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Global Study Confirms Alcohol And Tobacco More Harmful Than Cannabis

By Roger Malespin (photo/istock.com/Smithore)

For decades marijuana users and even those who didn’t use but understood science, knew that pot was nowhere near as dangerous as alcohol and tobacco. Millions of people die from tobacco use every year all over the world, and alcohol abuse is directly responsible for countless instances of drunk driving deaths, domestic abuse, and various other violent crimes. None of these things or anything remotely close can be attributed to marijuana use, yet it was stigmatized for a long time as equally destructive. Now a year-long study by Global Statistics on Alcohol, Tobacco and Illicit Drug Use confirm what we all know - marijuana much less harmful than alcohol, tobacco, and other illicit drugs.

The study compiled data from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime as well as the World Health Organization, and studied the aforementioned substances and their level of addiction, effect on well-being, and overall life expectancy. The statistical breakdown is as follows:

Alcohol - Alarmingly, over 18 percent of people studied reported having a heavy alcohol episodic at least once every 30 days - that’s almost one in five people. Europeans constitute the highest demographic for alcohol dependence and heavy drinking. In Attributable disability‐adjusted life‐years (DALYs), which accounts for various detrimental health effects on the body, alcohol placed second with 85 million, and 33 deaths per 100k people.

Tobacco - The most deadly of the drugs, tobacco accounted for 15.2 percent of people using it daily, and the highest mortality rate at 110 per 100k people. North Americans were the highest consumers of tobacco daily but death rates were nearly equal with European users. DAYLs for tobacco were 180 million. 

Cannabis - In this study, cannabis was mixed in with other illicit drugs like cocaine and opioids, but we can determine which of these is the worst offender with other data about opioid and cocaine use. Illicit drugs accounted for just 6.9 deaths per 100k people, and 27 million DALYs, both significantly lower than alcohol or tobacco. The highest rates of addiction to illicit drugs were high-income North Americans. Since opioids are known to be the most deadly epidemic in America today, and marijuana is by far the cheapest of the drugs in this category, nearly all the 6.9 deaths per 100k can be attributed to opioid abuse or misuse. 
There has never been a credibly reported or recorded death from marijuana use in history. Ever. 

Conclusively, it is clear that tobacco smoking is by a long stretch the deadliest substance of this group - far deadlier than even second place alcohol. Alcohol is also very detrimental, with both direct and indirect deaths caused and high potential for long term addiction. Illicit drugs, while not as deadly, still account for tens of millions of damage costs for treatment and rehabilitation just like the others. Yet we can separate cannabis from others because there is zero percent mortality rate for it, and while the question of marijuana being addictive is inconclusive, no serious rehabilitation facility or doctor would put marijuana addiction on par with that of heroin and/or opioids. So yes, what we have all known most of our lives is true - cannabis is not a harmful substance, does not kill its users, and does not cost the state millions of dollars.