Alcohol causes far more damage to users and to society than does the use of marijuana, according to a new study published online in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, the journal of the British Association of Psychopharmacology.
Researchers at the Imperial College of London looked at “the relative physical, psychological, and social harms of cannabis and alcohol,” reports Paul Armentano at AlterNet. They determined that marijuana smoking, particularly longterm, does some harm to the lungs and circulatory system, and increases certain mental-health risks (which is debatable).
But in contrast, the authors described alcohol as “a toxic substance” responsible for almost five percent “of the total global disease burden.”
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”A direct comparison of alcohol and cannabis showed that alcohol was considered to be more than twice as harmful as cannabis to users, and five times more harmful as cannabis to others (society),” investigators determined. “As there are few areas of harm that each drug can produce where cannabis scores more [dangerous to health]than alcohol, we suggest that even if there were no legal impediment on cannabis use, it would be unlikely to be more harmful than alcohol.”
“The findings underline the need for a coherent, evidence-based drugs policy that enables individuals to make informed decisions about the consequences of their drug use,” the researchers concluded.
The findings are underlined by a just-published study, almost completely ignored by mainstream media, showing alcohol use increases lung cancer risk by 30 percent.
Alcohol use causes an incredible four percent of all deaths worldwide — more than AIDS, tuberculosis, or violence — according to a February 2011 report from the World Health Organization.
And a just-published study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that in the U.S. alone, an estimated 79,000 lives are lost annually due to “excessive” drinking. The study estimates that the overall cost of excessive drinking by Americans is $223.5 billion each year.
Health-related costs per user are eight times higher for those who drink alcohol when compared to those who use marijuana, and are more than 40 times higher for tobacco smokers, according to a 2009 review published in the British Columbia Mental Health and Addictions Journal.
“In terms of [health-related] costs per user: tobacco-related health costs are over $800 per user, alcohol-related health costs are much lower at $165 per user, and cannabis-related health costs are the lowest at $20 per user [italics added],” the investigators concluded.
Much of the evidence showing that the risks of marijuana are small compared to those associated with alcohol is covered in the excellent book Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People To Drink?, coauthored by Armentano with Steve Fox and Mason Tvert.
Given all the evidence of the enormously higher cost of alcohol use than cannabis use to society, you may be wondering why it’s considered socially acceptable for everyone from the President on down to be seen drinking a beer, yet smoking a joint is considered a big deal. And guess which one is against federal law?