Marijuana safer than Alcohol?

William JordanUS Elections Editor
September 06, 2013, 6:14 PM GMT+0

Americans are more likely to say marijuana is safer than alcohol, though the vast majority say that MDMA is dangerous.

After a string of drug overdoses involving MDMA at dance parties in the northeast, concerns have been renewed over the use of such 'rave drugs'. The hospitalizations have been blamed on a ‘bad batch’ of MDMA, but a DEA spokesman recently told the Boston Globe, “Young people tend to think this stuff isn’t dangerous, and it is dangerous.” He warned, “This stuff gets manufactured in someone’s bathtub. You just don’t know what’s in it.”

The recent string of deaths does, however, come at a time that Americans are beginning to liberalize the approach to drugs and drug laws, with the federal government recently announcing that it will seek shorter sentences for people convicted of drug offenses. The Justice Department has also announced that the federal government will not – at this point in time – launch a legal challenge to laws in Colorado and Washington which legalize, tax and regulate marijuana consumption and production.

The latest YouGov research shows that - apart from over-the-counter medicines - Americans view marijuana as the least dangerous drug, safer even than alcohol. 59% of Americans think that alcohol is dangerous to some degree, compared to 48% who think that marijuana is dangerous. 36% say alcohol is safe and 45% say that marijuana is safe.

Perception of the dangers of MDMA does differ between Americans young and old, although Americans of all ages widely consider it dangerous, about on par with LSD but less dangerous than drugs like cocaine and heroin.

While three-quarters of young Americans do think MDMA, also known as molly, is dangerous, there is a 41 point gap between the proportion of 18-29 year olds (50%) who think the drug is 'very dangerous' and the proportion of over 65s who think so (91%). The proportion of 30-45 year olds holding the same belief is somewhere in between, at 69%, while 45-64 year olds are closer to over 65s in their feelings (81% call MDMA ‘very dangerous’)

18-29 year olds are, on the other hand, much more likely to call the drug 'fairly dangerous': 25% of the youngest Americans would use this weaker language to describe MDMA, compared to only 8% of Americans in the oldest group.

Moreover while 12% of 18-29 year olds call MDMA safe, while no more than 5% of those in other age groups and 0% of those aged over 65 call it safe.

The three recent drug-related deaths involved adults aged 19, 20 and 23.

Different drugs, different dangers

Overall, nearly nine in ten (89%) Americans consider MDMA dangerous while a mere 5% consider the drug safe. This puts the amphetamine about on level with the perceived danger of LSD, which 88% say is dangerous, but below cocaine (93%), PCP (94%), Methamphetamine or crystal meth (94%), heroin (94%) and crack, which nearly all (95%) Americans deem dangerous.

Full results can be found here.

Image: Getty.

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