It’s a tough call, but based on science, there appears to be a clear answer.
Now, before we continue, keep in mind there are dozens of factors to account for when comparing the health effects of dagga and booze, including how the substances affect your heart, brain, and behaviour, and how likely you are to get hooked.
The comparison is slightly unfair for another reason: While scientists have been researching the effects of alcohol for decades, the science of cannabis is murkier because of its mostly illegal status.
Here’s what we know about which substance is more harmful.
The proof is in the studies
A large review published in August in the medical journal The Lancet found that among people aged 15–49, alcohol use was the leading health risk factor across the globe in 2016, with 3.8% of all female deaths and 12·2% of all male deaths attributable to alcohol use.
The review looked at published data from nearly 600 studies that comprised data on 195 countries and territories between 1990 and 2016. The results showed that among people of all ages, alcohol was the seventh leading risk factor for deaths in 2016.
The more people drank across the globe, the more their risk of dying and their risk of cancer rose, the study authors found. As a result of these findings, they concluded that there was no “safe” level of alcohol consumption.
“Alcohol use is a leading risk factor for global disease burden and causes substantial health loss,” the researchers wrote in their paper, “and the level of consumption that minimizes health loss is zero.”
In 2014, 30,722 people died from alcohol-induced causes in the US — and that does not count drinking-related accidents or homicides. If those deaths were included, the number would be closer to 90,000, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. Meanwhile, no deaths from marijuana overdoses have been reported, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.
A 16-year study of more than 65,000 Americans, published in the American Journal of Public Health, found that healthy marijuana users were not more likely to die earlier than healthy people who did not use cannabis.
Dagga appears to be significantly less addictive than alcohol.
Close to half of all US adults have tried marijuana at least once, making it one of the most widely used illegal drugs — yet research suggests that a relatively small percentage of people become addicted.
The other day, a survey revealed that many American Citizens say it would be better if people used Marijuana instead of alcohol.
On the flip side of things…
Dagga may be harder on your heart, while moderate drinking could be beneficial.
Unlike alcohol, which slows your heart rate, marijuana speeds it up, which could negatively affect the heart in the short term. Still, the largest-ever report on cannabis from the US National Academies of Sciences, released in January, found insufficient evidence to support or refute the idea that cannabis may increase the overall risk of a heart attack.
On the other hand, low to moderate drinking has been linked with a lower risk of heart attack and stroke compared with abstention. Some seem to think 2 glasses of wine a day might help you fight the common flu.
The answer to the most pressing question
Alcohol is strongly linked with several types of cancer; dagga is not. Both drugs may be linked with risks while driving, but alcohol is worse.
There you have it! The alcohol vs dagga debate has been settled. Go dagga! Go Green!