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Researchers: Alcohol Health Risks Underestimated, Marijuana Relatively Safe 398

schwit1 writes Compared to other recreational drugs — including alcohol — marijuana may be even safer than previously thought. And researchers may be systematically underestimating risks associated with alcohol use. They found that at the level of individual use, alcohol was the deadliest substance (abstract), followed by heroin and cocaine.
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Researchers: Alcohol Health Risks Underestimated, Marijuana Relatively Safe

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  • FFS (Score:5, Informative)

    by fyngyrz ( 762201 ) on Monday February 23, 2015 @05:53PM (#49114817) Homepage Journal

    This is only news to those who have had their head in the ground, listening to fox news and government shills.

    • Hopefully more of the anti-drug warriors will start actually listening to this stuff.

      Heroin isn't all that bad as long as it's medical quality and administered professionally.

      • Re:FFS (Score:5, Insightful)

        by sysrammer ( 446839 ) on Monday February 23, 2015 @06:05PM (#49114891) Homepage

        Heroin isn't all that bad as long as it's medical quality and administered professionally.

        I imagine the same thing can be said for alcohol.


        "I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy"

        • I don't think so. In university some pharmacy or chemistry guys could scrounge pure ethanol. (98 or 99%.) Screwdrives with that were nasty.

        • by gweihir ( 88907 )

          Actually, no. At the levels needed to get the desired effect, Alcohol is far more dangerous than Heroin.

          • Actually, no. At the levels needed to get the desired effect, Alcohol is far more dangerous than Heroin.

            That depends on so many different factors that it's a pointless thing to say. A person who has developed a tolerance for heroin might daily take what would be a near-lethal dose for others.

            The main thing here, though, is that OP is misleading. TFA explains (though not very straightforwardly) that they are measuring potential harm based not only on actual exposure, but also on the proportion of the population likely to be exposed. By that measure, alcohol being highest "risk" is a foregone conclusion.

            • Re:FFS (Score:4, Informative)

              by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Monday February 23, 2015 @09:23PM (#49116207)
              That's why "pure" heroine and professional administration eliminate OD. A hardened user that makes up his usual dose, and it's "borrowed" by a new user is how so many new users OD. That and the users that are used to one cheap line from one dealer, who switch to a more pure one, and OD from that. OD is caused by the illegality of it. Alcohol OD is caused by it being a poison. A touch of arsenic isn't deadly, nor is a touch of rat poison. But you don't want to use them regularly to unconsciousness, as so many do with alcohol.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        For every one of these research papers, there is another one citing the dangers of the drug. The same journal has a study showing pot-smoking teens are 60% less likely to finish high school than ones who don't. You can't cherry pick your science by headlines. The proper argument for legalizing should be freedom, not safety.

        • Re:FFS (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Dutchmaan ( 442553 ) on Monday February 23, 2015 @06:14PM (#49114955) Homepage
          There's a difference between physical danger and social effects.
          • Re:FFS (Score:5, Insightful)

            by mwehle ( 2491950 ) on Monday February 23, 2015 @06:28PM (#49115035) Homepage

            There's a difference between physical danger and social effects.

            Glad to see someone making this point. The article cited is about the relative lethal dose of various drugs. Discussion of the risks/benefits of marijuana use do not generally include a debate around the risk that someone will smoke to the point of death, unlike discussion of campus alcohol consumption, which must take into account frat and other alcohol poisoning deaths. Actual deaths, though, are not the most significant social effect of widespread alcohol or pot consumption.

          • Re:FFS (Score:5, Insightful)

            by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Monday February 23, 2015 @06:28PM (#49115045)

            There's a difference between physical danger and social effects.

            It is important to note that this study ONLY looks at the physical danger of the drug itself. I don't think it surprises even the most ardent opponent of weed that people very, very rarely die from THC overdose. That is NOT the reason they oppose it. The only meaningful comparison is when you include the "social effects", such as deaths from intoxicated driving, and also the economic cost of alcoholism, apathetic potheads, etc. But the argument that "weed is not as bad as alcohol" really isn't a convincing argument for legalization. Instead you need to compare the costs and benefits of legalized dope, with the costs and benefits of dope prohibition. I think that Colorado and Washington make a pretty clear case for legalization.

            • the best argument is the constitutional one.

