Author: James Anderson

We took a scientific look at whether weed or alcohol is worse for you and there appears to be a winner

what is worse alcohol or weed

“Alcohol use is a leading risk factor for global disease burden and causes substantial health loss,” the researchers wrote in their paper, “and the level of consumption that minimizes health loss is zero.” There is no known medical use for consumed alcohol, but there are health benefits observed in moderate drinkers, including lower rates of cardiovascular disease and possibly fewer colds, Murray said. Drinking can lead to alcoholic liver disease, which can progress to fibrosis of the liver, which in turn can potentially lead to liver cancer, Murray said. This means that for people taking drugs or medications while drinking, the alcohol can increase or decrease levels of the active drug in the body. The question of whether alcohol or marijuana is worse for health is being debated once again, this time, sparked by comments that President Barack Obama made in a recent interview with The New Yorker magazine. Alcohol’s effects on behavior can also lead to more crime, while marijuana use appears to have little-to-no effect.

Getting drunk or high can feel similar to some people, while others describe the sensations as very different. Of course, the way you feel when you’re intoxicated also depends on how much of the substance you consume. For example, one person may have a very low tolerance for weed but be able to tolerate alcohol well. Another person might not have any issues with misusing alcohol but still find it hard to function without weed. People who have substance abuse or addiction are all different, and so are their journeys to recovery, but they all follow the same path. Chronic drinkers display reductions in memory, attention, and planning, as well as impaired emotional processes and social cognition – and these can persist even after years of abstinence.

The drug policy experts I talked to about Nutt’s study generally agreed that his style of analysis and ranking misses some of the nuance behind the harm of certain drugs. It’s possible to develop an emotional and/or physical dependence on both substances. Generally speaking, weed tends to come with fewer risks than alcohol, but there are a lot of factors to consider. Plus, they’re unique substances that produce different effects, which makes side-by-side comparisons difficult. One argument I often hear is that many more people end up in the emergency room after drinking alcohol than smoking pot—and that’s true.

Heavy drug use is never ideal — and marijuana is no different in this regard. Our experts continually monitor the health and wellness space, and we update our articles when new information becomes available. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), 15 million people in the United States deal with it.

And if the question is about length, the reticulated python is the biggest. On the surface, weed appears to be safer, but there’s simply not enough evidence to declare a winner. Cannabis addiction is surprisingly common, however, according to 2015 study. Weed may appear to be safer than alcohol simply because we aren’t yet aware of certain risks. Sure, research on the topic is ramping up a bit, but there’s still a lack of large, long-term studies.

When marijuana and alcohol are combined, both substances’ effects are increased, and severe reactions are possible. As a result of the combination, people may take unexpected or unsafe actions. Both weed and alcohol temporarily impair memory, and alcohol can cause blackouts by rendering the brain incapable of forming memories. The most severe long-term effects are seen in heavy, chronic, or binge users who begin using in their teens. In November 2017, a group of the nation’s top cancer doctors issued a statement asking people to drink less. They cited strong evidence that drinking alcohol – as little as a glass of wine or beer a day – increases the risk of developing both pre- and postmenopausal breast cancer.

Several studies link alcohol with violence, particularly at home. That has not been found for cannabis.

There may also be a link between daily weed use and poorer verbal memory in adults who start smoking at a young age. Having a blood-alcohol level of at least 0.05%, on the other hand, increased that risk by 575%. For a 1994 survey, epidemiologists at the National Institute on Drug Abuse asked more than 8,000 people from ages 15 to 64 about their drug use. Of those who had tried marijuana at least once, roughly 9% eventually fit a diagnosis of addiction.

  1. On the surface, weed appears to be safer, but there’s simply not enough evidence to declare a winner.
  2. According to recent surveys, the public’s view of cannabis has improved over the past few years.
  3. Addiction is not about the amount of a substance that you drink or smoke.
  4. Still, the largest-ever report on cannabis from the National Academies of Sciences, released in January, found insufficient evidence to support or refute the idea that cannabis may increase the overall risk of a heart attack.

