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

what is worse alcohol or weed

The immediate effects of weed can vary quite a bit from person to person. The degree to which weed or alcohol is addictive–or harmful–cannot be reduced to a single factor. While there’s evidence that weed is comparatively less addictive and less harmful than alcohol, that doesn’t mean it can be used recklessly.

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. 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. This may seem like a petty academic squabble, but it’s quite important as researchers and lawmakers try to advance more scientific approaches to drug policy. Finding the best method to evaluate the risks of drugs is much more complicated than assigning numeric rankings.

  1. For example, in a recent survey of more than 1,000 Americans, respondents ranked alcohol as “somewhat and moderately addictive” compared to “not very or somewhat addictive” for marijuana.
  2. Alcohol, on the other hand, was seen as more addictive by both the men and women polled.
  3. For example, about 29.7% of men and 22.2% percent of women aged 18 and over engaged in binge drinking in 2019.
  4. Generally speaking, weed tends to come with fewer risks than alcohol, but there are a lot of factors to consider.
  5. “Excess alcohol is going to lead to very severe consequences, and chronic excess alcohol is the most likely to lead to a lot of threatening issues,” Murray said.

The majority of those who use marijuana do so for enjoyment and recreation. A rising number of doctors, on the other hand, are prescribing it to treat specific medical disorders and symptoms. 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.

Long-term health risks

Caulkins and Peter Reuter, a drug policy expert at the University of Maryland, suggested a model in which all the major risks of drugs are drawn out and each drug is ranked within those categories. 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. The research on other health effects of marijuana is inconclusive but should warrant some caution. One study linked the use of potent marijuana to psychotic disorders, but other studies suggest people with psychotic disorders may be predisposed to pot use. Research on whether smoked marijuana causes lung disease or cancer has yielded conflicting results, with studies that control for tobacco smoking finding no significant effect from marijuana on lung cancer risk.

Instead, there’s evidence that this non-intoxicating cannabinoid may be able to treat addiction. A 2015 study, for example, found that CBD may be beneficial in treating opioid, cocaine, tobacco, and even cannabis addiction. Marijuana users were also more likely than alcohol drinkers to indicate they used the drug when they were bored or wanted a creative boost. how long does a hangover last plus how to cure a hangover fast When discussing the genesis of substance use and misuse, as well as when advocating behavior change, the self-reported reasons for why people use alcohol and marijuana may be particularly crucial to understand. Marijuana addiction is not only real, but it may have a negative impact on the mental and physical health of individuals who use it on a regular basis.

what is worse alcohol or weed

Tishler points out that tolerance is often touted as a badge of honor in cannabis circles. In reality, however, tolerance can lead to dependence and possibly addiction, so it may be beneficial to avoid developing a significant tolerance to cannabis. Similar to cannabis, dependence on alcohol is more common than addiction, according to Tishler. People who use both cannabis and alcohol may be more likely to use more than one drug (McGue and Iacono, 2005; McGue et al., 2006; Zucker, 2006). This could be because of genetic vulnerabilities or a lack of behavioral self-control. “There are segments of the population that want to bypass the entire process, grabbing this nugget of truth … and claiming smoking marijuana can be good for your health and have medical uses,” Baler said.

Is weed or alcohol more addictive?

Tishler believes a better question is not which substance is more addictive, but how we use them. In simple terms, cannabis has medicinal applications, and alcohol does not. Too much depressant equals too much GABA activity, which in turn can result in drowsiness, slow reactions, poor coordination, and impaired concentration. Anyone who’s had a little too much weed or alcohol can likely attest to slurred speech, passing out early, maybe stumbling over, and the like.

what is worse alcohol or weed

The prevalence of binge drinking has risen steadily in the United States, despite the fact that social media and even real-life social gatherings have done a good job of taming it. More and more young people are turning away from alcohol, according to data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Drinking too much, whether in a single occurrence or over time, has been found to affect the brain, heart, liver, and pancreas, as well as cause cancer in many forms. Higher potency is also linked to more severe dependence and a higher risk of developing psychosis and anxiety disorders in teens. The question policy experts typically ask isn’t which drug is more dangerous, but how marijuana and alcohol should be treated through policy as individual drugs with their own set of unique, complicated risks. That doesn’t mean just legalization or prohibition, but regulation, taxes, and education as well.

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. Nutt acknowledges these problems, but argues that his analysis provides value to policymakers.

This isn’t the case with marijuana because there are several different strains of cannabis. There are also more than 100 different cannabinoids, which are substances found in the cannabis plant. So, the answer to that question may depend on which strain of cannabis you’re smoking or what mix of cannabinoids are in it.

Tishler emphasizes that understanding addiction is nuanced, and it can be helpful to distinguish addiction from dependence. For those seeking addiction treatment for themselves or a loved one, our calls are confidential and are available for 24/7 help. Download our comprehensive eBook now for insights, strategies, and real-life stories eco sober house review to guide your journey to recovery. You might not think marijuana and quizzes go together, but on the assumption that you arrived at this quiz sober, we pose some serious questions that will require your utmost attention and critical thinking skills. Heavy drug use is never ideal — and marijuana is no different in this regard.

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

And if the question is about length, the reticulated python is the biggest. 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 delirium tremens Ferguson is a freelance health and cannabis writer based in Cape Town, South Africa. She’s passionate about empowering readers to take care of their mental and physical health through science-based, empathetically delivered information. Cannabis addiction is surprisingly common, however, according to 2015 study.

So is marijuana really safer than alcohol?

There’s also this perception that it’s extremely rare to get addicted to marijuana, but that’s a myth. There’s research to show that 30% of people who use marijuana are going to develop an addiction problem. Addiction is not about the amount of a substance that you drink or smoke. It’s about what it does to your life and the consequences you deal with because of that behavior. They may all taste different, but in terms of the effect that alcohol has on your body, they act the same way.

The danger of addiction and the rate at which you become hooked differ depending on the drug. Some drugs, such as marijuana and alcohol, have a higher risk of addiction and lead to addiction faster than others. Marijuana use is just something that some adults choose to do instead of drinking a cocktail, beer, or glass of wine. Marijuana is less poisonous, addictive, and destructive to the body than alcohol, and it is less likely to lead to violent or irresponsible behavior. For decades, our federal government and marijuana prohibition proponents have convinced the public that marijuana is so deadly that it must be kept illegal at all costs.

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“The main risk of cannabis is losing control of your cannabis intake,” Mark Kleiman, a drug policy expert at UCLA, said. “That’s going to have consequences in terms of the amount of time you spend not fully functional. When that’s hours per day times years, that’s bad.” Health risks are just one way to measure whether marijuana is safer than alcohol. While pot doesn’t seem to cause organ failure or fatal overdoses, alcohol kills more than 29,000 people each year due to liver disease and other forms of poisoning. Generally speaking, weed tends to come with fewer risks than alcohol, but there are a lot of factors to consider.

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