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Alcohol vs. Marijuana: Which is Worse For You?

You have probably asked yourself, “What could possibly be worse?” Alcohol or marijuana? The topic of discussion seems to keep on resurfacing, with fresh research being published and more laws being passed to legalize the recreational and therapeutic use of marijuana.

11 Minutes Read | Published Aug 14 2023 | Updated Feb 26 2024 Expert Verified
Emma Collins
Written by
Jennifer Williams
Reviewed by
Emma Collins
Written by
Jennifer Williams
Reviewed by

For decades, our federal government and marijuana prohibition proponents have convinced the public that marijuana is so deadly that it must be kept illegal at all costs. They’ve inflated its potential for harm, promoted falsehoods about its social influence, and even spent hundreds of millions of dollars on TV advertising to persuade you that anyone who smokes marijuana is a loser who spends their days on the couch.

It’s time to clear the slate and look more closely at the facts surrounding marijuana. We’re not here to tell you that it’s completely free of side effects—what product is?—or that it’s a miracle drug. We only hope that you will see that it is significantly less hazardous than your government has claimed.

Marijuana is, in fact, extensively used in a manner comparable to that of alcohol. The majority of adults eat it when mingling with friends or unwinding after a long day at work. Others utilize it for therapeutic purposes, while some ingest it for medical reasons. Some people use it to treat arthritis, migraines, or to help them fall asleep and get a good night’s sleep, for example. Most Americans would agree that if done appropriately, this is not “bad,” “wrong,” or “immoral,” just as drinking a cocktail after work, a beer at a ballgame, or a glass of wine with dinner is not “bad,” “wrong,” or “immoral.”

Marijuana use is just something that some adults choose to do instead of drinking a cocktail, beer, or glass of wine. And it’s not without reason. Marijuana is less poisonous, addictive, and destructive to the body than alcohol, and it is less likely to lead to violent or irresponsible behavior.

Percentage of people who believe marijuana or alcohol should be prohibited

Since the 1960s, the strength or potency of THC—the psychoactive element in marijuana that causes the “high”—has continuously increased. Between 1995 and 2018, the average THC concentration in marijuana leaves more than quadrupled, rising from 3.96 percent to 15.61 percent. Marijuana is the most widely used addictive substance after alcohol and nicotine. Young adults have a high rate of marijuana use. Marijuana addiction can be both physically and psychologically addictive, wreaking havoc on a person’s life. There are concerns about rising rates of drug usage and addiction as marijuana becomes authorized for medical use in more states.

If only one could be legalized, more than half of people would choose marijuana over alcohol.

Marijuana consumption can be dangerous even if it isn’t fatal. In the short term, THC, one of marijuana’s chemical constituents, can cause changed moods, impaired physical movement, and hallucinations. Even more troubling, marijuana usage has the potential to cause brain damage in the long run.

In addition to memory loss and cognitive impairment, research on whether these effects are lasting is still equivocal. If given the choice, over two-thirds of marijuana users would vote to make it legal. Sixty-two percent of non-pot smokers would prefer that alcohol be made legal instead. Drinking alcohol, like a weed, has severe short-and long-term consequences.

Drinking too much, whether in a single occurrence or over time, has been found to affect the brain, heart, liver, and pancreas, as well as cause cancer in many forms. Higher potency is also linked to more severe dependence and a higher risk of developing psychosis and anxiety disorders in teens.

The Dangers of Alcohol and Weed

People frequently combine their use of alcohol and marijuana. Drowsiness delayed reflexes, and alterations in judgment and time perception are all impacts of both substances on the body and mind. When marijuana and alcohol are combined, both substances’ effects are increased, and severe reactions are possible. As a result of the combination, people may take unexpected or unsafe actions.

Not everyone reacts to marijuana, alcohol, or a combination of the two in the same manner, and many circumstances influence how a person reacts. Nonetheless, being aware of the potential implications of mixing these medications is beneficial.

