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163. What’s More Dangerous: Marijuana or Alcohol? (Rebroadcast)

2014-12-25 | 🔗
Imagine that both substances were undiscovered until today. How would we think about their relative risks?
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you're being what it is? We are often stopped course scheme. Maybe Martinique, canning, argued tracking out in any case. This week we are re broadcasting, one of our most popular episodes of the past year. The past ever actually hope you enjoy prophecy Let's begin with a thought experiment. Imagine a fantasy world, that's exactly as the world is today smartphones cars, Podcast Jimmy Fallon, seven, thirty, five, p m, but two things are missing alcohol marijuana. They don't exist now hard to imagine that our civilizations got into this advanced stage without alcoholic marijuana, but that's a different thought experiment. That's not what I want to talk about today. What I want to talk about is this fantasy world, the one we have today.
Oh I'll, call or marijuana, and then tomorrow there both discovered what happens now, how are each of them used and perhaps more important how're, each of them regulated? If we were starting from scratch, with no cultural or legal baggage, with no preconceptions? How would we weigh the relative benefits and Firstly, the costs of marijuana, MRS Ethyl alcohol and also shorter ugly. I wonder, if I go to so today. I think people would be very concerned about it. Yesterday, I suspect, would be banned within ten years it became it was a date if marijuana was discovered today. I think people would probably accept it I'm happy
from w and my see this is Reaganomics radio, the podcast that explores the hidden side of everything with your house, Stephen governor. Humankind loves alcohol, Steve Level. Is my free economics friend and co author he's an economist at the University of Chicago wish to start by saying that that it is amazing how widespread alcohol use is, how much utility people get out. And we're in a focus on the negatives now. But I think he can't forget that basic point Ok, we won't forget that basic point, but first, let's focus on the relative costs of alcohol and marijuana. I don't mean the price I'm talking about costs to society, especially if the world suddenly discover
both alcohol marijuana tomorrow. How would we assess their effects and how do we treat I'll give you the answer. What an economist would do, which is obviously very different than what a politician I do, but an economist would take the view that things that people do to themselves. Maybe You shouldn't worry above her much that all we need to worry about when it comes to outlaw marijuana are the externalities. What negative effect of my consuming alcohol is there on the people around me on deciding in the same from our water and those are numbers it you could imagine trying to quantify and wood an economy that AIDS will, let's is built into the price of alcohol attacks that is appropriate to try to internalize the externalities and then to do the same thing with marijuana and I think we may be have less information about what the externalities are on marijuana, but my guess is that many people,
Probably rightly, would think that the externalities marijuana are smaller than its realities of alcohol. now the reason that we have less information about the negative externalities marijuana is because in most places its illegal, as does a few things, makes it harder to collect reliable data. It dictates the nature of market for marijuana. When you have an illicit market and the profits that go along with it, you have the potential for criminal activity in violence and other costs to society like the police in jails. You need to devote to marijuana. According to the FBI, gruffly half of all drug arrests in the? U S are for marijuana offences. Forty two percent for possession and six percent for sale or If action, but as we all know, marijuana is becoming illegal and more places in Colorado, chinked in state you're in the U S in
two thousand one: Portugal decriminalize personal, possessed of many drugs, including marijuana President Obama, quite famously now. Told David Remnant of the new Yorker. That quote, I dont think it. Meaning marijuana is dangerous, then Elk isolate start. There was something we can measure pretty. Well, how dangerous is alcohol? It's a significant factor in high blood pressure. Harp damage is the most damaging drug to the brain, its David Nut. He's a psychiatrist at Imperial College, London and former chairman of the Uk Advisory Council on the misuse of drugs. Emphasis on former chairman will get that some unless addictive substances, and is associated with a whole range of different councils. So over. All alcohol is responsible for shortening the life expectancy, accelerating death and over three million people in the world today
is the leading cause of death in the world today after tobacco. Networking government for ten years trying to assess the relative dangers of all different sorts of drugs and all time I was trying to get evidence to dominate decision making is what the law says it should do, The time I was meeting resistance and eventually I got sacked, and why did David not get fired now? The government's chief adviser on drugs policy has been sacks of insisting that alcohol cigarettes are more dangerous than canvas next to see them. Secondly, Alan Johnson said he no longer had confidence in the advice being given by Professor David, not
It also criticized ministers, Rica, supine cannabis as emissaries drug, so you can see which side of the debate David Nut with land on in our marijuana versus alcohol, thought, experiment and isn't just the personal downsides of alcohol consumption is the externalities the societal costs drunk driving, for instance, in the? U S, their roughly ten thousand alcohol related driving deaths a year. Roughly, a third of total traffic deaths drinking is heavily correlated with other anti social behaviors. We know Alcohol is strongly associated with acquisitive crime burglary, with violence generally, particularly with domestic violence. Child abuse, the share of people who are arrested, who have been drinking, It is shocking Mihai. That's Steve Levitt again, and even more telling in some sense, is that the share of victims of crimes are incredibly likely to be.
