Marijuana vs. Alcohol: Which Is Safer?

Thousands of men and women use marijuana every day, despite it being an illegal drug in most states. On the other hand, alcohol is legal to purchase and consume, sending the message that it is safer – at least in moderation. However, when comparing the two, research indicates that alcohol may be the more dangerous drug.

According to a paper published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, British researchers David Nutt and Ruth Weissenborn explored the many effects of marijuana and alcohol in England. Their study found that alcohol was twice as more harmful as marijuana among those who smoked marijuana regularly. And alcohol was five times more harmful as marijuana among those who did not smoke marijuana. In these cases, the researchers explored the way that alcohol can contribute to domestic violence, child abuse, and traffic accidents more so than marijuana.

Furthermore, in an article published in the American Scientist, psychologist Robert Gable detailed the results of his 10-year long study of toxic recreational drugs. In the article, he ranked the most common 19 substances by how likely they are to kill a person. Alcohol ranked at number 7, while marijuana ranked last at 19. (Heroin ranked at number one on his list.)

Certainly, recreational drugs have been used for centuries to alter one’s consciousness. However, it is the relationship with the substance that matters. If a person is using alcohol, or any substance, in moderation, he or she may not experience its ill effects. However, it is when use becomes excessive or dependent that a problem begins. Another point to consider is that even though a particular substance may be used in moderation, long-term use of a drug can also produce certain effects.

Even long-term use of marijuana – even though it may be a relatively safe drug compared to alcohol and other substances – it too can be harmful. Marijuana has been associated with crime, drinking, and addictions to other substances. And although it may be safe, people can in fact develop an addiction to it. Research indicates that 9% of people who use marijuana develop an addiction to it. This is compared to 15% of people who become addicted to cocaine and alcohol. And research indicates that the earlier a person begins to use the drug, the more likely he or she will become dependent on it. Also, dependency will develop within two years for 17% of those who began smoking marijuana at ages 14 or 15. Furthermore, marijuana is a popularly known as the gateway drug, meaning that once a person begins using it, it’s likely going to lead to the use of other drugs.

It might be clear that alcohol is dangerous, given the many accidents, diseases, and crimes that are associated with it. However, the so-called safety of marijuana use can actually lure a person to use the drug on a regular basis. In fact, considering marijuana to be harmless, in a sense, makes it more dangerous. Someone using the drug may not be able to make the connection between some of its ill effects on life and the body.


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