Is marijuana really no worse than alcohol?
Tue, 21 Jan 2014 22:55:31 GMT —
President Barack Obama is weighing in on the pot debate and his words don't come without controversy.
In an interview with the New Yorker magazine, the president says smoking pot isn't "more dangerous" than drinking alcohol.
He admitted to smoking pot when he was a kid and sees it as a bad habit he hopes his children will avoid.
Is the president right about marijuana being no more dangerous than alcohol?
The executive director of Shoreline Behavioral Health Services, a Grand Strand center for substance abuse treatment and counseling, says both drugs are harmful if used inappropriately, but when it comes to comparing the two, there are no easy answers.
John Coffin says the issue of whether marijuana is more dangerous than alcohol is almost a trick question because the two drugs don't do the same things to the people using them.
"Marijuana is what you'd refer to as a psychoactive drug," Coffin says. "Different receptors, different effects, really sort of hard to compare the two."
Coffin says there's evidence to suggest marijuana can be addictive, at least psychologically, if not physically. Some studies suggest the drug can have an impact on brain development in adolescents.
Rather than trying to figure out whether one drug is worse than the other, Coffin says he's more concerned with what's called poly substance abuse, when multiple drugs are used together.
"I would say that alcohol and marijuana combined are, I believe, more dangerous than either alcohol or marijuana alone."
Coffin says whether marijuana should be legalized is a question better left to politicians, though he's not necessarily in favor of making marijuana as easy to get as alcohol.
He worries that that could lead to more addiction problems, more impaired drivers on the roads and so on.
But he adds, simply criminalizing people who have substance abuse problems doesn't do them any good, either.
"I would be concerned about making something that's dangerous widely available, but I'm equally concerned about the criminalization of this, because I think it creates a whole host of other problems that we would like to avoid as a society," said Coffin.
Coffin says one good thing about the states that have legalized marijuana is that we'll learn a lot more about the effects of the drug. It's a chance to study how good an idea legalization really is.
Only Colorado and Washington state have legalized recreational marijuana. Twenty other states have laws to legalize medical marijuana.