Which One Is “Worse or more dangerous”? Marijuana vs Alcohol.
Debates around marijuana vs alcohol, and the effect each substance has on your health, or your child’s health, are nothing new. But the “Which one’s worse?” question has received renewed attention in the past year, especially given high profile considerations and publicly voiced opinions, as well as state legislation providing for legalized medicinal and recreational marijuana.
In a January YouTube interview with US President Obama, after his 2015 State of the Union address, the President said he expected this trend in state legislation to continue. Here is a quote from what he had to say on this issue:
“What we have done is instead of focusing on treatment, the same way we focused say with tobacco or drunk driving or other problems where we treat it as a public health problem, we’ve treated this exclusively as a criminal problem. And I think that it’s been counterproductive and it’s been devastating in a lot of minority communities.”
This shift in focus, from criminality to public health, is the key to understanding the marijuana vs. alcohol debate and reaching an informed conclusion. It is also a way to revise public and voters’ opinions as more and more state ballots show up with legal marijuana referendum tick boxes. So often, when people discuss or consider weed vs alcohol, they are concerned with the substances’ legality as well as the health issues surrounding them; which is understandable (in states where marijuana is still illegal). But in the worst of these cases, the two issues are conflated and lead to a stance—and advice for one’s kids—that is perhaps less than healthy.
Considering the benefits of marijuana and that no one has ever died of consumption, it is not only a substance with high therapeutic potential, but also much safer than alcohol. Marijuana does affect heart rate and blood pressure, and carry some low risk of dependence, but is not directly responsible for deaths, as in caused by overdose of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. However, the Center for Disease Control estimated excessive alcohol consumption led to 88,000 deaths from 2006 to 2010, and shortened the lifespans of those who died by 30 years on average. The CDC also details the short term and long term effects of alcohol abuse.
Health blogger and professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine, Aaron E. Carroll, wrote an article for The New York Times that questioned which is worse, alcohol or pot, from his perspective as a pediatrician as well as a parent. Carroll considered facts about marijuana and alcohol and the statistics surrounding both substances.
Carroll cites one 2014 study that found couples’ marijuana use inversely related to partner violence over the first nine years of marriage; and notes another study that THC-levels detectable in blood did not correlate with increased accident risk by drivers, but a blood alcohol level of at least 0.05 percent raised the risk of a car crash by 575 percent.
Further in the article, Carroll said that, all things considered, he would recommend his child use neither alcohol nor pot. But if really forced to choose which is better, he emphasized, he’d say “marijuana.”