Combining Marijuana and Alcohol

There has been little research into the long-term effects of drinking alcohol while smoking marijuana, also known as cannabis or marijuana. However, as more states legalize marijuana, the amount of existing research is likely to grow and evolve. At this time, the following are some of the recognized consequences of mixing marijuana and alcohol:

  1. Changes in perception: Both marijuana and alcohol can impair one’s judgment. If the two drugs are taken simultaneously, this effect may be increased. When used together, they can cause blackouts, memory loss, and an increased risk of engaging in risky activities. Using alcohol and marijuana at the same time increases the likelihood of unprotected intercourse with a partner, as well as other negative legal, educational, and related implications.
  2. Dehydration: Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it causes people to produce more urine. If they lose more fluid than they take in overtime, they may become dehydrated. If you combine cannabis with alcohol, this impact may be increased.
  3. Disorders of the mind: According to research from Trusted Source, frequent excessive alcohol consumption is linked to poor mental health, including psychological distress and low life satisfaction.
  4. Decreased mental capacity: Marijuana usage, particularly in the developing brain, has been linked to cognitive decline, poor attention and memory, and decreased IQ. Long-term use of both alcohol and marijuana may produce anatomical abnormalities in the brain, with the effects of combining both drugs being more pronounced. According to researchers, heavy cannabis users who also drink alcohol have poorer cognitive functioning than those who simply drink alcohol.
  5. Risks to one’s physical health in the long run: Any type of drug abuse, especially over time, can result in problems with The gastrointestinal tract, heart, system of defense, Kidney, and liver

Alcohol and marijuana Can both Be Addictive

Drug addiction can begin with social experimentation with a recreational drug, and for some people, drug use becomes more frequent. For others, drug addiction develops with exposure to prescribed medications or acquiring medications from a friend or relative who has been prescribed the medication, particularly with opioids.

The danger of addiction and the rate at which you become hooked differ depending on the drug. Some drugs, such as marijuana and alcohol, have a higher risk of addiction and lead to addiction faster than others.

While marijuana isn’t a dangerous chemical, it does have some characteristics in common with other illegal narcotics. Despite its expanding popularity and increasing legality, people who use marijuana for therapeutic or recreational purposes should be aware of dependency risks.

Marijuana usage issues have been linked to dependence and withdrawal symptoms, which can make people irritated, weary, restless, and physically uncomfortable after they stop using it. Alcohol, on the other hand, was seen as more addictive by both the men and women polled.

In reality, respondents ranked alcohol as somewhat to very addictive, whereas marijuana was rated as not very or somewhat addictive. While people who did not drink alcohol had a higher impression of addiction than those who did, even those who used both alcohol and marijuana reported that alcohol was more addictive than marijuana.

Drugs like alcohol and cocaine are more likely to cause addiction. However, marijuana, also known as cannabis, can lead to addiction. Marijuana addiction is not only real, but it may have a negative impact on the mental and physical health of individuals who use it on a regular basis.

This is particularly true for adolescents and young adults, whose brains are still maturing. Marijuana abuse during this vital period of brain development can have long-term consequences.

Predictors and outcomes of co-use of substances

Individuals’ cannabis use trajectories and alcohol use trajectories are connected (Martin et al., 1996; Pape et al., 2009), which may be explained either by shared risk factors or by the nature of the drugs, leading use of one to lead to the use of the other. (Martin et al., 1996; Pape et al., 2009). (Jackson et al., 2008).

People who use both cannabis and alcohol may be more likely to use more than one drug (McGue and Iacono, 2005; McGue et al., 2006; Zucker, 2006). This could be because of genetic vulnerabilities or a lack of behavioral self-control.

Alcohol and Marijuana Uses

People are not the same, and neither are the challenges they face. There are, however, a number of frequent reasons why kids begin to experiment with drugs or alcohol in the first place. More than 37% of participants admitted to using marijuana to help them sleep.

Marijuana users were also more likely than alcohol drinkers to indicate they used the drug when they were bored or wanted a creative boost. When discussing the genesis of substance use and misuse, as well as when advocating behavior change, the self-reported reasons for why people use alcohol and marijuana may be particularly crucial to understand.

In teenage and adult populations, four types of alcohol use reasons have been recognized and experimentally supported: social, enhancement, coping, and conformity. The most generally approved social drinking objectives are drinking to have fun with friends. Enhancement drinking objectives include getting high or feeling excited, and these motivations are linked to heavy alcohol consumption as well as marijuana and other substance usage.

A small percentage of adolescents drink to cope (e.g., to forget about troubles), and these people are more likely to drink alone, develop drinking problems, or overuse alcohol.

