Healthy Living

Is Marijuana More Dangerous Than Tobacco And Opioids?

The answer to the question posed in the headline is a resounding “No!”

When debating about how dangerous marijuana is compared to tobacco or opioids, let’s look at the grimmest statistics of all — the human deaths caused by these substances in the United States. The more dangerous, the deadlier, right?

Tobacco in its various forms, especially cigarettes and cigars, tops the list of addicting killers. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirms cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States.

Cigarette smoking accounts for more than 480,000 deaths every year, or 1,300 deaths every day. Included in this toll are 41,000 deaths resulting from secondhand smoke exposure. On average, smokers die 10 years earlier than nonsmokers.

If smoking continues at the current rate among U.S. youth, 5.6 million of today’s Americans younger than 18 years of age are expected to die prematurely from a smoking-related illness. This represents about one in every 13 Americans aged 17 years or younger that are alive today.

CDC said 14 of every 100 U.S. adults aged 18 years or older (14.0 percent) in 2017 smoked cigarettes. This means some 34.3 million adults in the U.S. currently smoke cigarettes. In addition, more than 16 million Americans live with a smoking-related disease.

Worldwide, tobacco use causes more than 7 million deaths per year. If the pattern of smoking all over the globe doesn’t change, more than 8 million people a year will die from diseases related to tobacco use by 2030.

Smoking causes cancer, heart disease, diabetes, stroke, lung diseases, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

Thankfully, current smoking has declined from 20.9 percent (nearly 21 of every 100 adults) in 2005 to 14.0 percent (14 of every 100 adults) in 2017. The proportion of ever smokers who have quit has increased. Despite this, more than 400,000 people still die in the U.S. from smoking-related diseases such as lung cancer.

Meanwhile, there is an opioid crisis sweeping the United States that shows no signs of abating. The human cost of this horrific crisis is truly gut-wrenching.

CDC said more than 130,000 people in the U.S. died from opioid overdoses in 2016 and 2017. Opioid deaths accounted for most of the drug overdose deaths in both years. CDC said nearly 200 people a day died of drug overdoses in 2017 alone.

More than 72,000 people in the U.S. are predicted to have died from drug overdoses in 2017 – or nearly 200 a day. That’s an increase from 2016, which was a record year in which 64,000 people in the U.S. died from overdoses. At least two-thirds of drug overdose deaths in 2016 and 2017 were linked to opioids, said CDC.

This grisly death toll means drug overdoses in 2017 killed more people than guns, car crashes, or HIV/AIDS ever killed in a single year in the US. The 2017 death toll (like that for 2016) is higher than all U.S. military casualties in the Vietnam and Iraq wars combined.

CDC said the spike in overdose deaths appears to be linked to fentanyl, a class of synthetic opioids. Over the past several years, fentanyl has supplanted heroin in illicit drug markets. But because fentanyl and its analogs are more potent than heroin, the risk of overdose is significantly higher.

Cannabis The medical use of cannabis is legal in 29 states, the District of Columbia, and the territories of Guam and Puerto Rico. Rick Proctor/Unsplash

The opioid epidemic began in the 1990s, when pharmaceutical marketing and lobbying led doctors to prescribe far more opioid painkillers. This led to a first wave of overdose deaths as more people, including both patients and people who stole or bought painkillers from patients, misused the drugs and got addicted.

And deaths due to overdosing on weed?

There still is not one recorded case of overdose deaths from cannabis in the United States found in extensive medical literature about cannabis or marijuana. Not one.

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