Which is more harmful – drugs or alcohol?

Which is more harmful – drugs or alcohol?

In more and more countries, alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana are legal for those over 21. How do they rate these substances in terms of their health? Three doctors speak out below.

It’s difficult to definitively rank them in order of their risks, as there have been no large randomized controlled studies among the substances,” said Michael L. Glickman, MD, a Washington, DC, family medicine and weight loss expert. He added that the amount of each substance consumed also greatly influences the adverse effects.

Alcohol more harmful than cannabis and tobacco.

Dr. Anand Akhil, a Cleveland Clinic behaviorist, also noted that each individual has his or her own risk factors based on family history, pre-existing conditions, and more. But when it comes to generalizing to the average person, he notes that alcohol is the most harmful, followed by tobacco. Akhil: “Alcohol consumption is associated with more than 200 health problems and diseases and damages every organ system in the body. Depression, anxiety, dementia, cancer, heart and liver disease, and bone disease can result from alcohol consumption. Tobacco use is also associated with serious cancers, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and cardiovascular disease.”

Dr. Kevin Most, medical director, Northwestern Central DuPage Hospital: “I would definitely put alcohol at number 1. Too much alcohol will affect many diseases. The harms of tobacco use can be largely reversed if people quit smoking at an early age.”

Glickman disagrees: “Tobacco is, in my opinion, the worst substance of the three, as it has no benefit, even in small amounts. Tobacco has been linked to an increase in heart disease, cancer, and premature death, among other things. Alcohol, on the other hand, can have benefits in light to moderate amounts, and risks in large amounts.” He said red wine, in particular, contains antioxidants, pointing to studies showing that a glass a day can reduce inflammation in blood vessels.

Cannabis less harmful

All three doctors classify cannabis as less harmful. Mostly because there are many medical applications that can help patients in the desired amount and in a controlled environment. Most: “It is often the only drug that maintains appetite in people undergoing chemotherapy. It ensures that patients get sufficient good nutrition.”

Glickman added that assessing the health effects of cannabis is more complicated than the other two. “The available evidence suggests that cannabis can be useful under medical supervision as part of a treatment plan for chronic pain, anxiety, trauma, insomnia, and muscle disorders, among others. However, it can also exacerbate certain psychological problems and affect memory and focus. The data suggest that there is an additional risk for young adults whose brains are not yet fully developed.”

In addition, Akhil noted, there are no guidelines for the safe use of cannabis or tobacco, as there are with alcohol. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and Health and Human Services states that adults can consume alcohol in moderation (up to two drinks per day for men, one drink for women). Gückman: “I think all three substances could have negative health effects, even in moderate amounts, depending on the person and the situation.”

Source: thehill.com (EN)

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