Alcohol vs. Marijuana: Which Is Really Worse for Your Health?

Marijuana and alcohol are two substances present at many parties across America. Ask a number of people which substance is worse for your health, and you’ll probably get mixed responses. Ahead, we compare alcohol and marijuana and how they impact your health.

Keep this information in mind while reading:

  • Dozens of factors must be considered when comparing alcohol and marijuana
  • How the substances affect your heart, brain, and behavior are three of those factors
  • Scientists have studied alcohol for years
  • There’s less scientific research on marijuana

Many people die as a result of alcohol use

a man staring into a glass of brown alcohol

Alcohol can become addictive. | OcusFocus/iStock/Getty Images Plus

In 2015, alcohol-related deaths totaled 33,171, according to the Center for Disease Control. The CDC’s statistic doesn’t include accident or homicide related deaths. If the number did include those types of deaths, the number would be much higher.

Hint: Marijuana deaths are much lower than alcohol-related deaths.

No one has died as a result of marijuana use

Smoking Marijuana

But is the drug really safer? | MrKornFlakes/iStock/Getty Images

No one has died from an overdose of marijuana, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. While the side effects of marijuana are concerning, no one’s died from using the drug. A study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, found that marijuana users weren’t more likely to die earlier compared to non-users. The study analyzed people’s smoking habits among people ages 15 to 49 over the course of six years.

Hint: Marijuana isn’t as addictive as alcohol.

Alcohol is more addictive

two glass cocktail, in low light inside a pub background

How often can you really only have “just one drink.” |

Compared to marijuana, alcohol is more addictive, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. In a 1994 survey, of respondents who had tried marijuana at least once, approximately nine percent were considered addicts. Alcohol users who were considered addicts reached 15 percent.

Hint: Think twice about smoking pot if you have a history of heart disease.

Marijuana is hard on the heart

Hand Holding Small Marijuana Leaf with Cannabis Plants in Background

Your heart health may be in jeopardy. | OpenRangeStock/iStock/Getty Images

“The risk of heart attack is several times higher in the hour after smoking marijuana than it would be normally,” according to an article in Harvard Health Publishing, part of Harvard Medical School. Those suffering from heart disease who are stressed, “develop chest pain more quickly if they have been smoking marijuana than they would have otherwise.” This happens because marijuana raises the resting heart rate, dilates blood vessels, and makes the heart pump harder.

Hint: Drinking alcohol may be good for you.

Having an occasional drink may be beneficial to health

Red wine glasses and bottle on stone table. Top view with copy space

Red wine, in particular, has health benefits. | karandaev/iStock/Getty Images

Drinking alcohol in moderation — moderation being the keyword here — may be good for your heart, according to the Mayo Clinic. Moderate alcohol use is linked with the following possible benefits: 1) reducing the risk of getting or dying of heart disease, 2)  reducing the risk of ischemic stroke — when the arteries to the brain become blocked — and 3) reducing risk of diabetes.

Hint: One of two substances is linked to cancer.

Alcohol is linked to cancer

Inclined Glass of beer

But the cancer connection is all too real. | photologica/iStock/Getty Images

In November 2017, cancer doctors released a statement asking people to cut back on drinking. The reason being they found a link between drinking and several types of cancer. “They found strong evidence that drinking one glass of wine or beer a day increases the risk of developing both pre- and postmenopausal breast cancer,” according to Business Insider.

Hint: Which is worse for your health? Smoking pot of drinking alcohol? We answer.

Alcohol may be worse than marijuana

A marijuana plant is pictured as a bartender opens wine at a cannabis food event

Here are our thoughts. | JASON REDMOND/AFP/Getty Images

Comparing marijuana and alcohol, research suggests marijuana is the lesser of two evils, according to Business Insider. However, there’s a big caveat to consider. As mentioned earlier, alcohol has been studied by scientists for a long time. Marijuana’s most illegal status, all of the long term effects are still unknown. Without a doubt, more research needs to be conducted on marijuana and how the drug helps or harms the body.

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Read more: The Biggest Changes in States Where Marijuana Became Legal