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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).


Interpersonal Relations

    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).


Cognitive Effects

    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).


Emotional Effects

    Marijuana and alcohol were mentioned as inducing pleasant emotions equally frequently (16/15), and unpleasant emotions equally frequently (3/4).



    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).


Legal Consequences

    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 for alcohol.
    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 than marijuana.
    Users generally choose marijuana if given a free choice and/or tend to restrict their use of alcohol to small amounts.


TABLE 28-1
Tart-Klein Study, 1968

Sensory & Bodily Effects:
    Sensory enhancement1%35%.001
    Sensory worsening13%0%.001
    Pleasant physical sensations2%8%.05
    Unpleasant physical sensations13%7%NS
Interpersonal Relations:
    Inhibitions lowered15%2%.01
Cognitive Effects:
    Improved cognitive processes2%21%.001
    Worsened cognitive processes10%5%NS
    Personal insights1%8%.01
    Spiritual experiences0%2%NS
Emotional Effects:
    Pleasant mood18%31%NS
    Unpleasant mood5%13%NS
    Fear of being arrested0%6%.01

Note.—The percentages in this table do not add up to exactly 100% due to rounding errors and/or some users skipping the question.
[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.

Chapter 29

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