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Pot is 114 Times Safer Than Booze, Says Study

New research finds pot is the least deadly among recreational drugs by far.

By Cliff Weathers / AlterNet

February 24, 2015


Photo Credit: Gabriel12/Shutterstock

A new report, by the journal Scientific Reports , finds that marijuana is far safer than other recreational drugs, including and especially alcohol.

Pot may be as much as 114 times safer than booze, say the researchers. The study also maintains that past research into alcohol has systematically underestimated the risks associated with its use.

The study sought to quantify the risk of death associated with the use of common recreational drugs. Alcohol, they found, was the deadliest substance, followed by heroin and cocaine. The safest drug was marijuana; it was also the only drug in the study that had a low mortality risk for users.

Unlike other studies into drug toxicity, the study did not use historical death counts associated with recreational drug used to come to its findings. Instead, the study weighed the potential lethal doses of a substance compared with the amount a typical user might consume. Booze posed the greatest risk to its users when comparing a fatal dose to typical recreational use.

This is not the first study to find that marijuana is significantly safer than other recreational drugs, including booze. A 2003 study by the School of Behavioral and Organizational Science at Claremont Graduate University produced similar results and rankings.

Rather than focusing on death counts as others have, researchers Dirk W. Lachenmeier and Jurgen Rehm instead determined lethal dose levels and gauged the amounts that people are known to use.

“The risk of cannabis may have been overestimated in the past,” wrote the two researchers. “In contrast, the risk of alcohol may have been commonly underestimated.”

The study comes just week after a police in Colorado reported that recreational marijuana use has caused no notable impact on health and crime. A spokesperson for the Denver Police told CBC World News that there “hasn’t been much of a change of anything,” and that “officers aren't seeing much of a change in how they do police work...the sky isn't falling."

After a year of legal marijuana, Colorado has suffered no rise in crime. In Denver, rates for impaired driving, property crime and violent crime have all dropped. Drug use among minors is also down. The only notable change to Colorado is that thousands of jobs were created in the marijuana industry.

Cliff Weathers is a senior editor at AlterNet, covering environmental and consumer issues. He is a former deputy editor at Consumer Reports. His work has also appeared in Salon, Car and Driver, Playboy, Raw Story and Detroit Monthly among other publications. Follow him on Twitter @cliffweathers and on his Facebook page.