              They needed an amendment to outlaw alcohol. so the same should hold true with X Y and Z
            • Good point. I'm befuddled by the recent trend of pot enthusiasts attacking alcohol and overstating it's dangers the way people overstate the dangers of pot. It's a weird way to try and prove your point.
            • Re:FFS (Score:4, Insightful)

              by rahvin112 ( 446269 ) on Monday February 23, 2015 @09:17PM (#49116185)

              Instead you need to compare the costs and benefits of legalized dope

              The only comparison that should be made is, does the guy smoking/drinking "X" impede on your personal rights. If the answer is no there shouldn't even be a law on the subject. Alcohol and drug prohibition do not work because they are trying to protect people from themselves. Prohibition actually makes the problem far worse by not only increasing the desire to do them, but putting crime networks behind the highly lucrative trade and sale.

              Prohibition has failed twice now, it doesn't work and you'd do well to acknowledge that fact. You'd also do well to get off the Nanny state bandwagon.

          • A significantly higher proportion of teens who smoke pot will go on to develop schizophrenia than those who don't. It is not a benign drug. You wouldn't get high if it was.
            • Re:FFS (Score:4, Informative)

              by dclydew ( 14163 ) <> on Tuesday February 24, 2015 @07:36AM (#49117957)

              Later studies (2013) debunked the older studies (2011 and before) that marijuana causes schizophrenia in teens. A Harvard study which included pot smokers and their families (both with and without psychotic illness). The data indicates that if you're genetically predisposed to psychotic illness, you're likely to have psychotic illness and marijuana may have an effect on onset age. If you're not genetically predisposed to psychotic illness, then you're not likely to have a psychotic illness, even if you're a teenage stoner. It appears that young people with genetic predisposition to psychotic illness may seek out self-medication with marijuana, but the numbers show a very strong correlation with family traits and no statistically significant correlation with Marijuana use.


              That's not to say that Marijuana is completely without risks, especially in adolescents with a predisposition to genetic or psychological issues. However, most recent studies do seem to indicate that without the predisposition, 'harm' is relatively limited. In adults, most recent studies indicate no long term effects at all.

              Its a shame that the government shut down research on marijuana for so many decades. Who knows how many people could have been helped if doctors had accurate information.

        • Re:FFS (Score:4, Insightful)

          by 0123456789 ( 467085 ) on Monday February 23, 2015 @06:17PM (#49114975)
          Causation is hard to identify in your example though: does smoking pot encourage teens to drop out; or are the teens that are on track to drop out, more likely to smoke pot?
          • Don't confuse the issue with your pesky linear time. I see your very username itself is stuck in opposite brain wrongthinking forward modes [].
          • Causation is hard to identify in your example though: does smoking pot encourage teens to drop out;

            The answer is absolutely yes, it can cause some kids to drop out of school.

            I have witnessed my best friend go from a straight A student throughout high school to dropping out the last half of his senior year so he could smoke pot. This set him back a long way, and he had to go back and get a GED 3 years later. It was a clear case of pot's impact on this particular kid, it didn't have the same impact on my or other close friends who all started about that time.

          • See also: gateway drugs.

        • by gweihir ( 88907 )

          While I agree on freedom, careful study of the research results show that the "War on Drugs" is not fact-based. That can be used to discredit its proponents.

        • Re:FFS (Score:5, Informative)

          by MillionthMonkey ( 240664 ) on Monday February 23, 2015 @08:45PM (#49115971)

          The same journal has a study showing pot-smoking teens are 60% less likely to finish high school than ones who don't.

          I would suspect alcohol also has an undesirable effect on high school graduation rates.

      • Re:FFS (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Bender Unit 22 ( 216955 ) on Monday February 23, 2015 @06:41PM (#49115125) Journal

        I think the anti-drug warriors are more interested in the money that are to be made from "fighting" drugs and locking people up.

        • Really, it's what happens when you politicize a topic. All of the facts fly out the window and it becomes special interest and ideology.

          It's the epitome of Colbert's 'truthiness' about the way he feels in his gut about the facts.

      • Re:FFS (Score:5, Interesting)

        by gweihir ( 88907 ) on Monday February 23, 2015 @07:08PM (#49115341)

        Indeed. There are quite a few older heroin addicts that are productive member of society. They tend to have money and education, as the unregulated market is the main risk. These results just show that the "War on Drugs" is not something rational and does untold harm.

    • clearly. The news has been overwhelming for decades now the studies have been done (and buried) by the government since at least 76.
    • This is only news to those who have had their head in the ground, listening to fox news and government shills.