Drunk as well. I was wondering whether it was assisted everybody's, all the time or really being drunk make. Who puts her in situations where you get arrested, but I, if you watch cops as you know, I watch caught. You watch cops. It's really images. Ain't cops. The tv show we're talking here. If you watch cops, a tv show the next time you watch cops. A tv show just try to keep it. Tally of EV person who comes around whose engage with the police? What share of them do you think have not been using their drugs or alcohol in the last few hours, and it is a really really loan right, although as a selection tool goes that's not very precise, because it could be that all the non junk people or to boring for tv, it could be hand it's hard to know, but the official data it is shocking. The level of alcohol abuse among people get arrested his chest, amazingly
here's a number to consider roughly half of all homicide offenders in the? U S were under the influence of alcohol at the time of the crime when it comes to domestic violence, roughly two thirds of the offenders had been drinking, So you might imagine that if society was starting from scratch without alcohol in this fantasy world, we may I'll say no way too dangerous, what about marijuana I don't think there's any evidence that links use of marijuana to increased violence. No, that Levitt said use of marijuana, not selling drugs which, as we know, can create violets. That said there Was a time when marijuana use was linked to violence the burning we'd would its roots in Hell. That was the whole reefer madness story from fifty
two years ago, that marijuana use made you a homicidal maniac, that's Jeffrey Myron. He teaches economics at Harvard and is the director of economic policy studies for the Cato Institute. Don't think, there's much credibility left it perspective, so many people are concerned that marijuana is what is known as a gateway drugs. It is once you use marijuana and makes you more likely to use other drugs. I don't think there's any evidence for it that I would regard as statistically credible. All your one can really document is that many people, who use harder. Drugs did use marijuana before they used harder drugs, but a huge fraction Those who use marijuana never go on to use harder drugs. So the effect, if any, would appear to be quite small and of course we can. Point But then almost everybody who goes on to use, marijuana or alcohol say started off mother's milk or Mcdonald, french fries, so the price,
air use by itself. We don't think of his causal, it's just that there does seem to be an evolution in the pattern for those people who end up going on to use hearted, the elderly and marijuana use David again, the former Uk Drug Czar When we look at the health dangers of marijuana, we see that their remarkably little considering the wide use of the drug. So in the UK there is almost no deaths attributed to marijuana but they will not. How can that be when people smoking at year on year on year and the truth is that actually people don't smoke as much burning material? when they spent marijuana. Also the marijuana leaf
burns at a lower temperature than the tobacco leaf. So in fact, you get less toxic substances into the lungs in two thousand ten study called drug harms in the UK, a multi criteria, decision analysis, nut and a group of colleagues tried to calculate the harm score of twenty print drugs. Not only alcohol marijuana, but heroin myths, cocaine, LSD, so they factored in mortality rate, the cost of dependence, the loss of relationships. Injuries crime, and they also looked at the costs whose society in terms of health care, police and
and lost productivity. So what they find, what would you guess was deemed the most harmful drug over all of these twenty drugs? It turns out that alcohol was the most harmful drug overall, largely because of the massive harm society. The huge economic cost, the huge healthcare costs, the he's placing costs of alcohol to society and cannabis scored less than half of the overall harm. What now keep in mind. A few caveats in this kind of calculation, the societal costs of alcohol are huge in part because alcohol is so readily available to legal, cheap and, for the most part, society smiles upon it compared to most of the other drugs on the list which are illegal
not necessarily so cheap and generally frowned upon. So while alcohol might have the highest harm score. That may be due in large part to the simple fact of its prevalence. That said, the evidence is pretty compelling that alcohol is harmful so coming up on for economics, radio, What do you do about it? If the world had just discovered alcohol? Would you immediately ban it? Well, he's tried that before, if something is worth fighting for, people are willing to fight for about a different kind of alcohol. Great taste less killing, you have this safe alcohol that you could drink and have found, but you can also take an antidote that would block its effects. So you would sober up within half an hour