In this time of information overabundance, much of which is inaccurate, unhelpful, or even difficult to understand, Northwell Health is on a mission to make a difference as an honest, trusted, and caring partner. The site connects with consumers to provide them with personalized content that reduces their stress, makes them laugh, and ultimately feel more confident and capable on their healthcare journey. A deadly car collision is far more likely when both alcohol and drugs are present in the driver’s system. Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is never a smart idea, especially when both are involved. Driving stoned is safer than driving intoxicated, yet it is still a risky practice. When it comes to which substances are most likely to put someone in danger of being wounded or hurting others, alcohol is widely believed to be the most dangerous.

So heroin would be at or near the top for mortality, alcohol would be at or near the top for cause of violent crime, and tobacco would be at the top for long-term health risks. The idea is lawmakers could look at this model to help decide on an individual basis which policies are better for each drug. But how much does all of this information really tell policymakers or the public?

How scientists rank drugs from most to least dangerous — and why the rankings are flawed

Additionally, researchers looking to study long-term marijuana use have had difficulty in finding people who regularly smoke marijuana but don’t also smoke tobacco cigarettes. But while early studies showed some evidence linking marijuana to lung cancer, subsequent studies have debunked that association. A lot of research has also linked adolescent marijuana use with a range of negative consequences, including cognitive deficiencies and worse educational outcomes. While it’s not clear whether marijuana’s role with these outcomes is cause-and-effect, experts generally agree that people younger than their mid-20s should avoid pot. “There’s always choices,” Keith Humphreys, a drug policy expert at Stanford University, explained.

what is worse alcohol or weed

So the sheer numbers of people showing up in the ER after smoking pot are going to be a lot less than for alcohol. However, having worked in ERs since pot was legalized, I can tell you that people who smoke weed are showing up a lot more now than in the past, and those numbers are climbing. They may all taste different, but in terms of the effect that alcohol has on your body, they act the same way. This isn’t the case with marijuana because there are several different strains of cannabis.

It would matter if marijuana ends up substituting alcohol once pot is legalized (since a safer substance would be replacing a more dangerous one), but the research on that is still early. And the argument that alcohol is more dangerous than illegal substances could be used as a basis for banning or strictly regulating alcohol just as easily as it could be used as a basis for legalizing or decriminalizing other drugs. As with the short-term effects of alcohol and weed, the long-term effects differ from person to person. Drowsiness delayed reflexes, and alterations in judgment and time perception are all impacts of both substances on the body and mind.

How Weed and Alcohol Stack Up Against Each Other

Some drugs, such as marijuana and alcohol, have a higher risk of addiction and lead to addiction faster than others. When it comes to addiction profiles, risk of death or overdose, and links to cancer, car crashes, violence, and obesity, the research suggests that marijuana may be less of a health risk than alcohol. For marijuana, some research initially suggested a link between smoking and lung cancer, but that has been debunked. The January report found that cannabis was not connected to any increased risk of the lung cancers or head and neck cancers tied to smoking cigarettes. On the other hand, low to moderate drinking – about one drink a day – has been linked with a lower risk of heart attack and stroke compared with abstention. James Nicholls, a director at Alcohol Research UK, told The Guardian that those findings should be taken with a grain of salt since “any protective effects tend to be canceled out by even occasional bouts of heavier drinking.”

And looking at deaths or other harms caused by certain drugs doesn’t always account for substances, such as prescription medications, that are often mixed with others, making them more deadly or harmful than they would be alone. The other factor that makes it hard to answer this question is the relative lack of studies on the negative health effects of weed. In addition to memory loss and cognitive impairment, research on whether these effects are lasting is still equivocal. If given the choice, over two-thirds of marijuana users would vote to make it legal. Sixty-two percent of non-pot smokers would prefer that alcohol be made legal instead.

But alcohol’s crime risk is due to its tendency to make people more aggressive (and more prone to committing crime), while heroin’s crime risk is based on the massive criminal trafficking network behind it. Even if two drugs score similarly in Nutt’s analysis, the underlying variables behind the scores can be completely different. But heroin scores much higher for mortality risk, while crack poses a much bigger risk for mental impairment. Sian Ferguson is a freelance health and cannabis writer based in Cape Town, South Africa.