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Toxicity-Wise, Marijuana Safer Than Booze


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US: Toxicity-Wise, Pot Safer Than Booze


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URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v13/n450/a03.html

Newshawk: http://www.drugsense.org/donate.htm

Votes: 0

Pubdate: Sun, 01 Sep 2013

Source: Austin American-Statesman (TX)

Copyright: 2013 Austin American-Statesman

Contact: http://www.statesman.com/default/content/feedback/lettersubmit.html

Website: http://www.statesman.com/

Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/32

Note: Letters MUST be 150 words or less

Author: Rochelle Koff, Politifact Florida




At the Brickyard 400 NASCAR race, a big screen displayed an ad headlined: "A new beer?"


"If you're an adult who enjoys a good beer," crowd members saw, "there's a similar product you might want to know about, one without all the calories and serious health problems.  Less toxic so it doesn't cause hangovers or overdose deaths.  And it's not linked to violence or reckless behavior.  Marijuana.  Less harmful than alcohol." Less toxic? Of course, Mason Tvert of the Marijuana Policy Project, which produced the ad, said by email: "If you consume too much alcohol in a sitting or over the course of your life, you can die.  If you consume too much ( marijuana ) in a sitting or over the course of your life, you do not die."


The National Institute on Drug Abuse describes each drug distinctly.


Alcohol in small doses may start as a stimulant, but the institute describes it as a depressant rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream from the stomach and small intestine.  Intoxication can impair brain function and motor skills; heavy use can increase disease risks.


Marijuana's main mind-altering chemical is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC.  When marijuana is smoked, THC quickly passes from the lungs into the bloodstream, which carries the chemical to the brain and other organs.


Statistics underscore alcohol's possible lethal impact, while experts have reported no data on marijuana-induced deaths.


The federal Centers for Disease Control's National Center for Health Statistics tallied 41,682 deaths due to alcohol in 2010, the latest year with exact statistics.  That broke out to 15,990 deaths from alcoholic liver disease and 25,692 other deaths - and that was leaving out accidents and homicides.


We identified another way of comparing the two.


Robert Gable, a retired professor of psychology at Claremont Graduate University in California, compared the toxicity of 20 abused substances using reports of experimental human and animal research and on published data of overdose fatalities.


He devised a safety ratio - the ratio of an effective dose ( eliciting a "relaxed affability" ) to a lethal dose.  "Two drinks makes you buzzy, 20 drinks puts you in the emergency room or the morgue," Gable said by phone.  "Ten is the safety ratio" for alcohol, among the most toxic recreational drugs, he said.


The least physiologically toxic substances - those requiring 100 to 1,000 times the effective dose to cause death - included marijuana when ingested.  He couldn't find documented deaths from smoked marijuana, "so the actual dose is a mystery."


"No drug is good for teenagers," he said, "but when it comes to the chances of immediate death by chemical toxicity, marijuana is about a hundred times less toxic than alcohol or cocaine." Our ruling: Hospital trips and deaths are more likely due to alcohol.  Also, a study found marijuana is 100 times less toxic, though this is not to say that it is invariably less harmful.


We rate this claim as Mostly True. 

MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom

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