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Young people are far more likely to consider alcohol more harmful than marijuana, a new study has found.

Of the more than 1,900 people in Oregon asked by researchers from the Research Triangle Institute, an overwhelming 70.5 percent of those aged 18-34 believed alcohol is more harmful to a person's health.

And for people who declared they have used both marijuana and alcohol, 67.7 percent said alcohol was more harmful.


Jane Allen, a research public health analyst and the study’s author, said this is the first study that measures perceptions of the harmfulness of marijuana and alcohol. In the Preventive Medicinejournal, where the study was published earlier this month, she said:

The findings surprised me somewhat, because there is widespread acceptance of alcohol for adult recreational use, and in contrast, marijuana is classified at the federal level as a Schedule I drug.

There seems to be a disconnect between the social and legal status of the substances and people's perceptions of harmfulness.

Ms Allen and her team also noted that the legalising of the drug in Oregon will likely affect the use of other substances like opioids and alcohol. They added that greater availability of marijuana may reduce reliance on pain medicines and opioids. The authors said:

The relationship between marijuana and alcohol appears to be more complex; marijuana functions as a substitute for alcohol in some contexts and as a complement in others.

For this reason, it is unclear whether legalisation of marijuana for recreational use will increase or decrease the significant social costs associated with alcohol.

Which is worse for you: weed or vodka?

It's a tough call, but there are some studies and figures that point to alcohol.

In 2014, 30,722 people died from alcohol-induced causes in the United States – and that does not count drinking-related accidents or homicides. If those deaths were included, the number would be closer to 90,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Meanwhile, no deaths from marijuana overdoses have been reported, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. A 16-year study of more than 65,000 Americans, published in the American Journal of Public Health, found that healthy marijuana users were not more likely to die earlier than healthy people who did not use cannabis.

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