In our age of wellness and enrichment, people still like to have fun, but they want to monitor what they put into their bodies. A new Oregon study found that young people believe alcohol does more harm to their bodies that marijuana.
The study, led by researchers at RTI International, asked more than 1,900 Oregon adults prior to recreational marijuana legalization. Researchers found that more than half (52.5 percent) of participants believe alcohol is more potentially damaging to a person’s health than marijuana. Meanwhile only 7.5 percent consider cannabis the more harmful substance to a person’s health.
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The shifting tides, as we’ve seen in similar previous studies, is occurring in younger demographics. Of those aged 18-34, a stunning 70.5 percent of them said alcohol was more harmful than marijuana. For people who have tried both marijuana and alcohol, 67.7 percent said alcohol was worse for your health.
“This study is the first to measure perceptions of the relative harmfulness of marijuana and alcohol,” said Jane Allen, the study’s author and RTI’s public health search analyst. “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.”
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The RTI study notes that legalizing recreational marijuana will likely affect use of other substances, such as opioids and alcohol, and that perceptions of harmfulness may play a role. For example, research suggests that greater availability of marijuana may reduce reliance on opioids and other pain medications. 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 legalization of marijuana for recreational use will increase or decrease the significant social costs associated with alcohol.
For the past 40 years RTI has studied cannabinoids and the potentially positive and negative impacts the drug can have. You can learn more about RTI’s cannabis research here.