Is cannabis more harmful to your health than tobacco or alcohol?

We still don’t really know how cannabis is linked to psychosis, expert Ian Hamilton says (Picture: Getty)

Despite years of debate and argument, cannabis still doesn’t fall into the same bracket as alcohol and tobacco when it comes to the law.

And we still don’t really know quite how harmful it is to people’s health, says expert Ian Hamilton, Associate Professor in addiction at the University of York. 

Speaking on the latest episode of Yahoo UK’s podcast, Britain Is a Nation Of…,  he said we still “don’t have a clue” when it comes to concerns over links between cannabis and psychosis.

Describing the health concerns of cannabis compared to those linked to tobacco and alcohol, he said: “To give you an idea of numbers you would need to prevent 20,000 young people ever using cannabis to prevent one case of psychosis.

“Clearly with the risks of developing cirrhosis of the liver, or lung cancer as a result of smoking, the ratio is far lower than that.

“To my mind that’s the easiest way of thinking about the risks relating to cannabis.”

Listen to a discussion of these statistics on Yahoo and YouGov’s podcast, Britain is a Nation of…

Another consideration is that while the use of tobacco in marijuana joints is rare in the US, cannabis and tobacco are still regularly combined in the the UK, says Ian.

“What many young people don’t realise is that they’re actually tobacco dependant, rather than cannabis dependant, so they would class themselves as non-smokers but they’re having two or three joints a day.”

While it’s important not to downplay the risks of psychosis, it is equally important to remember that it is rare, he says, and there is not necessarily proof of a causal link between cannabis consumption and psychosis.

“We’ve overplayed the role – so they [people suffering from what many see as cannabis-linked psychosis] are not only using cannabis, they’re using alcohol, they’re using tobacco even if it’s just in a joint.

“In truth, if I’m honest about it, we don’t have a clue, we don’t know what is causing psychosis.”

His comments came during a discussion of YouGov statistics revealed in 2018 that showed that many people don’t believe cannabis to be that harmful, with just over six in ten (62%) saying it’s harmful to people who regularly take it.

That compared to more than nine in ten (93%) who consider tobacco to be harmful and 83% who say alcohol is harmful.

The poll found people divided on the issue of the legalisation of cannabis, with 43% supporting legalisation, 41% opposing it and the remaining 15% saying they don’t know.

This survey was made possible by YouGov’s panel of 6 million respondents. Join the trend and share your opinions with the world today.

To hear more unpacking of statistics about British people, listen to the full episode above, or download it on Apple Podcasts, Acast, or Spotify to listen while on the go.