Author: Charles Frank

Weed Vs Booze: Is Either One Less Harmful To Your Health?

alcohol vs weed

“I’ve found cannabis to be very useful, particularly this year, because it’s a relaxing experience; it’s a unifying experience rather than something that makes me feel aggressive or overly emotional,” says Egan. People’s responses to each substance can vary greatly, so what seems safer for one person might not work for someone else. While being intoxicated with weed feels different than being intoxicated with alcohol, the two have roughly the same effect on your cognitive abilities, reflexes, and judgment. Our experts continually monitor the health and wellness space, and we update our articles when new information becomes available. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), 15 million people in the United States deal with it.

  1. On the surface, weed appears to be safer, but there’s simply not enough evidence to declare a winner.
  2. But if you’re looking to make an informed choice between one or the other, Newell Bissex says that edibles are a safer option.
  3. “If you’re hungover, only having two or three hours of sleep isn’t very helpful,” she says, adding that she got “killer” hangovers but hasn’t experienced cannabis burnout.
  4. While one person might feel relaxed while drunk, another might feel restless.
  5. Both weed and alcohol can carry a potential for misuse and addiction, but this appears to be more common with alcohol.

Whether you consume alcohol or edibles, the choice is up to you. There are so many reasons why someone may choose to use alcohol or edibles, and both options aren’t without risk. But if you’re looking to make an informed choice between one or the other, Newell Bissex says that edibles are a safer option. “I would not have believed this for the vast majority of my life, but research shows that the deleterious effects of alcohol—physical, mental and societal—are far worse than with cannabis consumption,” she says. If you use either cannabis or alcohol and feel like you may be developing substance use disorder, reach out to your primary medical provider or another trusted source for support.

Alcohol or Marijuana: Which is Worse for Your Brain?

In fact, he says, using cannabis for pain in lieu of NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen, is better for your kidneys. Since cannabis doesn’t cause cirrhosis or liver failure, edibles are also much safer for the liver, he adds. Nobody has to tell you that alcohol goes straight to your head. Once it gets there, it messes with your brain’s communication system, affecting your judgment, mood and coordination, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. On the mild end of the spectrum, that can make you feel pleasantly tipsy. However, a few too many can have devastating consequences, such as falls, accidents and impaired judgement, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

alcohol vs weed

Sure, research on the topic is ramping up a bit, but there’s still a lack of large, long-term studies. Rebecca Jesseman is director of policy at the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA), an NGO that aims to reduce the harms of substance use. She finds it difficult to say whether cannabis is less harmful than alcohol, in part because there is much more research about the clear harms of alcohol use. The 45-year-old used to reach for sangria or a gin and tonic after work, but when she hit her mid-30s, and perimenopause, she started to really feel it—in a bad way.

Jennifer Brasch, lead of addiction psychiatry for the mental health and addictions program at St. Joseph’s Healthcare in Hamilton, Ont., says alcohol can induce or exacerbate mood and anxiety disorders and contribute to dementia. Statistics Canada has said that the increase in cannabis consumption is likely because the drug has become more socially acceptable, and the number of retail outlets and products has been growing. Another reason could be that many women, like Egan, think that cannabis is better for their physical and mental health. Comparing the long-term health effects of alcohol and edibles is a little bit like comparing apples and oranges. “The combination of these products being relatively new plus the regulatory barriers to conducting cannabis research means that we know far less than we would like to about their short- and long-term effects on health and behavior,” Matthay explains.

Research shows that alcohol at any dose can help you fall asleep faster, but it can also disturb your sleep later in the night. Plus, there’s the issue of varying methods of consumption. The way you consume weed can have a big impact on its short- and long-term effects. For example, smoking is rough on your lungs, but this risk doesn’t apply to edibles.


Excessive alcohol can also flood the body with toxins that may harm your heart, liver, pancreas, gut, lungs, kidneys and immune system, says the NIAAA. Still, she encourages women with a family history of such disorders to be cautious about using cannabis. “Whether it’s a chicken or an egg, certainly avoiding a psychotic disorder should be a priority,” she says. “Cannabis and alcohol have very different effects on the brain and there will be social implications,” says Grinspoon. “For example, cannabis can make you peaceful, increase your connection with other people and give you personal insights, while alcohol can make people loud and bellicose,” he says. There is one caveat, and that’s if a person uses both alcohol and edibles together, which is the least healthy option.

