Cannabis consumption is 114 times less risky than alcohol – study

24 Feb 2015

A new risk assessment study of some of the most common stimulants consumed by societies has good news for marijuana-use campaigners, with findings suggesting the drug is 114 times less risky than alcohol.

The study titled Comparative risk assessment of alcohol, tobacco, cannabis and other illicit drugs using the margin of exposure approach, looked at how common recreational drugs could put the people taking them at a greater risk of early death.

In determining this, the researchers looked at the ratio between what a toxic dose is for the consumption of a particular substance and what is the typical human intake.

When all this was calculated, alcohol topped the list, being the most common stimulant legally available in the vast majority of countries in the world.


Margin of exposure for daily drug use estimated using probabilistic analysis (left red bar: average; error bar: standard deviation; right grey bar: tolerant user; circle symbol (for alcohol): value based on human data). Graph via Dirk W Lachenmeiera and Jürgen Rehm

Following alcohol is the use of cocaine and heroin as substances that increase the risk of an early death more than other substances, but if the same amount of THC – the chemical substance that causes the mood-altering effects in cannabis – is consumed as alcohol, the former is put way ahead in terms of it being a low-risk drug.

The researchers, however, and The Washington Post, which highlighted the study, are quick to point out they don’t believe cannabis is a wonder drug with absolutely no effects. Much like anything consumed into the human body, an excess amount can lead to detrimental effects.

These findings will no doubt be debated for some time, given that governments and stakeholders in legal drugs, such as alcohol and tobacco, are quick to target cannabis use in particular as a more harmful drug both physically and from a socio-economic standpoint.

Cannabis image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic