What Is More Dangerous, Marijuana or Alcohol?

Here's a good question posed by Stephen Dubner and the folks at Freakonomics: What is more dangerous, marijuana or alcohol?

Let’s try pretending that we're starting from scratch, Dubner says. If we didn't know either of them actually existed, how would we weigh the benefits and costs of marijuana and alcohol? 

He asks David Nutt, a psychiatrist at Imperial College London and former chairman of the U.K.’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, how dangerous alcohol is. Nuts is former chairman, notice. He was fired because he insisted that alcohol and cigarettes are more dangerous than cannabis and ecstasy. Here’s what Nutt says about alcohol:

“It’s a significant factor in high blood pressure and heart damage; it’s the most damaging drug to the brain,” he says. “We know that alcohol is strongly associated with acquisitive crime, burglary, with violence generally, particularly with domestic violence, child abuse…”

He also says: it’s the leading cause of death in the world today after tobacco.


It’s fair to say, after listening to at least the first half of this podcast that alcohol is not something you would choose if it just became legal, like, yesterday. If you looked at the stats, you would say "there is something wrong with this substance." You would run around trying to make sure people didn’t drink alcohol. It’s just too dangerous. (Though, heaven knows we tried that and it didn’t work.)

And what about marijuana? Well... I’m not going to give it all away, but let’s just say there are lots of benefits to marijuana. Benefits that we haven’t fully explored.

The podcast's worth a listen, especially in the changing cultural world of marijuana today and might actually take you to a higher place.