Which is Safer – Alcohol or Marijuana?

Is marijuana really any more dangerous than alcohol? Many debate this question while states consider legalizing marijuana for medical or recreational use. Alcohol is the most commonly used and abused addictive substance. It’s easy to obtain and legal for people over 21. Some states lowered the drinking age to 18 for a period of time in the 1960s and 1970s, but raised it again by the mid-1980s to help combat drunk driving fatalities. The use of alcohol continues to be socially acceptable in spite of all of the negative consequences that can occur when the substance is abused.

Marijuana is a commonly abused substance, but is not legal to use recreationally in most states, and is classified as a Schedule I substance by the Drug Enforcement Agency. Drugs in this category are considered the most dangerous and addictive with a high potential for physical and psychological dependence. Schedule I substances have a huge potential for abuse and have no recognized medical use. This category includes heroin, Ecstasy, and LSD.

There is controversy about whether marijuana belongs in this category since many believe it has medical benefits for certain illnesses and is less addictive than substances like heroin, cocaine, crystal meth and even tobacco.

While quitting alcohol cold turkey can result in severe symptoms of withdrawal, suddenly stopping the use of marijuana typically does not lead to these dangerous symptoms. In some people, quitting marijuana may cause insomnia, headaches and depression, but withdrawal from marijuana rarely causes the severe symptoms, some of them life-threatening, that may be seen when discontinuing habitual drinking.

The Dangers of Alcohol and Marijuana

Both alcohol and marijuana can be considered dangerous substances. Some of the concerns about legalizing marijuana surround its long-term effects. For example, marijuana use can cause cognitive impairment and memory loss, and when teens use the drug it can cause harm to the developing brain, resulting in a lowered IQ. Alcohol abuse is also harmful to the brain and long-term alcohol abuse can cause problems with memory and cognitive abilities.

Marijuana is often thought of as a gateway drug, a substance that triggers the use of other substances. But many drug addicts report that they never would have dabbled in street drugs if they hadn’t been under the influence of alcohol in the first place.

Both alcohol and marijuana can have long-term health consequences. Alcohol abuse can lead to liver failure and sudden death from alcohol poisoning. It can also lead to such chronic illnesses as cirrhosis of the liver and certain forms of cancer. Those who smoke marijuana increase their risk of sudden death from a heart attack, especially if there is an undiagnosed heart problem.

One difference is that dying from an overdose of marijuana is highly unlikely, while death from alcohol poisoning - which is an overdose - does happen.

Smoking marijuana is considered more damaging to the lungs than smoking cigarettes. People who smoke pot have more acute chest illnesses and lung infections than those who don’t.

Both alcohol and marijuana can have mental health consequences, particularly when mixed with prescriptions for anxiety or depression. Alcohol is a depressant and can intensify feelings of depression and hopelessness. In some people, marijuana use leads to paranoia or hallucinations.

Car accidents caused by an impaired driver cause death or injury to thousands of victims every year. While alcohol is often the cause, smoking marijuana can also impair reflexes and trigger the potential for causing car accidents with irreversible consequences.

The use of any mind-altering substance can have severe consequences for both individuals and society. The only difference between the recreational use of alcohol and marijuana is that one is socially acceptable and one is considered illegal in most states. Both can be very dangerous drugs.

Posted on September 21st, 2014
Posted in Abused Drugs

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