      I've noticed that it seems to be mostly Republicans who are putting up the legalization legislation trial balloons.

      (Can't speak about Fox. I don't follow 'em all that much since, during the (especially the last) presidential campaigns, they proved the right-hand side of their claimed "fair and balanced" coverage consisted of flogging the Neocon faction and ignoring or slamming the others - especial

    • 'Even Casual Marijuana Use Harms Young Brain, Study Finds' http://www.elementsbehavioralh... [] Marijuana might not be dangerous in a fully developed brain, but it causes damage to a young one. Sure, many used it years ago and nobody became a depressed looser... Or, did they?
    • In other news the risk of becoming an informed citizen after reading slashdot comments is also close to zero.

      The risk of the opposite gets closer to 100% every day...
    • I wonder where other common items in the diet would fall.

      How does table salt compare against booze ounce for ounce?

      Big deal, you can eat an entire plant and live. This does not mean I'm going to not have any salt, as it is essential to life. Moderation is essential with most everything consumed. in large amounts, drinking water is deadly.

      By no means am I suggesting you should not ever drink any water or anything containing water as ingredient. Same for alcohol. Limit intake to safe levels.

  • Stupid Graphic (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 23, 2015 @06:02PM (#49114877)

    This headline is based on a comparison of a recreational dose versus a lethal dose, not a study of long term health effects.

    • Is it not true? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by gatfirls ( 1315141 ) on Monday February 23, 2015 @07:54PM (#49115657)

      Pointing out that MJ is relatively safe (from accidental overdose) after decades of propaganda showing it to be a "dangerous" drug and comparing it to other "dangerous" drugs is a pretty important message.

      Especially when you drop alcohol underneath the really nasty stuff.

      It's making a really valid point. You put alcohol abuse up against MJ and the others for long term health affects you will probably see smoking climb the chart and fight alcohol for top run while MJ stays the same.

  • by fustakrakich ( 1673220 ) on Monday February 23, 2015 @06:02PM (#49114879) Journal

    We've known this for many years. It doesn't matter in a dogmatic political system that profits from human suffering.

  • by pla ( 258480 ) on Monday February 23, 2015 @06:02PM (#49114881) Journal
    FWIW, TFA talks about the therapeutic index (LD50 vs effective dose) of these drugs, not their long-term effects.

    So no, this doesn't add more information to the "alcohol is good for you this week / alcohol is bad for you next week" debate. Just saying that we typically drink a significant fraction of the amount it would take to kill us.
  • Ratio..? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ichthus ( 72442 ) on Monday February 23, 2015 @06:07PM (#49114911) Homepage
    Ratio between toxic dose and typical human intake? That's their scale. Pretty meaningless. Yeah, put water on that scale, and I'd bet it would be somewhere down around heroin's risk.
    • Re:Ratio..? (Score:4, Informative)

      by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Monday February 23, 2015 @06:31PM (#49115067) Homepage
      That's simply not true.

      But there are quite a few substances people think are 'harmless' that if you consume more than the normal dose you can kill yourself.

      Chief on the list is salt substitute. Many people buy the 'low sodium salt substitute" Potassium Chloride to replace table salt Sodium Chloride. But it is the exact same substance used by several states to execute death penalty cases.

      Nut meg is also up there, along with our friend Vitamin A

      All three of those substances are typically sold to consumers in containers that, if used all at once, can kill you.

      • Chief on the list is salt substitute. Many people buy the 'low sodium salt substitute" Potassium Chloride to replace table salt Sodium Chloride. But it is the exact same substance used by several states to execute death penalty cases.

        Misleading. It's deadly when injected. So are many other things, including table salt. There is a substantially bigger safety buffer when eating it.

      • No, he's right. The LD50 dose for water is somewhere around 6-10L in a sitting. With an average "dose" of maybe .5-1L, this would put it in the same range as alcohol. Of course, it is incredibly difficult to actually achieve that, since the quantity consumed is so large, which incidentally is the exact problem with comparing alcohol and heroin on this basis. Consuming a lethal dose of alcohol is generally a time consuming process, injecting a lethal dose of heroin is no more complicated than injecting a
      • by unrtst ( 777550 )

        That's simply not true.

