Alcohol or marijuana: Which is worse? A doctor weighs in

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Keep in mind that there are dozens of factors to account for when comparing the health effects of alcohol and marijuana, including how the substances affect your heart, brain, and behavior, and how likely you are to get hooked. Alcohol is everywhere yet we are well aware of the risks and dangers of difference between alcohol and ethanol alcohol use and abuse. The cannabis industry is making marijuana as readily available thanks to recreational legalization; it could be as common as alcohol. While there are some issues to the abuse of cannabis they are nowhere near as hazardous as alcoholism and the toll of alcohol on the body.

  1. However, having worked in ERs since pot was legalized, I can tell you that people who smoke weed are showing up a lot more now than in the past, and those numbers are climbing.
  2. Cannabis can be addictive but this is more a psychological dependency than a physical one.
  3. This makes the task of building scientific drug policies very challenging.
  4. Although Nutt couldn’t get funding to do an analysis in the US or Canada, he said a similar study is being published later this year assessing drug use in several countries in Europe.
  5. Generally speaking, weed tends to come with fewer risks than alcohol, but there are a lot of factors to consider.
  6. There may also be a link between daily weed use and poorer verbal memory in adults who start smoking at a young age.

The way they make you feel may make them seem similar but their impact on your body and any lasting damage are not remotely the same. “After going through all the data and looking at which is more dangerous in almost any metric you would pick, pot really looks like it’s safer than alcohol,” he said. In contrast, “we don’t see any statistically significant effects of cannabis on gray matter or white matter,” Hutchison said. A small percentage of adolescents drink to cope (e.g., to forget about troubles), and these people are more likely to drink alone, develop drinking problems, or overuse alcohol. People who use both cannabis and alcohol may be more likely to use more than one drug (McGue and Iacono, 2005; McGue et al., 2006; Zucker, 2006). This could be because of genetic vulnerabilities or a lack of behavioral self-control.

“On the other hand, the number of crimes that are committed that have some sort of alcohol component related to them are massive — hundreds of thousands a year, if not more,” he said. Stephanie Pappas is a contributing writer for Live Science, covering topics ranging from geoscience to archaeology to the human brain and behavior. She was previously a senior writer for Live Science but is now a freelancer based in Denver, Colorado, and regularly contributes to Scientific American and The Monitor, the monthly magazine of the American Psychological Association. Stephanie received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of South Carolina and a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz. The study was published in the December issue of the journal Addiction.

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For example, smoking is rough on your lungs, but this risk doesn’t apply to edibles. Caulkins and Peter Reuter, a drug policy expert at the University of Maryland, suggested a model in which all the major risks of drugs are drawn out and each drug is ranked within those categories. So heroin would be at or near the top for mortality, alcohol would be at or near the top for cause of violent crime, and tobacco would be at the top for long-term health risks. The idea is lawmakers could look at this model to help decide on an individual basis which policies are better for each drug.

Alcohol and marijuana Can both Be Addictive

Having a blood-alcohol level of at least 0.05%, on the other hand, increased that risk by 575%. Close to half of all adults have tried marijuana at least once, making it one of the most widely used illegal drugs — yet research suggests that a relatively small percentage of people become addicted. There is no known medical use for consumed alcohol, but there are health benefits observed in moderate drinkers, including lower rates of cardiovascular disease and possibly fewer colds, Murray said. “How much you’re impaired depends on the person, and how much you smoke,” Baler said. Because some people are stoned a lot of the time, while others may use marijuana only on weekends, the health effects become difficult to generalize.

Graduating from medical school in 2004 and residency in 2008, Dr. Dugar has been a licensed physician for almost 20 years and has been leading the push for medical cannabis nationwide. Additionally, compounds in cannabis can help prevent some diseases, stunt oxidative damage, and can also help prevent major conditions. Some compounds in cannabis have been found to be anticancer, antibiotic, and antifungal.

After all, you can only purchase cannabis products at dispensaries where in some states you can purchase alcohol in supermarkets. Additionally, alcohol is more socially acceptable in public use or work situations while using cannabis at a work function could be looked down upon. Some people may consider both substances similar because of how they make you feel. People attribute it to be a social lubricant that allows people to stave off social anxiety and be more outgoing and talkative. Speaking of, let’s examine the addictive tendencies of these substances.

Gray matter is the tissue on the brain’s surface that primarily consists of nerve cell bodies. White matter is the deeper brain tissue that contains myelinated nerve fibers, which are branches protruding from nerve cells that transmit electrical impulses to other cells and tissues. People who have substance abuse or addiction are all different, and so are their journeys to recovery, but they all follow the same path. Chronic drinkers display reductions in memory, attention, and planning, as well as impaired emotional processes and social cognition — and these can persist even after years of abstinence.

This is particularly true for adolescents and young adults, whose brains are still maturing. Marijuana abuse during this vital period of brain development can have long-term consequences. Marijuana usage issues have been linked to dependence and withdrawal symptoms, which can make people irritated, weary, restless, and physically uncomfortable after they stop using it. Alcohol, on the other hand, was seen as more addictive by both the men and women polled. Drug addiction can begin with social experimentation with a recreational drug, and for some people, drug use becomes more frequent.

Behavioral Addiction in the Brain: Types and Treatment

The truth is, both alcohol and weed may cause negative health effects, including addiction. If you find that smoking weed starts to affect your life in unhealthy ways and leads to unwanted consequences, those are signs you might be developing an addiction and should seek medical care. It’s a commonly held belief that smoking weed has fewer negative health effects than drinking alcohol, especially now that marijuana is legal in New York and many other states across the country. The research on other health effects of marijuana is inconclusive but should warrant some caution.

There are some potential cardiovascular benefits with light-to-moderate use like 1-2 glasses of wine per day. Alcohol is legal and can be purchased almost anywhere and everywhere. It can cause mood swings and we’re all familiar with people who are “angry drunks.” The impact of alcohol can vary based on how much you’re using and how your body interacts with it.

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