Alcohol more risky than marijuana 142



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Scientists has this week confirmed a confronting reality, that people are significantly more likely to die from alcohol, nicotine, cocaine and heroin than they are from marijuana use.  The research suggests that the risks posed by alcohol consumption have likely been underestimated as deadly chemical, while those posed by marijuana should be considered much less risky.  Could it be that our legislation is focussed on the wrong risks?

The report by Scientific Reports shows that cannabis, referred to as “weed” is  approximately 114 times less deadly than booze.  This was demonstrated by the comparison of a lethal dose with the amount a person typically uses.   Marijuana was the only drug studied that posed a low mortality risk to its users.

The study effectively reaffirms findings that were used to create american drug safety ratings more than ten years ago, but it is pertinent given the global debate on the safety of marijuana and the deregulation or even acceptance of its use.

According to the study, and a following report in the Washington Post, at the individual level, booze presents the highest risk of death, followed by nicotine, cocaine and heroin, suggesting the risks of alcohol consumption have likely been underestimated in the past. Marijuana was found to be significantly less deadly and sat at the other end of the spectrum, in agreement with previous research which has consistently ranked it as the safest recreational drug. While this may not be what governments want to hear, it highlights the need to use scientific evidence whilst creating policies regarding the use of licit and illicit drugs.

Few studies over the years have been able to quantify the risks of illicit drugs to understand how toxic they are or how addictive they are.  Illegal drug abuse has long been seen as a bigger problem for society than the use of known harmful substances like alcohol and prescription drugs so much legislation is based on placing policy around people’s fears.  But the researchers say that lot of the harm associated with drug use is not due to the drug itself, but rather the environment in which it is taken, for example sharing dirty needles, and this wasn’t taken into account by the study.

There has not been many studies that have actually looked at how toxic each of the substances are when used at chronic levels to compare the ration at which people would use regularly with the rate people die from exposure.  The drugs that scientists looked at included heroin, cannabis, nicotine, alcohol, methadone, amphetamine and MDMA. The report authors, Lachenmeier and Rehm say their findings should not be interpreted to say that moderate alcohol consumption poses a higher risk to an individual and their close contacts than regular heroin use even though it appears higher on the scale than any of the other chemicals.

The findings in Scientific Reports, showed that, at the level of individual use, four substances were classified as high risk: alcohol, nicotine, cocaine and heroin. The others fell into the so-called “risk” category. However, if we look at the risks for the population rather than the individual, only alcohol was considered high risk. According to the results, cannabis is around 114 times less deadly than alcohol and was the only drug out of those examined to pose a low risk of death.

The authors of the report are adamant.  Governments would be better spending their resources managing the risks of alcohol and tobacco than illegal drugs, and that regulation of low risks drugs like marijuana could be a better and more justified approach.

What do you think?  Do our governments focus too hard on illicit drug use?

Sources include: Scientific Reports, Washington Post


Rebecca Wilson

Rebecca Wilson is the founder and publisher of Starts at Sixty. The daughter of two baby boomers, she has built the online community for over 60s by listening carefully to the issues and seeking out answers, insights and information for over 60s throughout Australia. Rebecca is an experienced marketer, a trained journalist and has a degree in politics. A mother of 3, she passionately facilitates and leads our over 60s community, bringing the community opinions, needs and interests to the fore and making Starts at Sixty a fun place to be.

  1. For medicinal purposes, yes 100% legal but for private use….mmm not so sure. Like everything , in moderation , is fine but i have known it to adversely effect people , with depression and paranoia, if used in excess. Don’t we have enough legal stuff out there to relax with???

    3 REPLY
    • Yes , if it is smoked it has a bad effect . After all our lungs are designed to breath in air , but taken as a liquid , medically , should be okay , I think .

    • Alcohol adversely effects me but that doesn’t mean it should be illegal (although it should as it KILLS people). How many alcoholics are depressed and paranoid? You know if you smoke “weed” enough (meaning regularly) the paranoia etc. fades away, however it is the opposite with alcohol and the other illicit drugs that are at the high end of the risk spectrum, in which weed is at 114 times less risk. Facts are facts people.

  2. I’ve witnessed person fall from 14 storey hi- rise under construction land at my feet one Monday morning all cos he was still stoned from weekend partying. Plenty other incidents stoned persons are fatally doomed

    2 REPLY
  3. Not sure about that, have seen it tip people over to all sorts of mental problems. May well be ok for medical purposes though don’t think it has been tested fully yet. There has been lots of legal drugs put onto the market & later found to do more harm than good, so need to be careful.

  4. Here we go again. Over and over. The way we deal with “illegal” drugs does not is not working. We HAVE to reevaluate how we deal with it.

  5. I don’t like drugs in any shape or form unless administered by the medical profession, and I am surprised at some of the comments on the drink situation so many of the things even on over 60s how people have to have wine thinking it is so normal every night, I am not a wows er and do have a glass on special occasions I am also an ex publican, so believe me drink is evil in excess.

    4 REPLY
    • Well Norman, the medical profession have a lot to answer for and those legal drugs are probably worse than the so called social drugs. Unfortunately our world has been brainwashed by the medical business with people making massive profits at their patients expense (just like illegal traffickers)

    • Yes Christine but at least there is a little control medically and the drug manufacturers make millions of dollars, the illegal trade has no control it is flooding in from everywhere. some offenders are caught we never hear about the punishment for those offenders, which in my mind is not strong enough. I refer to the drink situation not enough control on drinking hours and habits. Why have we let this world get into this state, we fought two world wars to make this world a better place and have failed miserably.

    • yes and the younger generation, seem to be abusing it, sorry, not meaning to sound an ageist, or mean, but its true.. all over the world. I have seen UK films, docos, and its so rife over there… public drunkeness and a lot by girls/women too…. I feel there is far too much disposable income these days spent on alchohol and drugs. Its seems when there is more momey around there are more drinking and drug problems and rage that goes with over use… ICe is my biggest worry.. Its e verywhere and its getting worse… Something really needs to be done about this, cos if it can take 6 policemen or paramedics to hold down one person on ICE, where is that going….

  6. Medical marijuana will be legalized, don’t know when but it will happen

    4 REPLY
    • Doctors will prescribe drugs to anybody that pretends they need it. The whole thing is a joke.

    • The sooner the better as it gives some hope and relief from those that are suffering and also those who love them, there are so many medical drugs being given to people that they have no idea how they will react on their bodies , some are a great help others useless and have side affects. At least the medical marijuana is from a plant not some chemical made up in LAB.

  7. No thats a copout excuse for Marijuana? Marijuana has horrific side effects? Just google it? We’ve seen it first hand 🙁

  8. Marijauana must be legalised on Doctors Script. & soon as many people are forced to use illegally for relieve of certain diseases eg.terminal cancer.Worked In Health Industry for. 54 yrs. & saw professionals & patients forced to break the law constantly. It is much more likely to cause lung cancer than nicotine & psychiatric conditions if smoked when unregulated for general public use.

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