distinct flavors and pairings with food. Wine is often enjoyed with meals and is known for its complex flavors and potential health benefits when consumed in moderation, such as improving heart health.


Spirits

Also known as hard liquor, spirits like vodka, whiskey, rum, gin, and tequila have a much higher alcohol content, usually around 40%. These are often consumed in small quantities as shots, mixed into cocktails, or sipped neat or on the rocks, providing a potent and concentrated alcoholic experience. Spirits are a key component of many cultural rituals and celebratory events due to their strong effects and versatility in mixology.


Cocktails

Mixed drinks that combine spirits with other ingredients like fruit juices, sodas, and syrups. Cocktails can vary greatly in alcohol content and flavor, providing a diverse range of drinking experiences tailored to individual tastes. They are popular in social settings like bars and parties, offering endless possibilities for creativity and flavor combinations.


Ciders And Hard Seltzers

Ciders are made from fermented apple juice, while hard seltzers are alcoholic beverages made with carbonated water and flavorings. Both typically have an alcohol content similar to beer and are popular for their refreshing taste and lower calorie content compared to other alcoholic beverages. These drinks appeal to those looking for a lighter, more refreshing alternative to traditional beer and spirits.


Immediate Effects Of Edibles

Edibles produce different immediate effects compared to other forms of cannabis consumption due to their unique way of being metabolized by the body. When consumed, edibles are processed through the digestive system and metabolized by the liver, which converts THC into a more potent compound, 11-hydroxy-THC. This leads to a distinct set of effects:


Delayed Onset

The effects of edibles can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours to be felt, depending on various factors such as metabolism, the amount of food in the stomach, and individual tolerance. This delay can be confusing for first-time users who might expect quicker results, potentially leading to overconsumption. Understanding this delay is crucial to avoid taking additional doses prematurely.


Longer Duration

Once the effects set in, they tend to last much longer compared to smoking or vaping cannabis. The duration can range from 4 to 12 hours, with some residual effects lasting up to 24 hours, making edibles a good option for those seeking prolonged relief. This extended duration can be beneficial for medical users needing long-lasting symptom management but may interfere with daily activities for recreational users.


Intense Effects

The metabolization process makes the effects of edibles often more intense and longer-lasting. Users may experience stronger body sensations, altered perception of time, and heightened sensory experiences, which can be both enjoyable and overwhelming. This intensity is why it is recommended to consume edibles in a controlled environment, especially for those new to cannabis.


Physical And Mental Effects

Common immediate effects include relaxation, euphoria, and increased appetite, often referred to as "the munchies." Some users may also experience anxiety, paranoia, or dizziness, especially if they consume too much, highlighting the importance of understanding personal tolerance levels. These effects can vary widely between individuals, making each experience unique.


Variability

The potency of edibles can vary widely, and the effects can be unpredictable. It's important to start with a low dose and wait to assess its impact before consuming more, as this helps prevent overconsumption and adverse effects. Factors such as the type of edible, its THC content, and the user's metabolism all contribute to this variability, requiring careful and informed consumption practices.


Immediate Effects Of Alcohol

The immediate effects of alcohol consumption are influenced by factors such as the amount consumed, the rate of consumption, individual tolerance, and whether food is eaten alongside drinking. These factors can significantly alter the intensity and duration of alcohol's effects on the body. Some common immediate effects include:


Euphoria And Relaxation

In small to moderate amounts, alcohol often induces feelings of euphoria and relaxation. It can lower inhibitions and make social interactions feel easier, enhancing the overall social experience. This initial phase is why alcohol is commonly used in social settings, as it can make people feel more at ease and outgoing.


Impaired Judgment And Coordination

As blood alcohol concentration (BAC) rises, judgment, decision-making abilities, and motor coordination can become impaired. This increases the risk of accidents and injuries, as individuals may underestimate dangers or overestimate their abilities. Even simple tasks can become challenging, highlighting the importance of moderating intake, especially in situations requiring coordination, such as driving.


Slurred Speech And Drowsiness

Higher levels of alcohol consumption can cause slurred speech, drowsiness, and decreased reaction times. These effects can make communication difficult and can significantly impair one's ability to perform tasks that require alertness. Drowsiness induced by alcohol can also lead to falling asleep in unsafe environments or situations.


Mood Changes

Alcohol can amplify emotions, leading to mood swings. It might make some people feel happy and talkative, while others might become aggressive or depressed. This variability can make alcohol consumption unpredictable, as the same amount can have different emotional effects on different occasions or among different individuals.


Nausea And Vomiting

Consuming alcohol, especially in large quantities, can irritate the stomach lining, leading to nausea and vomiting. This is the body's way of attempting to expel the toxin and can be particularly unpleasant. Chronic irritation from frequent heavy drinking can lead to longer-term digestive issues, such as gastritis.


Increased Heart Rate And Blood Pressure

Alcohol consumption can lead to an increased heart rate and elevated blood pressure, which might pose risks for individuals with cardiovascular issues. These physiological changes can contribute to feelings of anxiety and panic in some individuals. Regular excessive drinking can exacerbate these effects and lead to chronic cardiovascular problems.


