Weed vs. Alcohol: Health Effects

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The legal consumption of Cannabis in over 23 states has brought forth questions about health, and whether Cannabis (Weed) is safer to take recreationally than Alcohol.

So the great debate continues, Weed vs. Alcohol, which is better and in this article we will weigh up their qualities and let YOU decide which you would rather choose…

There are more and more discussions mentioning Weed and Alcohol in the same context and often trying to compare the two.

Questions like “Which one would you give to your kids?” are flying around on morning talks shows.

You obviously would not want your kids to experiment with either of them underage, however, the fact is that they do and this topic is quite relevant to look into.

Weed vs. Alcohol: Health Effects

Alcohol and Marijuana may appear to be ‘similar’ substances to many people, however, they could not be any different than they are. They are so different it is a bit of a challenge to compare them realistically. Let me explain…

Alcohol vs Weed Deaths

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) has already linked alcohol, in a record, to 88,000 deaths per year (US), while death from marijuana use is zero, unclear and lacks further concrete data.

It would be extremely difficult to build an argument that in most, if not all societies around the world the problems from alcohol are significantly larger than problems from Cannabis.

While the American Journal of Public Health did a study back in the late ’90s involving 65,000 Americans and found that Marijuana use has no effect on mortality.

In Australia, in my home country, University of Melbourne Professor, Robin Room has made headlines about his social research pointing the spotlight on the huge problem that Australia faces with Alcohol abuse.

Professor Room has exposed very uncomfortable data, saying that 42% of young Australians, living in the State of Victoria, aged 16 to 24 have drunk 20 or more drinks in a day during the last 12 months. An increase of about 60% from 2002.

In his article, Professor Room goes on to say:

“Among the 15% who had done this in 2009 at least once a month, 40% had been injured after drinking, 28% said they had created a public disturbance or nuisance, 19% had damaged property, and 13% had physically abused someone.”

“Statistics like these suggest that our laws on psychoactive substances may have channelled young people’s socialising and experimentation in a very harmful direction.”


Aaron E. Carroll, US Pediatrician came to the same conclusion in his NY Times article, that Professor Room. This is what he says about the question Alcohol or Marijuana for children at the end of his article:

“When someone asks me whether I’d rather my children use pot or alcohol, after sifting through all the studies and all the data, I still say “neither.” Usually, I say it more than once. But if I’m forced to make a choice, the answer is “marijuana.”


It is a growing problem with politicians ignoring the fact that Alcohol is the most dangerous drug on earth and seems to be especially dangerous for young people to experiment with it.

Despite that fact, the leaders of the country think it is cool to skol beer down while a group of University football players is shouting “skol, skol”.

Is that a responsible message to the Aussie youth, citizens and to the world?

In the United States, President Obama also has a ‘famous’ beer photo that most Americans would have seen.

According to the US Department of Justice, alcohol is a factor in 40% of all violent crime.

Cannabis has not been linked with such problems and violence, however, when we talk about health and especially the health of our youth, we do have to admit that, just like any substance, Marijuana can be abused as well.

There is no, or hardly any education for young people (or anyone really) about responsible use and potential risks for young users. There is risk with anything, and no substance is different.

We know that both intoxicants are used recreationally and when abused can take its toll on the body and the brain.

And especially in the case of alcohol, it is not only the damage to the mind and body but the violence and loss of judgment that results in 1,825 young (18 – 24) Americans dying a year from alcohol-related unintentional injuries.  

About 700,000 students a year in the same age group being assaulted by other drunk students and nearly a 100,000 experiencing alcohol-related sexual assault. The cost is huge beyond the health effects.

If you look at the potential risk associated with Marijuana, you may get worried.

Effects of Cannabis vary from person to person depending on their tolerance for THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which is one of the active components (Cannabinoids) in Cannabis.

