No one wants their kids engaging in any risky behavior, but if one pediatrician had to chose between their teen experimenting with alcohol or with pot — the answer was clear.
“When someone asks me whether I’d rather my children use pot or alcohol, after sifting through all the studies and all the data, I still say ‘neither.’ Usually, I say it more than once. But if I’m forced to make a choice, the answer is ‘marijuana’.”
That’s Aaron E. Carroll, a professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine and blogger at The Incidental Economist. Prof. Carroll ran through the data on his decision for The New York Times’ blog The Upshot today. Here’s how he reached his conclusion:
First of all — don’t kid yourself: “The vast majority of adolescents will try one or the other, especially when they go to college.”
While there may be potential downsides to heavy, long-term adolescent use of cannabis — it could change your brain shape, antagonize latent schizophrenia, maybe harm memory — the immediate, short-term as well as long-term harms of alcohol puts things in perspective.
Violence: Alcohol contributed to 40 percent of all violent crimes in the United States, including 37 percent of rapes. In 1995, U.S. college students reported more than 460,000 alcohol-related incidents of violence. … Marijuana use correlates to less domestic violence.
Health: There were 80,000 alcohol-related deaths in the United States in 2010. Half of those deaths were during binge drinking. Nearly one in five Americans binges, and a quarter of college-age kids. … “Marijuana, on the other hand, kills almost no one. The number of deaths attributed to marijuana use is pretty much zero.”
Driving: Pot increases a crash risk by 83 percent. Alcohol increases crash risk by 2,200 percent.
Addiction: While nine percent of pot users will at one point in their life meet the criteria for dependence — 20 percent of alcohol users will.
College life: “Every year more than 1,800 college students die from alcohol-related accidents. About 600,000 are injured while under alcohol’s influence, almost 700,000 are assaulted, and almost 100,000 are sexually assaulted. About 400,000 have unprotected sex, and 100,000 are too drunk to know if they consented. The numbers for pot aren’t even in the same league.”
And then there’s personal experience as a pediatrician: “I’ve seen young people brought to the emergency room because they’ve consumed too much alcohol and become poisoned. That happens thousands of times a year. Some even die.”
So, gun to your head — which one would you rather your kid do?