        What isn't true? That water can kill you in high doses, or that the ratio between toxic dose and normal intake would rank it fairly high on their charts?
        If you drink enough water within a relatively short time frame, you will die. Look it up. You have to drink a lot, but it's not an obscene or unreachable goal, though you would probably be very uncomfortable.

        Nutmeg's ratio wouldn't come close on their chart. Sure, it's sold in quantities that *may* kill a human, maybe a child, but the regular dose is a ligh

  • We should also legalize heroin and cocaine.

  • Whatever (Score:3, Insightful)

    by irrational_design ( 1895848 ) on Monday February 23, 2015 @06:09PM (#49114931)
    Alcohol is good for your health! Alcohol is bad for your health! Smoking is good for your health (says the 1940s doctor)! Smoking is bad for your health! Marijuana is bad for your health! Marijuana is good for your health! The only guarantee is that next year what is good will be bad and what is bad will be good.
    • Wait, what?
      When was alcohol considered really good for your health?
      When was marijuana considered really bad for your health?
      The worst side effects for marijuana have always been those linked to prohibition :
      * landing in jail
      * supporting mafia

      As far as marijuana being possibly linked to mental illness, I think it's more of a correlation than causation.
      The same goes for those studies about heavy marijuana use at a young age. If you can smoke pot all day long at 14, I think you're life isn't screwed solely bec

      • Alcohol - [] Marijuana - I'm pretty sure the police officer who talked to us in 3rd grade said that we would die if we smoked marijuana. I consider death to be bad for my health ;-)
      • When was marijuana considered really bad for your health?

        Marijuana is still a Schedule I drug. The Federal government classifies it as a poison. Meth, BTW, is a Sched II drug, less harmful than pot, according to the Feds.
        • Meth, BTW, is a Sched II drug, less harmful than pot, according to the Feds.

          Which is completely ridiculous, anyone who has ever met meth heads & pot heads can tell you that meth is far more dangerous.

    • So, according to your model, we'll all be able to drink hydrofluoric acid next year? I'll let you go first.

    • There is a tremendous amount of ignorance and stupidity the world over. People get ideas from random sources, make their choices, and are very prone to making the mistake of believing everything they think. So we have people who *still* swear by Laetrile as a cure for cancer, or Scientology as a cure for arthritis caused by grumpy souls stuck in their elbows.

      However, science offers a way out of the maze: the idea that ideas are only as valuable as they can be *validated* by peer review and experimentation.

      • The question is, when do you know the science is "finished"? I swear every year there is a new study saying something is good for you, followed by more studies saying it's bad for you, then more saying it's good for you. Sometimes it seems like science flip-flops worse than a politician. I'm not saying that science or the scientific method isn't great, it's just hard to know when to know the final word is in to know whether it is beneficial to ingest some substance to improve my health.
        • by mcrbids ( 148650 )

          It never is, and never will be if all goes well. Wouldn't you rather be honest about what you (don't) know than work on stupid old data, like "cloved hooves are bad to eat"??

          We continuously learn more, and the "flip flops" are the result of continuously better understandings. Your life expectancy has increased as a result, and this continues to improve each and every year.

          • Yes, but I have kids and we've always been told not to feed them peanuts till they are a certain age. Now it looks like that was bad advice. [] But, how do I know that a new study won't come out next year that will say "Hold everything! Giving babies peanuts is actually a deadly thing to do!" It's just so frustrating that it causes paralysis to set in since I don't know when to trust the science and when not to trust the science. In this case, the science is saying to give k
      • Heh, I just saw a link to this article on USA Today ;-) []
  • Useless comparison (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wbr1 ( 2538558 ) on Monday February 23, 2015 @06:27PM (#49115027)
    I drink.. I used to smoke, and I used to smoke marijuana, but I wont bore you with anecdotal personal stories. TFA mainly looks at the ratio of LD50 compared to the effective dose. For alcohol, the LD50 is close to the dose many consume. Closer than the LD50 of THC is to the used dosage. By that measure, LSD is safer than asprin because the ration there is so far apart.

    Yes alcohol has long term health effects, so does any other substance. Eating has long term health effects. The real measurements are immediate risk, long term risk, and gain from consumption.

    This addresses none of those in a useful fashion.

