Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Monday, November 13, 2017

A reasonable accounting of public health realities surrounding marijuana and alcohol

ALCOHOL-VS-MARIJUANA-INFO-CROPThis new Business Insider article, headlined "We took a scientific look at whether weed or alcohol is worse for you — and there appears to be a winner," provides a pretty reasonable review of basic public health research concerning marijuana and alcohol. Here is how the article starts, its main boldheadings, and it conclusion:

Which is worse for you: weed or whiskey? It's a tough call, but based on the science, there appears to be a clear winner.

Keep in mind that there are dozens of factors to account for, including how the substances affect your heart, brain, and behavior, and how likely you are to get hooked. Time is important, too — while some effects are noticeable immediately, others only begin to shape up after months or years of use.

The comparison is slightly unfair for another reason: While scientists have been researching the effects of alcohol for decades, the science of cannabis is a lot murkier due to its mostly illegal status.

30,722 Americans died from alcohol-induced causes in 2014. There have been 0 documented deaths from marijuana use alone. ...

Marijuana appears to be significantly less addictive than alcohol. ...

Marijuana may be harder on your heart; while moderate drinking could be beneficial....

Alcohol is strongly linked with several types of cancer; marijuana is not....

Both drugs may be linked with risks while driving, but alcohol is worse. ...

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

Both drugs negatively impact your memory, but in different ways. These effects are the most common in heavy, frequent, or binge users. ...

Both drugs are linked with an increased risk of psychiatric disease. For weed users, psychosis and schizophrenia are the main concern; with booze, it's depression and anxiety....

Alcohol appears to be linked more closely with weight gain than marijuana, despite weed's tendency to trigger the munchies. ...

All things considered, alcohol's effects seem markedly more extreme — and risky — than marijuana's.

When it comes to their addiction profile and their risk of death or overdose combined with their ties to cancer, car crashes, violence, and obesity, the research suggests that marijuana may be less of a health risk than alcohol.

Still, because of marijuana's largely illegal status, long-term studies on all of its health effects have been limited — meaning that more research is desperately needed.

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/marijuana_law/2017/11/a-reasonable-accounting-of-public-health-realities-surrounding-marijuana-and-alcohol.html

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