How Marijuana’s Side Effects Compare to Alcohol (Plus, Which Is Really Worse)?

Given a choice, which would you rather do: smoke or ingest marijuana or drink alcohol? Nearly 70% of Americans say drinking  alcohol is more damaging than smoking marijuana, according to a 2015 Pew Research study. And they are most likely correct.

Although marijuana is only recreationally legal  in nine states, plus Washington D.C., the tides of change are coming for weed. So what are the side effects when you drink alcohol versus smoking or ingesting marijuana? Let’s explore (Hint: No. 9 is heartbreaking).

1. For starters, alcohol is more addictive than marijuana

A woman lies on a bench after leaving a bar in Bristol City Centre

Alcohol can be very dangerous. | Matt Cardy/Getty Images

While you can develop an addiction to both alcohol and marijuana, alcohol is more addictive, The Atlantic reports. Comparing the two, approximately 9% of pot smokers will become dependent, whereas 15% of drinkers will become alcoholics, according to a study published by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Next: But drinking in moderation is better for your ticker. 

2. Drink for heart health

Friends hands toasting red wine glass and having fun outdoors cheering with winetasting - Young people enjoying harvest time together at farmhouse vineyard countryside - Youth and friendship concept

Alcohol can help increase good cholesterol levels. | ViewApart/iStock/Getty Images

While the impact of marijuana on heart health is inconclusive, drinking alcohol in moderation may slightly increase HDL (“good”) cholesterol, according to the American Heart Association. Although drinking wine or alcohol may provide anti-clotting benefits, exercise or aspirin may offer the same protection.

Next: One of these increases your cancer risk. 

3. Alcohol may increase your risk for certain cancers

Doctor talking to a patient

Cancer is a very real threat. | iStock.com/Minerva Studio

A growing body of evidence connects alcohol consumption with esophageal, head and neck, liver, breast, and colorectal cancer, according to Cancer.gov. Not only is alcohol carcinogenic, it damages the liver and dehydrates the skin.

Next: While the other may actually combat cancer. 

4. Marijuana may be beneficial during cancer treatment

packages medical marijuana

Medical marijuana may be the way to go. | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Biological compounds, called cannabinoids in marijuana may be used to combat nausea and vomiting from cancer treatment and increase appetite for patients with HIV, according to The American Cancer Society. Some researchers are investigating whether cannabinoids can slow or even defeat the growth of cancer tumors.

Next: You should never drive while under the influence of either. 

5. Driving is impaired for both

Driving while impaired is never a good idea. | iStock.com

While you should never drive or operate heavy machinery while under the influence, driving while high is less dangerous than driving drunk, Esquire reports. A study by The Marshall Project found driving under the influence of marijuana equates to driving with a blood alcohol level of .01 to .05, which is legal throughout the country. However, mixing weed and booze is a dangerous and combustible combination.

Next: Despite the thinking pot gives you the munchies, booze packs on more pounds. 

6. Alcohol makes you fat

It will pack on the pounds over time. | Voyagerix/ iStock/Getty Images Plus

A 2015 study found that those who smoked weed actually lost weight because they stopped drinking. Also, one beer has about 150 calories and a shot of liquor has 100 calories, according to CNN. Weed? Nothing. Alcohol consumption also makes you more likely to chow down and gain weight.

Next: Violent behavior is more prevalent with drinkers. 

7. Drinking may prompt violent behavior

Couple arguing while driving

Fights will definitely be more common. | AntonioGuillem/iStock/Getty Images

Rage, anger and violence is more commonplace among those who drink alcohol versus those who smoke pot,Dr. Aaron Carroll, a professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine, told CBS News. A 2014 study found couples who used marijuana had a lower rate of violence, whereas nearly 50% of domestic violence happens when alcohol comes into play.

Next: Psychological impacts occur with both. 

8. Drinking alcohol and marijuana use both have psychological impacts

Both substances can lead to psychological challenges. | Tommaso79/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Both substances have psychological consequences, which include memory impairment, paranoia, and panic for marijuana users. Brain impacts for drinkers include personality changes, memory loss, anxiety, and depression.

Next: One substance may lead to death, whereas the other one does not. 

9. Alcohol use is responsible for 88,000 deaths each year

Horrible car accident

This statistic is staggering. | RobertCrum/iStock/Getty Images

The CDC reports alcohol plays a part in hundreds of thousands of deaths every year, whereas marijuana use is responsible for no known deaths. Alcohol related deaths include homicide, suicide, alcohol poisoning, and driving while drunk. Chronic and terminal illness may also result from excessive alcohol consumption, which includes cancer, mental illness, and cognitive impairment.

Check out The Cheat Sheet on Facebook!