Dehydration

Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it increases urine production. This can lead to dehydration and contribute to hangover symptoms the following day, such as headache, dizziness, and fatigue. Drinking water alongside alcohol and moderating intake can help mitigate these dehydrating effects.


Benefits Of Edibles Vs. Alcohol

Both edibles and alcohol offer certain benefits when consumed responsibly, but they differ significantly in their nature and impact. Here's a comparison:

Benefits of Edibles

  • Medical Uses: Edibles can provide relief from chronic pain, anxiety, insomnia, and symptoms of conditions like multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. CBD-infused edibles, in particular, are used for their anti-inflammatory and anti-anxiety properties.
  • Long-lasting Effects: The effects of edibles last longer compared to smoking or vaping cannabis. This can be beneficial for those seeking prolonged relief from symptoms without needing to consume repeatedly.
  • No Harmful Smoke: Consuming edibles avoids the harmful effects of smoking, such as respiratory issues and exposure to carcinogens found in cannabis smoke.
  • Discreet Consumption: Edibles are easy to consume discreetly, making them a convenient option for those who prefer not to attract attention or deal with the stigma associated with smoking cannabis.
  • Precise Dosing: Edibles often come with clearly labeled dosages, allowing users to control their intake more precisely than with smoking or vaping.

Benefits of Alcohol

  • Social Facilitation: Alcohol is often used to enhance social interactions and reduce social anxiety, making it a common choice for gatherings and events.
  • Relaxation and Euphoria: In moderate amounts, alcohol can promote relaxation and a sense of euphoria, which can be beneficial for stress relief and unwinding after a long day.
  • Cultural and Culinary Uses: Alcohol plays a significant role in many cultures and cuisines, from wine pairings with meals to traditional celebrations and rituals.
  • Potential Heart Health Benefits: Some studies suggest that moderate alcohol consumption, particularly of red wine, may be associated with certain heart health benefits, such as increased levels of good cholesterol (HDL) and reduced risk of heart disease.

While both substances can offer benefits, it's important to consume them responsibly and be aware of the potential risks and side effects.

 

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Final Thoughts 

The debate over whether edibles are healthier than alcohol is complex and depends on various factors, including individual health conditions, consumption habits, and personal preferences. Both substances offer distinct benefits and pose unique risks: edibles provide a smoke-free alternative to consuming cannabis, with potential medical benefits and longer-lasting effects, but they come with risks such as delayed onset, overconsumption, and possible psychological effects. Alcohol, deeply ingrained in many cultures, can enhance social interactions and provide relaxation, yet it carries significant risks, including addiction, liver disease, cardiovascular issues, and long-term cognitive impairment. 


Read Also: 


Frequently Asked Questions About Edibles And Alcohol

What are edibles made from?

Edibles are typically made from cannabis extracts such as THC or CBD, infused into food products like baked goods, candies, and beverages.


Can edibles cause addiction?

Regular use of THC-containing edibles can lead to tolerance and dependence, but the risk varies among individuals. CBD edibles, however, do not have addictive properties.


How does alcohol affect the brain in the short term?

Alcohol can impair judgment, coordination, and reaction times in the short term, leading to slurred speech and mood swings.


Are there any health benefits to consuming edibles?

Yes, edibles can provide relief from chronic pain, anxiety, and insomnia, especially those infused with CBD.


What are the legal risks of using edibles in places where they are not legal?

Using edibles in regions where they are illegal can lead to legal consequences, including fines and imprisonment.


Can moderate alcohol consumption have any health benefits?

Moderate alcohol consumption, particularly of red wine, is associated with certain heart health benefits like increased levels of good cholesterol (HDL).


How can one avoid overconsumption of edibles?

To avoid overconsumption, start with a low dose and wait at least 2 hours to feel the effects before consuming more.


Is it safe to mix alcohol and edibles?

Mixing alcohol and edibles can amplify the effects of both substances, leading to increased impairment and potential health risks. It is generally advised to avoid combining them.


What are the risks of long-term alcohol consumption?

Long-term alcohol consumption can lead to liver disease, cardiovascular issues, cognitive impairment, and increased cancer risk.


How do you determine the dosage of edibles?

The dosage of edibles is typically indicated on the packaging. It's important to follow these guidelines and start with the lowest recommended dose, especially for first-time users.


Sources: 

  1. Harvard Health. (2020, July 4). 11 ways to curb your drinking. Harvard Health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/11-ways-to-curb-your-drinking
  2. Swift, R. M. (1999). Medications and alcohol craving. Alcohol Research & Health : The Journal of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 23(3), 207–213. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6760374/
  3. NHS . (2022). Treatment - Alcohol misuse. NHS. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/alcohol-misuse/treatment/
  4. Mayo Clinic. (2018). Alcohol use disorder - Diagnosis and treatment - Mayo Clinic. Mayoclinic.org; Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alcohol-use-disorder/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20369250
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