Drug of abuse is a term that doctors, researchers, public health officials and law enforcement…
What Americans Think About Marijuana and Alcohol Abuse
The Pew Research Center recently surveyed Americans on their feelings about substance abuse. One interesting question posed to participants had to do with which substance Americans felt was likely to cause greater harm, marijuana or alcohol.
When pollsters asked Americans, all things being equal, which they considered to be more detrimental to a person’s health 69 percent of respondents said that alcohol was the greater potential health risk. Just 15 percent said that if alcohol and marijuana were equally available that marijuana would cause the greater harm to health. There were 14 percent that said either substance was equally harmful, or that neither was a greater threat than the other.
When asked which substance posed the greater risk to society at large, 63 percent chose alcohol and 23 percent said marijuana. Those undecided came in at 11 percent.
It’s a legitimate question, and the answers reflect a growing acceptance of marijuana across the country. Americans have had years of experience with alcohol’s dangers. Supporters of marijuana legalization say that the facts should be enough to convince anyone.
Some Facts to Consider
- There are 88,000 annual deaths in the U.S. related to alcohol
- In 2006 there were 2.7 million visits to the doctor and 1.2 million trips to the hospital because of alcohol abuse, according to the CDC
- There are no reported overdose deaths associated with marijuana use, while alcohol poisoning claims large numbers of lives every year
- Scientific American cites a 1994 survey which found that while nine percent of marijuana users become addicted, 15 percent of alcohol users get hooked
- While alcohol is routinely associated with many forms of violent crime, a University of Texas at Dallas study reported that marijuana shows no such connection.
Of course, this is not the complete story. Those opposed to legalizing marijuana point out that the marijuana sold today is far more potent than ever before. That means that users could become addicted easier. And debate continues over whether or not marijuana serves as a gateway drug for use of other substances.
Marijuana does not pose the same risks as alcohol, but that doesn’t make it risk-free:
- Marijuana definitely causes negative effects on the still-developing adolescent brain
- Smoking marijuana can cause respiratory problems
- Using marijuana can lead to earlier onset of illness for those susceptible to psychosis.
The Pew poll reveals some changing attitudes about substances, that much is certain. Americans are far less wary of marijuana than they once were. On the other hand, Americans seem to be ready to confront the dangers of alcohol.