Weed vs. Alcohol effects & symptoms

There could be negative effects that may occur though, such as:

  • Sensory distortion
  • Panic and Anxiety
  • Poor coordination of movement
  • Lowered reaction time
  • Increased heartbeat

The more often and regularly you consume Cannabis, the higher the tolerance you tend to build which allows you to enjoy the positive experiences more and increased wellness.

The negative effects of Cannabis consumption might look scary until you look at the list for alcohol.

The best comparison I found is a multi-criteria decision analysis that was done in the UK in 2014. This study let experts rate 20 psychoactive substances on 16 different criteria. They used many different criteria to get the most comprehensive comparison. This assessment not only included harm to the substance users but harm to others as well.

This extremely comprehensive study reported that overall alcohol is the most harmful drug scoring 72 points.

Beating both Heroin (55 points) and crack cocaine (54 points) represent a little more harm to the user, however more than half to others.


Image credit: http://www.thelancet.com/       

The effects of alcohol will depend on the physical condition of the person and how much alcohol is taken into the system.

  • Slurred speech
  • Drowsiness
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Upset stomach
  • Headaches
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Distorted vision and hearing
  • Impaired judgment
  • Decreased perception and coordination
  • Unconsciousness
  • Anemia (loss of red blood cells)
  • Coma
  • Blackouts (memory lapses, where the drinker cannot remember events that occurred while under the influence)

Weed vs. Alcohol health benefits

When marijuana is introduced into our system through smoking or vaporizing, it reacts almost instantly to the effects, while Alcohol may take several minutes to be absorbed by the body and the brain.

As edible cannabis products increase in popularity, we hear more and more stories about ‘overdosing’ marijuana.

This is not a fatal overdose obviously as that is pretty much impossible, however, more so like a discomfort. Can be a rough one, however, it is never life-threatening.

Alcohol with a delayed effect, often results in overdose, resulting not only in social but health problems and potential fatality.

The Verdict on Weed Vs. Alcohol

Marijuana if abused can lead to psychological injury. Some of the most common are short-term memory loss, personality and mood changes.

Alcohol if abused can damage the body and brain. These damaging effects can include illnesses such as liver disease, malnutrition, gastritis, and cancer of the mouth and throat.

Our data is pointing to Marijuana intake as significantly least harmful to our health compared to alcohol consumption.

Dr. Aaron Carroll, a professor of pediatric at Indiana University School of Medicine, said “after going through all the data and looking at which is more dangerous in almost any metric you would pick, pot really looks like it’s safer than alcohol. So I guess if I had to choose, that would be the answer.”

Alcohol has been legalized in the U.S. as far back as 1933 and Marijuana only coming out of prohibition and decriminalization in the 20th century. People should start looking at marijuana from a positive standpoint and give it the right treatment it deserves.

On another note, studies all over the world show that alcohol in moderation is not at all bad for our health.

Moderate alcohol consumption can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, reduce the risk of gallstones and lowers the chance of diabetes.

Obviously, the health ‘benefits’ of alcohol cannot be compared to the natural medicinal properties of Marijuana.

Cannabis can be used for a huge variety of disease, included but not limited to treat glaucoma, it can help with epileptic seizures, stop cancer from spreading and is a form of pain relief.

As a plant, Marijuana is capable of producing more than just medicine. It can actually replace fossil fuel through Cannabis Biomass and can even produce clothing, paper, and plastic using the material found in the plant itself, which is a safer alternative for our environment compared to what people normally use.

So, with that conclusion, let me ask you this… Would you rather drink a beer or smoke weed? Please choose wisely, because one might potentially be able to make a difference and break the social stigma.

Cannabis and alcohol


Do you choose weed or alcohol to relax and unwind?

SHARE with us your thoughts in the comment box.


isack cole

isack cole

With a passion for trends, skating, surfing and travel combined with my passion for the legalisation of Cannabis, I have now found a home at Greendorphin. My previous experience was writing for large Media Companies but I am now thrilled to be writing about a niche I am most passionate about. Working with Greendorphin is a dream come true and I now join the mission in educating the masses about the miracle plant, Cannabis

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