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iron again. So what I was interested in is whether prohibitions of substances like alcohol or drugs are effective in substance. Reducing the use of this substance is prohibited and the best example we have to look at is alcohol. Prohibition in the United States, which occurred between nineteen, twenty and nineteen thirty three problem, of course, is there. No decent data on alcohol consumption during prohibition, because the government that normally collect such data act as though alcohol consumption wasn't happening, of course, some it was happening. The question was exactly how much since Myron couldn't get data that directly spoke to alcohol consumption. He looked for a proxy, it wasn't a perfect proxy, but it was a useful one cirrhosis of the liver which is caused by air.
All abuse. I once you find is that alcohol prohibition seems to have had some effect in reducing alcohol. Use may be ten twenty thirty percent, but it didn't have an incredibly dramatic effect when alcohol prohibition was repealed, alcohol use did go up a relative to various other factors. One controls for but again a moderate amount, say twenty twenty five percent, it's not as though we went from almost no consumption to some huge. You know slogan, there was a modest increase in use. So not only did prohibition not eliminate the use of alcohol, not even close I had some rather grim unintended consequences that killed two policemen in cold blood met that, while it riddled cab, the cab itself would hit forty two time running. Gunfight. Look at those
Sure I mean prohibition was a time of amazing violence, the homicide rate in the? U S in the late nineteenth twenties was as high as its ever been and two to three times higher than in the homicide rate fell dramatically after the end of prohibition, and it makes sense to me that in every setting, when you don't have well defined property rights- and you don't have to go structured around it, if something is wrong fighting for people are willing to fight, they want to take tremendous fists and violence becomes detour. Now my own belief is that I think people will be surprised that within the Eu S, I just don't think there's enough money. In illegal marijuana to make people want to do a whole lot of killing. Not I understand that in Mexico another place, it is probably a lot of islands from marijuana, but my hunches it. You won't see really any changed
in drug related found in the places where you legalise marijuana, because I don't think that's why people been killing each other in the first place, I think they ve been killing themselves over cocaine and other drugs that are more profitable, love. It you ve, got four kids oldest is what fourteen. So, if you could control all four, your kids in the future and require that they could only consume one or the other marijuana alcohol which would it be? I think that I would have been consumed alcohol and not marijuana, because I think alcohol is just such an integral part of being in American, and I think that if you have sensible attitude search alcohol, it could be a huge positive and doesn't to be huge name, and I wouldn't maybe give you a different answer. If, in the very HOLLAND or not
but especially in thirty years in thirty years, had probably give you a different answer, because the role of marijuana and society might change or about climate change, and it may be that, if, in a bid to social role of marijuana becomes very prominent and their hanging out with IRAN canopy. But the stock turbo goes away that the pure consumption of the marijuana might be better. But the consumption of alcohol consumption there when are such a small part of what does social meaning of it, is that. I think it would be crazy to try to raise a bunch of kids who I didn't ever want to touch alcohol and a who I encouraged actively to to be marijuana smugglers, okay, so go beyond than your family and society at large. Does then the social benefit of alcohol. Outweigh or justified the social costs of alcohol which strike me as being incredibly high. I mean no one's looking for a ban here, but as a
if thinking about how we regulate and allow different kinds of activities, I mean, I think all this gets caught up in moral posturing by everybody, because alcohol marijuana both seem to stand for a lot. But if we were talking about just different activities that weren't a controlled substance, I think people have a different view, because marijuana to some people seems pretty benign and alcohol to those same people seems potentially to have a lot of cough spread across society. I've never done a calculation, but my hunch is that the benefits of alcohol are huge relative to the cost of alcohol. If you're willing to count the utility that people get from using and abusing alcohol is part of your cactus is not even close. I think that the
