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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


Marijuana vs. alcohol: Which is the lesser evil?

Pete Galigher is a writer at EpiCraze, a health and wellness website that focuses on under-the-radar solutions for everyday people.

The alcohol-versus-marijuana debate doesn’t seem like it’s going to end anytime soon. Arguments as to which one is better and which one is worse continue to rage on with both sides throwing whatever they can on at another, from rumored claims to science-backed research.

With U.S. college students smoking more marijuana than at any time in the past 35 years and imbibing on the decline as well, this debate is very important to the health conversation.

There’s no denying that both can put your health and even your life in danger. But certainly, one must be worse than the other. In this case, we believe it’s alcohol.

Here’s why we think so:

Alcohol causes more deaths than marijuana. It’s a well-established fact that there’s a much higher incidence of death among alcohol drinkers than marijuana smokers. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), binge drinking (drinking five or more alcoholic drinks in a short period of time) kills over 80,000 people each year, either through an alcohol-related illness or an alcohol-induced accident. Excessive drinking is also to blame for one in 10 deaths among adults 20 to 64 years of age.

One study even showed that alcoholism can decrease lifespans by decades. One the other hand, the CDC doesn’t even have a category for “deaths caused by marijuana.”

Alcohol causes more diseases than marijuana. It affects the body in more ways than one, possibly causing chronic diseases like liver cancer, high blood pressure, heart disease, dementia, depression, and anxiety. Excessive consumption of alcohol can also lead to potentially fatal alcohol poisoning.

As if these aren’t distressing enough, wait until you find out that alcohol can up the risk of many types of cancers, not just liver but also cancers of the esophagus, mouth, colon, stomach, lungs, pancreas and prostate.

None of these ailments have been as closely linked to marijuana, although it has been found to increase the risk of lung problems.

Alcohol is also linked to more injuries and accidents. Marijuana can affect cognition and impair logical thinking, but one-third of traffic-related deaths in 2013 involved an alcohol-impaired driver. Alcohol also claims the lives of 2.5 million people every year and causes injuries to millions more, as reported by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD).

Alcohol doesn’t only cause unintentional accidents; it has also been linked to injuries caused by violent behavior. A 2011 study published in the Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research journal states that 21 percent of injuries can be attributed to the use of alcohol by the injured person. On the other hand, marijuana use has been found to rarely cause visits to the emergency room, according to the American Journal of Emergency Medicine.

The British Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs explains that unlike alcohol, marijuana does not appear to “increase risk-taking behaviour,” which is why it doesn’t usually contribute to violence either to oneself or to others. Alcohol, meanwhile, has been associated with many types of violence—domestic assaults, self-harm and so on.   

Moreover, alcohol is also more addictive than marijuana. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that only an average of nine percent of marijuana users develop dependence on it, which is quite a far cry from the 17 percent of men and eight percent of women who will become dependent on alcohol at some point in their lifetime.

Looking at these facts, it’s easy to see how alcohol is much worse. But of course, this isn’t to say that marijuana is a safe and healthy recreational drug. It also has its own negative repercussions that people should be aware of. So even though it can be considered the “lesser evil” between the two, its use should not be encouraged.

Featured image credit: cheifyc/pixabay

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    Daryl JensenDec 1, 2015 at 8:41 pm

    Kind of tired of all of these articles about what is worse, use a little common sense. Anyone who has used both of these substances knows first hand which is worse. Alcohol is a poison, drink too much, and the body tires to get rid of it by making you vomit, even the next day, you get drunk because of the way alcohol effects the brain, in short, it slows down brain function, and interferes with the self control part of your brain, the main reason you make decisions that would not even think of when you are sober.
    Cannabis, affects the brain differently, it positively reacts with the receptors in the brain, self control is still there, hence when someone smokes too much, they don’t drive, I highly doubt anyone has used cannabis and said, damn, I should not have done that! Cannabis enhances the senses, relaxes you, or depending on the strain, will either give you that couch lock feeling, or actually give you an energy boost and you may want to clean the entire house, wash the car, or go to your gym for a workout, hence why many athletes choose to use cannabis, it also helps with recovery from your workout, another reason why athletes choose to use cannabis. I know quite a few people who have used cannabis most of their life, from different age ranges, and I have yet to meet anyone who has health problems related to cannabis use. That is why I say use common sense, I have lost two family members to problems from alcohol use, and more that are on their way because of the addiction to alcohol, I have never met anyone who has admitted to being addicted to cannabis, I have met people that have told me that their cannabis habit was a little hard to break due to not sleeping well and being a little irritated, but within a week they did not have a problem.
    I believe alcohol and cannabis both should be used in moderation, especially alcohol. But with a little common sense, anyone with any knowledge of both of these substances will be able to tell you that alcohol is far more harmful.