  • This sounds like one of those "Listening to Mozart makes your kid smart, while listening to heavy metal makes them dumb" articles. As in, it's targetted to appeal to the audience. I'm guessing the majority of /. are hopheads? (no offence)

    And no, I didn't RTFA.
  • It wasn't too long back that the government told us marijuana and homosexuality were such dangerous threats to the underlying moral fabric of society that people had to go to jail over them. What does this tell us about the government and the society we live in?
    • I think it says that the social policies were more about puritanism than science. When we make policy based on fear and ignorance instead of any actual evidence of harm then we're bound to have to change our minds as it becomes more and more obvious the policies are stupid. The sad thing is how invested we are in the war on drugs which has clearly made things worse rather than better. Making something forbidden often just makes it more desirable.
  • Protip (Score:5, Insightful)

    by allcoolnameswheretak ( 1102727 ) on Monday February 23, 2015 @06:44PM (#49115147)

    Do whatever you enjoy in life. Drink, smoke, eat meat, take drugs. Don't listen to the alarmists, everything is bad for you. Instead, learn to enjoy in moderation, at the right moments.

    Just don't let it become a habit. There is no savor in habits, only self contempt and other bad things, like addiction.

    • Re:Protip (Score:5, Insightful)

      by msobkow ( 48369 ) on Monday February 23, 2015 @07:24PM (#49115435) Homepage Journal

      Somebody beat me to it. :)

      No matter what you do in life, you are going to die. There is no escaping that.

      So live a life of wonder, mystery, and enjoyment, rather than spending it fretting about exactly what might be the thing that kills you. Eat a bacon sandwich. Put cream in your coffee. Have a steak once in a while. Have a doughnut once a month. And by all means, have a glass of wine with your meal and spark a bowl of cannabis afterwards.

  • ...thank God.

  • by viperidaenz ( 2515578 ) on Monday February 23, 2015 @07:16PM (#49115385)

    Woman drinks 30 - 40 glasses of water and dies. * []

    You're 'supposed' to drink 8 glasses a day. A 5x increase of water intake can lead to death.

    Women are 'supposed' to limit themselves to 2 standard drinks per day. Drinking 10 standard drinks does not result in death.

    • You are silly. Try eight 8 oz glasses of vodka and get back to us on how much safer than water that is.

  • The abstract link from the summary goes to a page that has the full-text of the paper, however the paper refers to another paper [] for the actual methods. Digging into that paper [] (which is helpfully available full-text from anywhere - or at least from my home which certainly has no journal subscriptions) gives us:

    The assessment of toxicological endpoints and BMD for the selected known and suspected human carcinogens was generally based on literature data, as own doseâ"response modeling would have gone beyond the scope of our study. Suitable risk assessment studies including endpoints and doseâ"response modeling results were typically identified in monographs of national and international risk assessments bodies such as WHO IPCS, JECFA, US EPA and EFSA. For substances without available monographs or with missing data on doseâ"response modeling results, the scientific literature in general was searched for such data. Searches were carried out in September 2011 in the following databases: PubMed (US National Library of Medicine, Bethesda, MD), Web of Science (Thomson Reuters, Philadelphia, PA), Scopus (Elsevier B.V., Amsterdam, The Netherlands) and Google Scholar (Google, Mountain View, CA).

    The BMD/MOE approach was used for risk assessment.13, 14 In short, the BMD is the dose of a substance that produces a predetermined change in response rate (benchmark response) of an adverse effect compared to background based on doseâ"response modeling.14 The benchmark response is generally set near the lower limit of responses that can be measured (typically in the range of 1â"10%). The result of BMD-response modeling can then be used in combination with exposure data to calculate a MOE for quantitative risk assessment. The MOE is defined as the ratio between the lower one-sided confidence limit of the BMD (BMDL) and estimated human intake of the same compound. It can be used to compare the health risk of different compounds and in turn prioritize risk management actions. By definition, the lower the MOE, the larger the risk for humans; generally, a value under 10,000 used to define public health risks.15

    So really, this is about the overall health risks of a substance. Certainly important but that is far from being an endorsement of any of the substances for routine use.

  • FTFA "A comparative risk assessment of drugs including alcohol and tobacco using the margin of exposure (MOE) approach was conducted. The MOE is defined as ratio between toxicological threshold (benchmark dose) and estimated human intake ....The benchmark dose values ranged 531mg/kg bodyweight for alcohol (ethanol)"

    So that's 1/2 a g per kg, or say 50g for me. A bottle of wine masses 750g, and at 13% would contain 97.5 g of alcohol

    So according to this paper if I drink half a bottle of wine without excr

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