Otago University researcher outlines how alcohol is more harmful than cannabis

The research paper determines alcohol as more harmful than cannabis.
The research paper determines alcohol as more harmful than cannabis. Photo credit: Getty Images

University of Otago researcher and long-time anti-alcohol activist Doug Sellman has released a research paper arguing that alcohol is more harmful than weed in almost every common issue related to drugs and health.

Sellman, who is a part of the National Addiction Centre and has been working in addiction treatment since 1985, asks people to rethink a 'no' vote in the upcoming cannabis referendum if their reasoning is harm reduction.

"A rational 'no' vote in the upcoming referendum would not be based primarily on the potential health harm from cannabis, unless one is also advocating for the sale of alcohol to be made illegal," he says.

Sellman's paper covers 13 different health issues related to drug use, comparing harm between cannabis and alcohol.

He says alcohol is more likely to cause aggressive behaviour, cancer, death from overdose or withdrawal, brain damage, depression and organ damage.

Cannabis was rated as low-risk when it came to aggressiveness, overdose, organ damage, and death from withdrawal.

Out of the 13 different health issues covered there is only one where cannabis is more harmful than alcohol, which is the risk of anxiety during intoxication. 

Sellman says there is a problem with the way society views alcohol, as "a lot of people don't even think of alcohol as a psychoactive drug".

He says society seeing alcohol as relatively normal and harmless is dangerous and believes these views are due to the 'War on Drugs' movement initiated by US President Richard Nixon in the 1970s.

The paper states that some descriptions of harm have not been "clearly established by existing research" such as whether cannabis causes brain damage and depression.