While they’re two vastly different substances, alcohol and marijuana are two of the most commonly used drugs in the world today. Marijuana was often seen as dangerous due to its illegal status, but with countries like America and Canada moving more towards legalization, attitudes have warmed up. Meanwhile, while alcohol has been widely available for years, it’s hard to deny it comes with a range of health risks. So alcohol or marijuana: which is more dangerous?
There are a lot of factors to account for. Both have their own effects on the body and mind. Both can cause negative side effects in high amounts. It’s important to use both alcohol and marijuana in moderation and dose accordingly based on your size and tolerance. However, when you look into the scientific facts on the subject, there does seem to be a clear answer. Overuse of alcohol can be fatal in many instances, whereas there are no recorded deaths from marijuana use.
The negative attitudes that have surrounded marijuana in the past are often misguided. It can actually improve your health and have a lot of benefits. But that’s not to say it doesn’t come with any risks. Here’s a guide on alcohol, marijuana, and which is more dangerous.
Risks of Alcohol
As popular as alcohol use is, it can be a very risky drug. Even in small amounts, it can have negative side effects on the body. Extreme overuse can be fatal. Alcohol can also impair the mind and cause users to act recklessly, which can be even more dangerous.
The World Health Organization reported that over 3 million people died from alcohol worldwide in its Global status report on alcohol and health 2018. WHO also reported that the overuse of alcohol accounts for 5% of the global disease burden. This highlights how alcohol can be a highly dangerous drug when misused.
While alcohol can make users feel more happy and relaxed, it can also cause them to act recklessly and impulsively. Those who drink too much may even blackout and act in ways they usually wouldn’t. After the effects wear off, users are often left with fatigue, headaches, and vomiting.
The NIHH also note that alcohol can have some negative long-term effects on the body. Long-term users can suffer from heart problems, including arrhythmias, strokes, and high blood pressure. It can also cause serious damage to the liver, resulting in liver disease. It can even cause damage to the brain over time, weaken the immune system, and increase the risk of illnesses such as cancer.
While those who use alcohol in small amounts recreationally can still enjoy it, it does have many risks. Users need to be careful to not overuse it or drink too much to avoid negative side effects.
Risks of Marijuana
Marijuana can be a positive drug for the mind and body when used wisely. However, it still comes with its own risks. Some of the negative effects can depend on the amount you use and the method of consumption.
Research on the adverse health effects of marijuana use notes that marijuana use is becoming increasingly common. Around 12% of people 12 years of age and older in the US report using it. However, whether or not its harmful is still under debate as studies carried out into its use have found mixed results.
In the short-term, marijuana can impair your memory, judgment, and focus. These intoxicating effects can make it dangerous to carry out tasks while under the influence. For instance, driving while high is a serious offense as it can put yourself and others in serious danger.
While you can’t overdose on marijuana, smoking too much can also have negative effects. Overuse of marijuana can result in dizziness, nausea, and vomiting. It can also exacerbate mental health symptoms for some users, leading to increased anxiety and paranoia. It can also trigger schizophrenia for at-risk patients, making it dangerous for those with mental health issues.
It can also be dangerous to younger users. A study found that marijuana can alter the pathways in users with developing brains. While some of the damage can be reversed by abstinence, it’s still important for users in their younger teens to avoid marijuana use.
Smoking marijuana may also be harmful to your health. It’s nowhere near as harmful as smoking tobacco, and marijuana can even have some positive effects on heart health. However, lighting up and inhaling anything can cause damage to the lungs over time.
Other common problems noted with marijuana include impaired academic performance and acting as a ‘gateway drug’. However, these issues come largely down to the user rather than the drug itself. When used in moderation, marijuana can have many positive effects. But users still need to use it wisely and avoid overuse or dependence.
Health Benefits of Alcohol
Due to the adverse health effects, alcohol is generally only used for recreational purposes. However, scientific research suggests that light to moderate alcohol use may have some health benefits.
A Harvard report identified a few health benefits of alcohol. For instance, over 100 studies showed that moderate drinking can lower the risk of heart disease and cardiovascular problems by 25-40%. Drinking in moderation can cause an increase in HDL or ‘good cholesterol’ which can have significant health benefits.
It may also help prevent the risk of some health problems. A study in the Diabetes Journal found that moderate alcohol use can lower the risk of Type 2 Diabetes. The results found that moderate consumption of alcohol resulted in around a ∼30% reduction in the risk of Diabetes.
Another study found that while smoking increased the risk of the common cold, alcohol use could reduce it. Another study even found that alcohol use could boost libido and reduce the risk of erectile dysfunction.
While there’s a lot of evidence to show that alcohol can impact the body negatively, these studies suggest alcohol can have some benefits. When used in small to moderate amounts, it can improve your health and wellbeing and prevent the risk of certain health issues.
Health Benefits of Marijuana
The use of medical marijuana is becoming increasingly common. There has been a lot of research on the positive health effects of marijuana, overwhelmingly showing that it can have extremely beneficial medical effects.
Cannabis is often used to treat pain. It can help act on the body and brain to reduce inflammation, speed up the healing of wounds, and reduce the sensation of pain. This is extremely useful for sufferers of chronic pain and painful conditions. It’s also a much safer alternative than things like prescription pain medications with adverse health effects.
