Facebook  Twitter
Donate Now

Alcohol vs. Marijuana

The science is clear that alcohol is more dangerous than marijuana.

Alcohol is toxic and potentially lethal.
Marijuana is NOT.

• Alcohol use by college students contributes to approximately 1,700 students deaths each year, including a number of overdose deaths. (1)

• Alcohol use is the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States, contributing to tens of thousands of American deaths each year (not including accidents), including hundreds purely from overdose. (2)

• There are ZERO deaths attributed to marijuana use each year, and there has never been a marijuana overdose death in history. (2)(3)

• Alcohol is among the most toxic recreational drugs, requiring just 10 times its typical effective dose to cause death. Cannabis is among the least toxic recreational drugs, requiring more than 1,000 times the effective dose to cause death. (3)


Alcohol use is a contributing factor in risky behavior and injuries.
Marijuana is NOT.

• Alcohol contributes to about 599,000 unintentional student injuries each year. (1)

• “Alcohol use in the six hours prior to injury was associated with [an elevated] relative risk compared with no alcohol use..." (4)

• “Cannabis differs from alcohol … in one major respect. It does not seem to increase risk-taking behavior. This means that cannabis rarely contributes to violence either to others or to oneself, whereas alcohol use is a major factor in deliberate self-harm, domestic accidents and violence.” (5)

• Marijuana use is not independently associated with either violent or non-violent injuries requiring hospitalization. (6)



Alcohol use is a contributing factor in violent crimes and aggressive behavior.
Marijuana is NOT.

• More than 696,000 students are assaulted by another student who has been drinking. (1)

• Ninety-five percent of all campus assaults are alcohol-related. (7)

• About 3 million violent crimes occur each year in which victims perceive the offender to have been drinking at the time of the offense. (8)

• "Alcohol is clearly the drug with the most evidence to support a direct intoxication–violence relationship..." (9)

• "Cannabis reduces likelihood of violence during intoxication..." (9)



Alcohol is a contributing factor in incidents of sexual abuse.
Marijuana is NOT.

• More than 97,000 students are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape. (1)

• Ninety percent of all reported campus rapes involve a victim or an assailant who has been drinking alcohol. (7)

• Two-thirds of victims who suffered violence by an intimate (a current or former spouse, boyfriend, or girlfriend) reported that alcohol had been a factor. (8)

• "[The] use of alcohol...was associated with significant increases in the daily likelihood of male-to-female physical aggression; cannabis...[was] not significantly associated with an increased likelihood of male partner violence." (10)


Alcohol use is a contributing factor in property damage and vandalism.
Marijuana is NOT.

• About 11 percent of college student drinkers report that they have damaged property while under the influence of alcohol. (1)

• More than 25 percent of administrators from schools with relatively low drinking levels and over 50 percent from schools with high drinking levels say their
campuses have a "moderate" or "major" problem with alcohol-related property damage. (1)

• Marijuana use has never been found to contributing factor in incidents of property damage and vandalism.


Alcohol is addictive and highly intoxicating. (11)
Marijuana is far LESS addictive and intoxicating. (11)

Alcohol vs. Marijuana

Withdrawal: Presence and severity of characteristic withdrawal symptoms.

Reinforcement: A measure of the substance's ability, in human and animal tests, to get users to take it again and again, and in preference to other substances.

Tolerance: How much of the substance is needed to satisfy increasing cravings for it, and the level of stable need that is eventually reached.

Dependence: How difficult it is for the user to quit, the relapse rate, the percentage of people who eventually become dependent, the rating users give their own need for the substance and the degree to which the substance will be used in the face of evidence that it causes harm.

Intoxication: Though not usually counted as a measure of addiction in itself, the level of intoxication is associated with addiction and increases the personal and social damage a substance may do.


(1) National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Task Force on College Drinking, 2007
(2) U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2005
(3) Gable, R. "The Toxicity of Recreational Drugs: Alcohol is more lethal than many other commonly abused substances." The American Scientist, the Magazine of Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society, May-June 2006.
(4) Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, National Survey on Drug Use & Health, 2007
(5) British Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, 2002
(6) Blondell et al. "Toxicology screening results: injury associations among hospitalized trauma patients." The Journal of Trauma. 2005
(7) National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, 1994
(8) U.S. Dept. of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2002
(9) Hoaken, P., and S. Stewart. “Drugs of abuse and the elicitation of human aggressive behavior.” Addictive Behaviors, 2003
(10) Research Institute on Addictions, 2003
(11) National Institute on Drug Abuse, 1994

Latest Updates

Students on 80+ campuses participate in Nationwide Day of Action

The Emerald Initiative: SAFER's response to the Amethyst Initiative

Students adopting SAFER Referendums on campuses nationwide


Latest News

The Harvard Crimson: A Toke for Good Health?
April 14, 2010

Daily Aztec (SDSU): Group claims marijuana is 'safer'
April 13, 2010

The Vermont Cynic (UVM): Students argue alcohol worse than marijuana
April 12, 2010

The Maneater (Mizzou): NORML proposes Emerald Initiative to administration
April 9, 2010

San Francisco Chronicle: The Pay-Any-Price Principle
April 9, 2010

KNTV NBC 11 (CA): College Kids: Let Us Smoke Pot
April 8, 2010

Huffington Post: College Students Nationwide: Allow Marijuana as a Safer Alternative to Alcohol
April 8, 2010

Columbia Missourian: MU students rally for legalized marijuana
April 8, 2010

Columbia Missourian: MU students ask for change in marijuana use policy
April 8, 2010

AkronNewsNow: KSU Students Rally For Marijuana
April 8, 2010

KBIA 91.3 FM: MU Student Group Rallies for Equalizing School Marijuana and Alcohol Policies
April 8, 2010

The New Hampshire (UNH): Don't drink, smoke instead
April 8, 2010

The Met (MSCD): Colorado's Marijuana Culture: Cannabis Conundrum
April 7, 2010

Central Florida Future (UCF): Penalty for pot, alcohol may become equal
April 7, 2010

Central Florida Future (UCF): Punishment should fit crime
April 7, 2010

Akron Beacon Journal: KSU rally will seek lenient marijuana policies
April 7, 2010

... more news

SAFER Campuses Initiative • P.O. Box 40332 • Denver, CO 80204 • 303-861-0033               A Project of SAFER