the joy and the pleasure that people get from alcohol as evidence by the amount that we drink and how central this to everything we do is just you know, orders of magnitude bigger than the cost marijuana. That's probably true to we just don't have as much information, but I doubt ever we're going to get to a place where, if we had a vote- and we say- you can only have one alcohol marijuana that marijuana would ever win clipping her heart somehow, for whatever reason of how we ve evolved brain, loves alcohol in a way that I'm not sure the brain loves marijuana, Well, we you find out just how much the brain loves marijuana as its de criminalized and more places where
Jeffrey Myron. What might happen as marijuana becomes more available and, if say, some people's instituted marijuana for alcohol several studies have looked at the following combination of effects if marijuana becomes legal and therefore more accessible and cheaper, and some people at least substitute from alcohol to marijuana, and if, as appears, to be true, the negative effects on driving ability from marijuana are smaller in no way zero, but certainly smaller than those from alcohol that we should actually see fewer traffic fatalities because some of the people who will be driving under the influence would be driving under the influence of marijuana, which seems to be less bad and therefore we might see fatalities go down. Indeed, three or four studies over the past twenty years have found exactly that result. So there is this potentially beneficial externalities from legalizing marijuana in inducing the substitution which produce
traffic accidents, but is Steve Levitt notes, we know that people love alcohol side effects and all so when it be great, if somehow we could have all the benefits without the costs. Member David, not the british psychiatry who was fired for claiming that alcohol is more dangerous than marijuana, gives some ideas about that most of my pressure career. I have been trying to find ways of treating aka whole ism and helping people deal with the problems of our goal, dependence and other withdrawal and trying to find an anti that talk and I realize now that's impossible and occurred to me a while back that. Maybe we were asking the wrong question. Rather,
try to solve the problem of alcohol. Why don't? We find a little turn it into our homes, which doesn't cause problems, find a safe alternative drug which makes you presently intoxicated but which does not cause addiction. Doesn't right your brain deliver. You got it cetera and when you think about that, the way to do it would be to find a substance when he had an antidote. So you can go to a party. Have fun and then take the antidote and drive home safely. And you could imagine if that was available, and everyone used it you'd say three million deaths per year, which is more than malaria, tuberculosis, meningitis put together. It would not be a good thing and that's what I'm trying to do. I'm trying to bring a rational approach to dealing with crumbs of alcohol by getting rid of it and replacing it with a safe alternative. This is something the David not is actually work a synthetic alcohol designed to mimic the effects of alcohol on the brain, one minimizing all the downsides. Hangovers liver damage, loss of coordination
in conjunction with the synthetic alcohol not and his colleagues, have also been working on an alcohol antidote sort of a sober pill. So the idea would be there. You'd have to save our whole that you can drink and have fun, but you can also take an antidote. They would block its effects, so you would sober up within half an hour if you took a pill, and that would mean that you could then perfectly absolutely normally. He could drive home quite safely. Now that You'd have to admit would be a real fantasy world. But how did you get is? No man is yes, I guess listeners on next week's episode is yours. Fitness routine is typical. That
it's probably nonexistent most Americans are, exercising that best. Statistics suggest that at least eighty percent, of Americans are not meeting the most commonly guidelines for exercised? So how do you become part of the twenty percent? Are some secret exercise routine? Little. Definitely keep you off your, but yesterday
Whatever you will do is certainly the best exercise on what he actually like doing do something that you actually enjoy do something that makes you better how to exercise and not hate it. That's next time on for economic radio, you know I wouldn't last Guy Wing Economics Radio is produced by W and my c and Daphne productions. I staff includes David Herman, Gregory's, ASCII, Caroline English, Susie, Luxembourg and Chris, banning with engineering help from Jim breaks. Wouldn't let you are more frequent, comics radio. You can subscribe to our podcast on Itunes or good for economics, dot, com, real fine lots of radio.
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Transcript generated on 2021-03-12.