Advocates of marijuana decriminalization and legalization have long argued the drug is less dangerous than alcohol, which led to an average of 88,000 American deaths each year between 2006 and 2010. A new study published in Clinical Psychological Science researched the risks of cannabis use, comparing the results to previous data about alcohol dependence to compare the effects of the two. The results suggest neither substance is fully safe, and both can spur socioeconomic problems.
Socioeconomic Effects of Cannabis, Alcohol
To explore the effects of long-term marijuana use, researchers from the University of California-Davis and Duke University studied 1,037 participants in the Dunedin Longitudinal Study. The study followed participants ages 18-38, gathering information about marijuana use, socioeconomic status, and life events.
Alcohol use is linked to significantly more deaths than marijuana use. Cannabis also produced a lower risk of traffic accidents than alcohol. Alcohol users had high health care costs, but cannabis users experienced no such increase.career problems and relationship conflicts. They also experienced downward socioeconomic mobility, attaining jobs with lower status and lower pay than their parents. Though these effects are similar to the negative outcomes heavy drinkers experience, cannabis users had more financial problems than alcohol users.
Differences in beliefs or experiences among cannabis users did not account for these differences. The negative effects of marijuana dependence remained even when researchers controlled for childhood mental health issues, low IQ, family structure, socioeconomic problems in childhood, drug convictions, early use of marijuana, and dependence on other drugs.
The Changing Landscape of Marijuana Laws
Four states—Alaska, Colorado, Washington, and Oregon—have legalized recreational use of marijuana, with 15 more considering similar legislation. Washington, D.C., decriminalized personal possession of the drug in 2015.
For now, marijuana remains less accessible than alcohol, though decriminalization efforts are rapidly changing this reality. The study’s authors say their research points to fewer issues associated with cannabis use, but they also emphasize this may be because alcohol is more accessible. Until both drugs are widely available on a similar scale, it will be difficult to compare their effects.
- Cerda, M., Moffitt, T. E., Meier, M. H., Harrington, H., Houts, R., Ramrakha, S. . . . Caspi, A. (2016). Persistent cannabis dependence and alcohol dependence represent risks for midlife economic and social problems: A longitudinal cohort study. Clinical Psychological Science. doi:10.1177/2167702616630958
- Fact sheets – Alcohol use and your health. (2016, February 29). Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/alcohol-use.htm
- Is cannabis “safer” than alcohol? (2016, March 29). Retrieved from http://www.ucdmc.ucdavis.edu/welcome/features/2015-2016/03/20160323_cannabis-alcohol-study.html
- Newman, T. (2016, March 29). Cannabis vs. alcohol: Economic and social impacts. Retrieved from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/308283.php
© Copyright 2016 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved.
The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.