That Study Claiming Marijuana Is 114 Times Safer Than Alcohol Is A Bit Overhyped


One of the problems with writing up studies is that you have to dig a bit further than the abstract. You have to look at who’s doing the study and why. You also have to look at the claims presented. Which is why, when you see “Marijuana 114 Safer Than Alcohol!,” it pays to read past the headline.

Specifically, despite what that one annoying stoner is sharing on Facebook, a German team didn’t find their drug of choice is magically safe in all circumstances. Instead, Dirk W. Lachenmeier and Jürgen Rehm wanted to see which drug you could overdose on the easiest. As it turns out, it’s incredibly hard to overuse marijuana, at least from a medical standpoint. Socially, you have overused marijuana when you buy a Phish album, but why people do such things lies outside the realm of medical science.

Anyway, Lachenmeier and Rehm did what amounts to a basic toxicology test on common controlled substances, from heroin to alcohol, to see how easy it was to overdose on them. They used the margin of exposure technique, which normally used by the European Food Safety Commission to measure carcinogens and contaminants. The results? Alcohol is “high risk” for overdose… even more, in theory, than heroin, cocaine, and ecstasy.

Here’s the thing: We knew this already. At this point, even the most anti-weed types have let go of the idea that marijuana itself is something you can “overdose” on, but overdose isn’t the only measure of risk here. For example, this study says that cocaine is relatively hard to overdose on, but using the “proper” dose will still put your risk of heart attack through the roof, regardless of your heart health, and that risk increases over time with repeated use.

Like we said when another study about weed came along, there’s a lot we don’t know yet, thanks to a lack of research. And regardless of your drug of choice, or how safe it may be, it’s a lot smarter to not overdo it, period.