There are few battles as heated as the discussion as to what’s safer — alcohol or marijuana?
Like a professional tennis match, the lobs volley back and forth. Alcohol is legal, marijuana is not (in most states). You can’t overdose on marijuana, you can on alcohol. You know what you’re getting with alcohol, not so much with marijuana.
On and the discussion goes, so we decided to look deeper and see what the science says.
Alcohol may be legal, but there’s no denying it’s dangerous. In fact, the CDC reports that nearly 88,000 alcohol-related deaths occur each year. Binge drinking accounts for about half of these deaths as death can occur within five minutes of binge drinking.
Alcohol is also linked to considerable long-term health issues — over seven types of cancer, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular issues, obesity and more.
Reckless and criminal behavior increases with alcohol use. Up to 50% of all domestic violence incidences occur when alcohol is involved. The odds of being in a car accident increase by more than 2,200% when drinking alcohol.
Concerning as well are the cases of alcohol-induced blackouts. Drinking heavily can even lead to the brain’s inability to create new memories.
Marijuana is often touted as the most misunderstood miracle drug out there — but is it really? While marijuana is often used to treat a variety of diseases such as cancer and multiple sclerosis, some studies have linked marijuana to an increased risk of developing certain cancers, especially lung cancer. Further studies are being conducted to establish the veracity of those links.
Death caused by marijuana use is almost zero. According to a recent study, a fatal dose of TCH, the main chemical in marijuana, is between 15 and 70 grams. That equates to smoking between 238 and 1,113 joints in a single day in order to overdose on marijuana.
That’s not to say that other health risks do not exist. Marijuana use has been linked to anxiety, depression, increased heart rate, increased risk of heart attack (within the first hour of smoking) and suicidal thoughts in teens.
Most criminal incidences with marijuana use has to do with the possession or distribution of it due to its banned status. Studies show that driving under the influence of marijuana increases the odds of being in a car accident by 83%.
Marijuana use has also been linked to risky sexual behavior, including a marked increase in the number of sexual partners, increased risk of STIs and unwanted pregnancy.
Most concerning with marijuana is its effects on the developing brain and long-term brain changes. Adolescents using marijuana have been shown to have lower connectivity and reduced brain activity.
Long-term marijuana use has shown significantly reduced memory and cognitive abilities.
So what does science say in the long run? On the surface, marijuana use appears to be safer than alcohol use. However, both substances come with risks and potential long term health risks, in addition to potential legal and relationship complications that can come from using both.
Which one is safest is still up to debate, but experts do agree that the safest option is to avoid both drugs altogether.
Annie Grace is the author of “This Naked Mind: Control Alcohol, Find Freedom, Discover Happiness & Change Your Life.” Learn more at: thisnakedmind.com. Connect with Annie on Twitter.com and Facebook.com.