- Marijuana and alcohol have long been portrayed as relatively similar vices with a variety of risks and few benefits.
- However, on the basis of available peer-reviewed scientific research, overall there appears to be more health risks.
- That is, there are dozens of health factors to consider when comparing substances – from the family history to the legality of any drug
What's worse for you: Dagga or whiskey?
It's a tough call, but based on the peer-reviewed science, there seems to be a clear answer.
Remember, there are dozens of factors to consider when comparing the health effects of alcohol and marijuana. including how the substances affect your heart, brain and behavior and how likely you become addicted.
Time is also important ̵
The comparison is somewhat unfair for another reason: while scientists have been exploring the effects of alcohol for decades, the science of cannabis is even more miserable because of its mostly illegal status.
What we know about which substance is more harmful
A large new study suggests that alcohol is the biggest risk factor for death in 2016 for people between the ages of 15 and 49 worldwide.
A large study published in the medical journal The Lancet in August found that alcohol consumption among 15- to 49-year-olds was the largest health risk factor in 2016, accounting for 3.8% of all female deaths and 12.2% of all men worldwide was deaths from alcohol consumption
The study examined published data from almost 600 studies that included data on 195 countries and territories between 1990 and 2016. The results showed that alcohol among all age groups is the seventh largest risk factor for deaths in 2016.
The more people drank around the world, the higher the risk of dying and the increased cancer risk, the authors found. As a result of these findings, they concluded that there is no "safe" alcohol consumption.
"Alcohol consumption is a leading risk factor for the global burden of disease and causes significant damage to health," the researchers write in their work. "
More than 30,700 Americans died of alcohol-related deaths in 2014. No deaths were reported from marijuana use alone.
In 2014, 30,722 people died in the US for alcohol-related reasons – and that does not count as accidents According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, if these deaths were included, the number would be closer to 90,000, meanwhile no deaths from marijuana overdoses have been reported, according to the Drug Administration.
A 16-year study of more as 65,000 Americans, published in the American Journal of Public Health, found that healthy marijuana users do not die earlier than healthy people who have not used cannabis.
Almost half of all adults have marijuana at least once tried and is thus one of the farthest However, research indicates that a relatively small percentage of people become addicted.
For a 1994 study, epidemiologists at the National Institute on Drug Abuse questioned more than 8,000 people aged 15-64 years about their drug use. Of those who had tried marijuana at least once, about 9% eventually matched an addiction diagnosis. For alcohol, the figure was 15%. To put this into perspective, the addiction rate for cocaine was 17%, while heroin was 23% and nicotine 32%.
Marijuana can be harder for your heart, while moderate drinking could be beneficial.
Unlike alcohol, which slows your heart rate, marijuana speeds it up, which could negatively affect the heart in the short term. However, the largest ever report on cannabis from the National Academies of Sciences, released in January, found insufficient evidence to substantiate or refute the belief that cannabis could increase the overall risk of heart attack.
On the other hand, with low to moderate alcohol consumption – about one drink per day – there is a lower risk of heart attack and stroke than abstaining. James Nicholls, a director of Alcohol Research UK, told The Guardian that these findings should be treated with caution as "any protective effect is offset by occasional bouts of increased drinking".
Alcohol is closely related to several types of cancer; Marijuana is not.
In November 2017, a group of the country's top cancer physicians issued a statement urging people to drink less. They cited strong evidence that consuming alcohol – just as little as a glass of wine or beer a day – increases the risk of developing both pre- and post-menopausal breast cancer.
The US Department of Health lists alcohol as a known human carcinogen. The research highlighted by the National Cancer Institute suggests that the more alcohol you drink – especially the more you drink – the higher the risk of developing cancer.
For some studies, a link was first proposed between smoking and lung cancer, but that was debunked. The January report found that cannabis is not associated with an increased risk of lung cancer or head and neck cancer related to smoking cigarettes.
Both drugs can be dangerous when driving, but alcohol is worse.
Note found by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (PDF) found that when adjusting for other factors, a detectable amount of THC (the most important psychoactive ingredient in cannabis) in your blood does not increase the risk of participating in a car accident , At a blood alcohol level of at least 0.05%, however, this risk increased by 575%.
Nevertheless, the combination of the two seems to have the worst results.
"The risk of driving under the influence of both alcohol and cannabis is greater than the risk of driving under the influence of both alone," wrote the authors of a 2009 review in the American Journal of Addiction.
Several studies associate alcohol with violence, especially at home. That has not been found for cannabis.
It is impossible to say whether alcohol use or the use of marijuana causes violence, but several studies – including one recently published in the journal Cognitive, Affective, and Behavioral Neuroscience – suggest a link between alcohol and violent behavior
For the study, released in January, researchers used fMRI scans to see how two alcoholic beverages affect brain function in 50 healthy adult males. Compared to fasting volunteers, the intoxicated volunteers found diminished function in the prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain associated with moderating social behavior. This reduced functionality was also associated with aggressive behavior.
The result is consistent with some earlier studies on the association of alcohol with violence. According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, alcohol is a factor in 40% of all violent crimes, and a study by college students found that rates of mental and physical abuse were higher on the days couples drank.  On the other hand, there seems to be no such relationship for cannabis. A recent study on cannabis use and violence in the first decade of marriage found that marijuana consumers were likely to commit violence against a partner than those who did not consume the drug.
Both drugs affect your memory, but in different ways. These effects are most common among strong, frequent or occasional users.
Both grass and alcohol temporarily affect memory, and alcohol can cause blackouts by rendering the brain unable to recollect. The most serious long-term effects occur in heavy, chronic or binge consumers starting as early as teens.
Studies have shown that these effects may continue for several weeks after they stop using marijuana. Even with adults who start smoking at a young age, there may be an association between daily weed use and poor verbal memory.
Chronic drinkers show impairments of memory, attention and planning as well as impaired emotional processes and social cognition – and these can persist even after years of abstinence.
Both drugs are associated with an increased risk of psychiatric illness. For weed users, psychosis and schizophrenia are the main concerns; with schnapps it is depression and anxiety.
The largest review of marijuana studies has found substantial evidence of an increased risk among frequent marijuana users of schizophrenia, something that studies have shown to be a particular problem for people at risk.
Weeds can also trigger temporary feelings of paranoia and hostility, but it is not yet clear if these symptoms are associated with an increased risk of long-term psychosis.
On the other hand, self-harm and suicide are much more common among people who drink or drink frequently. But it has been difficult for scientists to decipher whether excessive alcohol use causes depression and anxiety, or whether people with depression and anxiety drink to relieve these symptoms.
Alcohol appears to be more closely associated with weight gain despite the tendency of weeds to trigger the munchies.
Weed gives you the munchies. It makes you hungry, reduces the natural signals of fullness and can even make your meal taste better for a while.
But despite consuming more than 600 extra calories (2,500 kilojoules) in smoking, marijuana users generally do not have higher body mass indexes. In fact, studies suggest that regular smokers have a slightly reduced risk of obesity.
Alcohol, on the other hand, seems to be associated with weight gain. A study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine found that people who drank heavily had a higher risk of becoming overweight or obese. In addition, alcohol itself is caloric: one can of beer has about 150 calories (about 600 kilojoules) and a glass of wine has about 120 (about 500 kilojoules).
All in all, the effects of alcohol appear to be far more extreme and risky than those of marijuana.
When it comes to addiction profiles, the risk of death or overdose, and links to cancer, car accidents, violence, and obesity Research suggests that marijuana may pose a lower health risk than alcohol. Due to the largely illegal status of marijuana, long-term studies on all of its health effects are limited – meaning more research is needed.
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