Reactions to weed and alcohol differ from person to person. There are countless cannabis products on the market and a number of consumption options, from vaping to edibles. While Stockwell acknowledges that more research is needed into the health effects of cannabis, he points out that there have been many longitudinal studies of people who use it.

alcohol vs weed

Alcohol exacerbated her hot flashes, insomnia, night sweats, nausea, dizziness and stomach issues. Cannabis addiction is surprisingly common, however, according to 2015 study. It’s also important to remember that there aren’t many high-quality, long-term studies on weed and its effects. If you do get hungover, you might experience other effects, including headaches and diarrhea. Getting drunk or high can feel similar to some people, while others describe the sensations as very different.

Both weed and alcohol can carry a potential for misuse and addiction, but this appears to be more common with alcohol. Weed seems to have fewer long-term risks than alcohol, but again, there’s a huge discrepancy in the amount of research on weed compared with alcohol. Both can also leave you feeling a bit worse for wear the next day, though this is more likely to happen with alcohol. Weed may appear to be safer than alcohol simply because we aren’t yet aware of certain risks.

Chronic use and chronic conditions

Like alcohol, cannabis can also impair your ability to drive, doubling the risk of having a car accident, according to the UCLA Center for Cannabis and Cannabinoids. While scientists have been looking into whether cannabis can help treat a wide range of health issues—such as alcohol-use disorder, perimenopause symptoms and even COVID-19—they typically conclude that more research is needed. Still, people in the cannabis industry often jump on early positive results to push their products and services. Brasch adds that both alcohol and cannabis should be avoided during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

“If there was a huge problem, we’d likely know about it,” he says. Melissa Egan and her wife, Kasha, enjoy kicking back with some craft beverages and tasty appetizers on the weekend. But forget wine and cheese—this Toronto couple prefers cannabis drinks and edibles. Sian Ferguson is a freelance health and cannabis writer based in Cape Town, South Africa. She’s passionate about empowering readers to take care of their mental and physical health through science-based, empathetically delivered information.

“I would say that alcohol is more addictive, and that the addiction is far more life-destroying than cannabis use disorder,” says Grinspoon. “That said, people can become addicted to cannabis, and they need to be treated with skill, empathy and compassion.” On the flip side, cannabis may have some genuine health benefits. Although alcohol was once believed to protect against heart disease, the latest research in JAMA Network Open reveals that alcohol may not be so great for your heart after all and has lots of other downsides. Alcohol can also cause several heart, digestive and endocrine conditions, while cannabis hasn’t been definitively linked to any—yet.

While alcohol is usually fully metabolized within four to eight hours, edibles don’t even start to peak until after four hours after you eat them, and effects can last for as long as 12 hours, says Newell Bissex. Edibles are cannabis-infused foods like gummies, brownies and muffins. They get their buzz-promoting properties from a substance in the cannabis plant called tetrahydrocannabinol (aka THC), explains the National Institute on Drug Abuse. “But if overconsumed, edibles may cause anxiety, panic, paranoia, dizziness, rapid heart rate and altered perception,” she says.

Your Body on Alcohol

At first glance, it might seem that alcohol does the most damage to our brain health and general well-being because it is more widely used. Over 85% of American adults say they’ve consumed alcohol at some point in their lives, and nearly 70% say they’ve had a drink in the past year, as reported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Compare that to just 18% of Americans who said they used marijuana in 2019, according to the CDC.

Short-term effects

“Alcohol can be a significant sleep disruptor, while low-dose edibles tend to calm the body to promote a restful night’s sleep, without unpleasant side effects or next-day grogginess,” says Newell Bissex. Still, it’s important not to rely too much on edibles for sleep. If you’re thinking of trying cannabis to treat a health condition, Jesseman urges you to consult a health care practitioner and not the internet. Jesseman also cautions that it was difficult to study cannabis before it was legal. “We’ve had decades and generations to look at the health impacts of alcohol use, whereas we’re just starting to scratch the surface on that evidence for cannabis use,” she says. On the surface, weed appears to be safer, but there’s simply not enough evidence to declare a winner.