The Shift from Alcohol to Marijuana
Health-conscious millennials are leading a major shift in consumption behavior as the stigma of cannabis use decreases and the collective perspective of cannabis shifts in a positive direction. A recent report published by cannabis dispensary Outco reveals that more and more millennials are choosing cannabis over alcohol. This change occurs alongside increasing accessibility to both cannabis products and education about cannabis medical use and health benefits. Young adults show a preference for cannabis over alcohol as an effort to improve their quality of life, which could lead to less alcohol-related deaths and health issues.
Conducted in partnership with Monocle research, the study surveyed 2,000 cannabis users in California via in-person interviews, focus groups, and an online survey. Participants were asked about their cannabis use, including why they use cannabis, if they replace other substances with cannabis, and why they might replace other substances with cannabis.
The results reveal that among the millennials (born between 1982 and 2004), 51% choose cannabis over alcohol. Further details show that among this group of Californian young adults: 34% would choose cannabis over beer, 18% would choose cannabis over wine, and 14% would choose cannabis over spirits. The change is not limited to young adults either, the report shows that one in five Generation Xers will substitute cannabis for alcohol, as will 8% of baby boomers. Americans decreased their alcohol consumption in 2016 by 3.5 million nine-liter cases, mostly caused by a drop in beer consumption. With the beer industry already sinking 1.5% in 2016, this appears to be just the beginning of a trend of the declining use of alcohol and an increase in cannabis use.
A Healthier & Safer Choice
Perhaps the most interesting part of the report is that young adults choose cannabis over alcohol because they see it as a healthier and safer choice. Cannabis is perceived as the safer option, with millennials expressing “the fear of making poor decisions” when consuming alcohol, including risky behavior like drunk driving. That fear is based in reality, with 88,000 alcohol-related deaths a year in the United States. A February 2017 study at the Boston University School of Medicine found that 28% of motor vehicle crash deaths among young people are alcohol-related.
The results of the survey also showed health concerns as one of the reasons for substituting alcohol with cannabis. “Participants shared that the effects of a hangover from alcohol lasted the entire next day, while high volumes of cannabis usage had no noticeable lasting effects; thereby making them feel healthier and more active.” Even if they haven’t been educated on how or why cannabis is better for health than alcohol, these young adults can feel the difference in their bodies and make decisions based off their personal experiences.
Excessive alcohol consumption has both short and long-term health risks, from car accidents and STD transmission, to heart disease, dementia, and alcoholism. As the fourth leading preventable cause of death in the United States, it is a fact that less alcohol consumption will lead to less deaths and an improved quality of life.
It is hopeful to see that the younger generation is catching on to the benefits of cannabis use, and it bodes well for the future health of the population. With the 2017 World Drug Report showing zero cannabis-related deaths, this collective shift to replace alcohol with cannabis could in fact save lives.