Marijuana  vs Alcohol

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Here's what the research on Marijuana  has to say.

1. Is marijuana addictive?

Short answer: yes. The best available research indicates that roughly 1 in 11 people who use marijuana will eventually become dependent on it. Starting marijuana use in your teens roughly doubles the risk of dependency, from 9 to 17 percent.

It's worth pointing out that the study those numbers come from found a similar risk of dependency for drinkers who started in their teens, and higher rates of dependency for drinkers who began in adulthood. And dependency rates for tobacco were higher across the board.

STUDY Jan 2021 regular cannabis users were more likely to engage in high-risk alcohol consumption, smoke tobacco, use other illicit drugs and not be in a relationship at age 35,".  They were also at higher risk of depression and less likely to have a paid job
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2. Is marijuana safer than alcohol?

This is a much more complicated question. The short answer, again, is "yes," but there's more nuance here.

For starters, as noted above, marijuana users are less likely to become dependent on the drug than drinkers. Overall, research suggests that 15 percent of drinkers become dependent on alcohol.

Marijuana is also considerably less toxic to the human body than alcohol. Compared to marijuana, there's a much smaller difference between a "recreational dose" of alcohol and a "fatal dose." If, say, five shots get you drunk, 15 could kill you.

With pot, on the other hand, there's currently no known fatal dosage level — at least not any that a human being could reasonably consume in one sitting.

Marijuana impairs people differently than alcohol does, too. Federal crash data show that the odds of getting into a car accident jump dramatically after a person has been drinking alcohol. The odds don't change much after smoking weed. Other research has shown similar findings.

Alcohol also appears to be much more closely linked to violent behavior than marijuana is. Researchers Mark Kleiman, Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken summed up the literature on drugs and violence in 2011: "Most illicit substances have a much weaker link to violence than alcohol does. ... There is little direct association between marijuana or opiate use and violent crime."

For all of the reasons above, many drug policy experts agree that, on balance, marijuana is less harmful to both individuals and society than alcohol. That was the conclusion reached by a group of researchers for an article in the Lancet in 2010, which graded several common drugs on 16 potential harms to users or society.

But just because marijuana is safer than alcohol doesn't mean that it is safe, full stop. Some research has linked marijuana use to a number of negative physical and mental health outcomes, like a heightened risk of psychosis and the potential for long-term cognitive impairment. Those risks appear to increase for people who use the drug heavily and for those who start using it in their teens.



Persistent Cannabis Dependence and Alcohol Dependence Represent Risks for Midlife Economic and Social Problems: A Longitudinal Cohort Study


We examined the association between cannabis use and dependence, prospectively assessed between ages 18 and 38, and economic and social problems at age 38.
We studied participants in the Dunedin Longitudinal Study, a cohort (N= 1,037) followed from birth to age 38.

Study members with regular cannabis use and persistent dependence experienced :-

  • downward socioeconomic mobility,
  • more financial difficulties,
  • workplace problems, and
  • relationship conflict in early midlife.

Cannabis dependence was not linked to traffic-related convictions.

 Associations were not explained by:

  • socioeconomic adversity,
  • childhood psychopathology,
  • achievement orientation, or
  • family structure;
  • cannabis-related criminal convictions;
  • early onset of cannabis dependence; or
  • comorbid substance dependence.

Cannabis dependence was associated with more financial difficulties than was alcohol dependence;

no difference was found in risks for other economic or social problems.

Cannabis dependence is not associated with fewer harmful economic and social problems than alcohol dependence.

Some researchers also say that the perennial debate on the relative harm posed by marijuana and alcohol is incomplete.
 Jonathan Caulkins of Carnegie Mellon University prefers to say that "marijuana is safer than alcohol,
but it is also more likely to harm its users."

Caulkins points out that federal survey data show that current marijuana users are
more likely (21 percent) to meet diagnostic criteria for abuse or dependence on the drug than current alcohol users (13 percent).

"While alcohol is more dangerous in terms of acute overdose risk, and also in terms of promoting violence and chronic organ failure,
marijuana — at least as now used in the United States — creates higher rates of behavioral problems, including dependence, among all its users,"
Caulkins wrote for the magazine National Affairs earlier this year.

Of course, some of those signs of abuse or dependency (trouble with the law related to the drug or problems at work, home, school or with friends),
could be direct consequences of the drug's illegal status. So it's difficult to compare apples to apples on that measure.

So in conclusion,

marijuana is addictive, although less so than alcohol. And very broadly speaking it is safer than alcohol, but it still poses a number of risks to its users.