Alcohol, on the other hand, was overwhelmingly associated with more sociable goals. More than three-quarters of the participants said they drank when celebrating or socializing, with 62 percent saying they drank to make their experiences more enjoyable. People were also more likely to say that drinking alcohol rather than marijuana was a better way to unwind after work by more than 67 percent. While alcohol may provide an immediate sensation of relaxation from anxiety or tension, self-medication has major consequences. Conformity factors include drinking to fit in with a peer group and are linked to reduced alcohol use frequency and quantity. However, a year later, both alcohol and marijuana incentives were found to be connected to behavior.

What to Consider When Using Alcoholic Beverages or Marijuana

According to recent surveys, the public’s view of cannabis has improved over the past few years. Cannabis is no longer a dangerous narcotic that only a small minority of people use. Although it is more commonly accepted and used, marijuana is still consumed at significantly lower doses than alcoholic beverages.

People’s public behavior was more important to them than their addiction, attractiveness, or health, even if it was only a minor issue for both men and women. The prevalence of binge drinking has risen steadily in the United States, despite the fact that social media and even real-life social gatherings have done a good job of taming it. Alcohol consumption is on the rise. More and more young people are turning away from alcohol, according to data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Each activity’s likelihood of occurring when under the influence of alcohol or marijuana

Marijuana, weed, pot, dope, and grass are all terms used to describe marijuana. It’s the same medicine that comes from the cannabis plant, just with a different name for it. It can be consumed in a variety of ways, including smoking, vaping, drinking, and eating. The majority of those who use marijuana do so for enjoyment and recreation. A rising number of doctors, on the other hand, are prescribing it to treat specific medical disorders and symptoms.

People were more likely to go about their daily routines if they’d consumed marijuana rather than alcohol, aside from going out in public. People were marginally more likely to drive under the influence of marijuana if six out of ten respondents said they would be prepared to do so. Another thing to consider is that marijuana and THC are harder to detect in field sobriety tests than alcohol, which is why driving under the influence of alcohol is statistically more dangerous than driving under the influence of marijuana.

Crime rates are on the rise.

When it comes to which substances are most likely to put someone in danger of being wounded or hurting others, alcohol is widely believed to be the most dangerous.

According to a study on marijuana use and intimate partner violence conducted by the University of Michigan, couples who used marijuana had lower rates of intimate relationship violence throughout the first nine years of their marriage. As a matter of fact, guys who smoked marijuana were the least likely to engage in intimate partner violence against their spouses.


Driving stoned is safer than driving intoxicated, yet it is still a risky practice.

Marijuana is the most commonly found substance in drivers who have been in vehicle accidents, followed closely by booze. According to one study, marijuana use is associated with an 83 percent increase in the likelihood of a car accident. If you think that 83% is excessive, consider that the risk of an automobile accident increases by 2,200% when alcohol is involved.

A deadly car collision is far more likely when both alcohol and drugs are present in the driver’s system. What are we supposed to learn from this? Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is never a smart idea, especially when both are involved.

Which is worse for you?

Many times, when it comes to alcohol and marijuana, there are a lot of other things that need to be taken into account. Overwhelmingly, the people who took the survey thought that marijuana was bad. There was one other thing, though: the same people also said that they were more worried about the dangers of alcohol than they were about the dangers of nicotine.

People who have substance abuse or addiction are all different, and so are their journeys to recovery, but they all follow the same path. 


bullet Mahmoud A. ElSohly, Ph.D.,1,3 Zlatko Mehmedic, M.Sc.Pharm.,1 Susan Foster, B.A, Changes in Cannabis Potency over the Last Two Decades (1995-2014)
"Analysis of Current Data in the United States. 2017 Apr 1. ; Biol Psychiatry. 2016 Apr 1; 79(7): 613–619."
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bullet Appelboam, A., et al. (2006).
"Coma due to cannabis toxicity in an infant. European Journal of Emergency Medicine."
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bullet Jackson KM, Sher KJ, Schulenberg JE.
"Conjoint developmental trajectories of young adult substance use. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2008;32(5):723–737. [PMC free article] [PubMed] [Google Scholar] [Ref list]"
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bullet J AOAC Int 2020 Jun 4 [Epub ahead of print]
"Determination of chloramphenicol and nitrofuran metabolites in cobia, croaker, and shrimp using microwave-assisted derivatization, automated SPE, and LC-MS/MS–results from a U.S. Food and Drug Administration Level Three inter-laboratory study."
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