It’s also used to help with depression, stress, and anxiety. A study by Washington State University found cannabis use helped users decrease levels of anxiety, depression, and general stress. Its relaxing effects are highly useful to those looking to eliminate mental tension. It can also increase levels of dopamine and boost your mood to counteract symptoms of depression.
While there have been concerns about marijuana’s effects on the lungs, it may help. A study on marijuana exposure over 20 years found it had no adverse effects on pulmonary function. In fact, it even found it may increase lung capacity for users.
It’s also important to note that while THC carries many of marijuana’s potentially negative effects, CBD is incredibly safe. CBD is the cannabinoid in marijuana known for its positive medical properties. CBD can reduce seizures, help with sleep, and even have anticancer, antioxidant, and antipsychotic effects. It can counteract some of the negative effects of THC and some users even use CBD products for health benefits.
On the whole, marijuana has many more medical benefits than alcohol. Doctors nowadays often prescribe marijuana or CBD to help with all kinds of conditions, from glaucoma to anxiety disorders. It can be safe, effective, and extremely beneficial providing it’s used in a sensible dosage.
Can You Overdose on Alcohol?
The biggest risk of alcohol use is overdose. Using too much alcohol can have many negative consequences, often putting users in the hospital. In extreme cases, drinking too much alcohol can result in a fatal overdose.
Alcohol.org notes that overuse of alcohol, often from binge drinking, can have many serious effects. Alcohol poisoning can cause nausea, vomiting, extreme mental impairment, irregular heart rate, seizures, and a loss of consciousness. Alcohol poisoning is also responsible for 6 deaths per day.
While most users will end up hospitalized before a fatal dose of alcohol, this still highlights how dangerous the substance can be.
Can You Overdose on Marijuana?
Unlike alcohol, you can not fatally overdose on marijuana. In fact, even in higher amounts, marijuana is still very safe when compared to other illicit substances.
The overuse of marijuana can still have negative effects. Those who smoke more than they’re used to can end up dizzy, nauseous, and even vomit in some cases. Marijuana can also cause mental impairment and, in high doses, may cause anxiety, paranoia, and even hallucinations.
But while overuse can be uncomfortable, you won’t overdose on marijuana. There are no recorded deaths from cannabis use. CBD is even safer, with studies regularly showing there are no adverse effects from using high amounts.
Another one of the serious risks of alcohol is an addiction. Alcohol addiction or alcoholism affects many users worldwide. A study noted that, in 2015, heavy episodic use of alcohol was prevalent in around 18.4% of the adult population.
Alcohol addiction can cause serious problems. Those who rely on the use of alcohol daily will suffer from severe impairment to their academic and work performance. It can cause problems for day-to-day functioning as well as severe health problems over time.
Even those who aren’t suffering from addiction may experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms. This can include shakiness, anxiety, nausea, vomiting, headaches, and insomnia. These can occur as soon as six hours after you stop drinking. However, those with alcohol addiction can suffer from much more serious withdrawal symptoms.
Those with an addictive personality or a family history of alcoholism are especially at risk. Studies suggest that there may even be a genetic factor in alcohol addiction. This stresses the importance of using alcohol safely. Those who are at risk are well-served by avoiding alcohol or using it only in small amounts.
Unlike alcohol, marijuana use can’t result in physical addiction. There are no withdrawal symptoms from marijuana use, and cannabis addiction is not considered a disease.
However, while it doesn’t have the addictive effects of alcohol, marijuana can still cause dependence. Those who rely on marijuana for daily use may find themselves becoming mentally addicted to it. Those who depend on it to relieve symptoms of things like anxiety, depression, and insomnia can also suffer from negative effects over time.
Research on the adverse effects of marijuana states that addiction can still be a problem. The DSM-IV has criteria for marijuana dependence, which affects around 9% of users. Younger users are particularly vulnerable to this. Becoming dependent on marijuana from a young age can cause a lack of motivation and impaired academic performance.
Again, these effects should be avoided by using marijuana sensibly. However, marijuana does not pose the dangerous physically addictive qualities of alcohol.
Alcohol or Marijuana: Which is More Dangerous?
In summary, both alcohol and marijuana have their risks and benefits. However, on the whole, alcohol is much more dangerous than marijuana.
While adverse health effects have been identified in both, the effects of alcohol are much more severe. Providing it’s used wisely, marijuana users won’t have to worry about adverse effects on their health. In fact, in moderation, marijuana will actually benefit the health of users in many ways.
Light alcohol use can also have some benefits. However, even in small amounts, alcohol can cause some negative effects on the body. Many users will suffer from the effects of alcohol poisoning at one point or another. What’s more, alcohol overuse puts users at risk of addiction and overdose while marijuana doesn’t.
Alcohol and marijuana each have risks and benefits, but marijuana is much safer overall. Marijuana can have many positive effects, especially thanks to the range of products available today. Those who want to avoid the effects of THC can use pure CBD treatments.
There are also positive effects of smoking weed. For instance, see some of the best marijuana strains for athletes. On the whole, users should stay educated on both substances and use them in moderation.