In July, one poll showed only 39 percent of likely voters said they'd vote to legalize marijuana in November. But Arizona voters might be warming up to the idea of recreational pot, according to an Arizona Republic/Morrison/Cronkite News poll conducted in the second half of August. In those results, released Wednesday, 50 percent of registered voters said they were likely to vote in support of the measure.

In response to a Washington Post inquiry, a spokesman for Ducey said that "the governor stands by his position, and believes the facts speak for themselves on this topic when you look at the unintended consequences in Colorado and Washington."


Pot’s Brain Effects are Inconclusive

Five states are voting this fall on whether marijuana should be legal, like alcohol, for recreational use. That has sparked questions about what we know — and don’t know — about marijuana’s effect on the brain.

Research is scarce. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug. That classification puts up barriers to conducting research on it, including a cumbersome DEA approval application and a requirement that scientists procure very specific marijuana plants.

One long-term study in New Zealand compared the IQs of people at age 13 and then through adolescence and adulthood to age 38. Those who used pot heavily from adolescence onward showed an average 8 percent drop in IQ. People who never smoked, by contrast, showed slightly increased IQ.

Critics pounced on the study, which was published in 2012, because it didn’t adjust for many other things that affect IQ such as home life or family income. And there’s no proof the IQ differences are due to pot. One of those critics, Nicholas Jackson, now a senior statistician at the University of California, Los Angeles, wondered what would happen if he could rule out some of those elements by comparing twins. “Individuals that share the same genes, grew up in the same household, where the difference between them was that one of the twins was using marijuana and one was not,” Jackson says. Jackson and Joshua Isen, now an assistant professor of psychology at the University of South Alabama, conducted a study comparing IQ tests of twins age 9 to 12, before either had smoked marijuana, and then seven to 10 years later, after one had started. “If marijuana was causing IQ decline, what we would expect to see is that the twin who goes on and uses marijuana should have IQ deficits,” Jackson says. “We don’t find that.” IQ scores for both twins varied slightly over time. And for twins who smoked marijuana, there was no significant difference in effect between daily and occasional use.

So was the New Zealand finding wrong? The authors did not comment for this story, but have said that the twins study of teenagers does not address the effects of decades of heavy marijuana use.

Marijuana seems to affect a particular kind of intelligence, like short term retention of vocabulary words and other information that you might learn in school, says Mitch Earleywine, a professor of psychology at the University of Albany. “They haven’t learned a whole lot of vocabulary words or they never learned the capital of Maine because they were high at school that day,” he says. “But when it comes to things that are more liquid intelligence, more fluid intelligence, they’re usually pretty good at those because it requires just intelligence in the moment, so to speak.” It’s not clear how marijuana use may keep Augusta from being filed next to “capital of Maine” in the brain. Some studies that compare brain scans of teenagers who use marijuana to those who don’t show thinner, less dense connections between lobes. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, says brains with less connectivity don’t work as well as they should. “You could expect that that will decrease your capacity to memorize things and to learn them which is necessary to you to actually further develop your cognitive abilities,” she says.

Volkow says there’s little proof that marijuana causes poor brain connections. Studies so far have not compared brains before and after pot. Maybe kids who are already having trouble in school are more likely to try marijuana. Still, she is convinced that marijuana is bad for the brains of adults who began smoking in their youth. People who regularly smoked marijuana as teens, “are achieving much less both in their education as well as their profession as well as their economic earnings,” Volkow says. “They also tend to be much more dissatisfied with life. Many studies have shown that.”

NIDA is one of several agencies behind a major study that will map the effects of marijuana and other substances on brain development. The Adolescent Brain and Cognitive Development Study (ABCD) will follow 10,000 9- to 10- year-olds through early adulthood, using neuroimaging to map changes in the brain.

But as of now, the research suggests if you don’t start young and don’t use marijuana often, there’s not much evidence of permanent harm to the brain. That’s led some experts in marijuana brain science to say it might be OK to make pot legal, with strong oversight. That includes Kevin Hill, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. “I’m not sure how I would vote [on the Massachusetts ballot question] at this point. I want to see sensible marijuana policy that works, that gives people what they want while limiting risk,” says Hill, who wrote Marijuana: The Unbiased Truth about the World’s Most Popular Weed.

Massachusetts is one of five states, including Arizona, California, Maine and Nevada, that voted on legalizing recreational marijuana.

Hill would like to see stronger regulation of marijuana if it becomes legal, with limits on advertising and of edible products that attract children, as well as a higher rate of taxation than the proposed 12 percent. If Massachusetts approves marijuana for recreational use, it would not be legal for anyone under age 21, when most, but not all, brain development occurs.