Indiana University professor of pediatrics Aaron E. Carroll attempts to answer a tough question several parents at one point would face: if given the choice, would he want his children to try alcohol or marijuana?
In his article for The New York Times entitled “Alcohol or Marijuana? A Pediatrician Faces the Question,” Carroll utilizes the perspective of an individual denied with the right to answer “neither.”
Spoiler alert: He answers marijuana, and his boldness to succumb to imaginary pressure is mainly based on two reasons – legality and health.
Carroll’s vast experience as a pediatrician results into a written piece heavily grounded by research and statistics, but what sets it apart among others is how deeply personal it is. The pediatrician is a parent, the parent is a pediatrician, and being forced to choose between two poisons is indeed difficult for both a man of science and a man of his own children.
“Because marijuana is illegal…”
In his opening statement, the professor appears to be leaning towards alcohol. He mentions how being caught with marijuana yields heavier punishment compared to a minor caught with a few bottles of liquor from a 24-hour convenience store.
But his reasoning goes deeper, and his tone makes a U-turn.
He cites a report from the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, which points to alcohol as a possible culprit in 40 percent of violent crimes in the U.S. alone. The legality of marijuana, on the other hand, centers on its illegal distribution, and if the article speaks the truth, rarely do we see violence being committed by individuals under the influence of such.
He then cites a study in Pediatrics pointing to how “about 19 percent of delinquent males and 11 percent of delinquent females had an alcohol use disorder.”
“I think about health as well.”
The article goes on to attribute binge drinking to half of nearly 90,000 deaths related to alcohol in the United States. Compare that number to marijuana use, which Carroll says “kills almost no one.”
More than 45,000 Swedes seemed to have done well mortality-wise despite using marijuana, not to mention the 65,000 American subjects who encountered nearly zero deaths.
Car accidents? Add some alcohol and the chances increase up to 2,200 percent. Add some marijuana, and chances of accidents see merely a slight, even unnoticeable, increase.
Domestic abuse also enters the picture when Carroll mentions a 2014 study that seemed to have pointed at how marijuana use brings about lower rates of violence between partners.
Al or Mary Jane?
Of course, when one takes into consideration a few limitations in The New York Times piece, the topic turns more serious.
The article, after all, admits that binge drinking is a problem found among the middle class, ignoring the scenario, or the possibility, at least, of people among the lower classes succumbing to alcohol use to forget their problems.
Much of the attention is understandably focused on United States statistics.
But one need not ask about the representation of countries in Asia, in which there are plenty of areas that are definitely not middle class.
The marijuana dilemma is, after all, a U.S. problem, and if weed is in dire need of worldwide acceptance, it is in the U.S. where it should first happen.
So if you ask me which of the two I’d want my future children to try, one thing is for sure: I’m happy I’m not Mr. Carroll, whose bravery to write a piece I don’t know where he got. I’m not yet a parent, and I’m certainly not a pediatrician. I tried alcohol, but quit as soon as I could, and I still haven’t tried marijuana—I’ve zero plans to do so as recreation.
It boils down to control and self-awareness, to how I knew my limits well enough to quit at an early stage. But it won’t happen by merely telling that to our parents, and the future would only rely on how well they’d raised us. In the end, the battle between Al and Mary Jane still remains within the shadows, but dig deeper and present credible statistics and we might see a potential winner soon.