Study: Secondhand Harms From Alcohol Six Times More Common Than Marijuana

A recent study titled reveals that secondhand harms from alcohol are significantly more prevalent than those from marijuana.

The study, published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drygs, aimed to measure the prevalence and overlap of secondhand harms caused by others’ use of alcohol, cannabis, opioids, or other drugs. It also examined sociodemographic and other factors associated with these harms. Researchers analyzed data from 7,799 respondents, providing a nationally representative snapshot of the U.S. population.

The results highlight a stark contrast in the prevalence of secondhand harms between different substances. Lifetime prevalence rates of secondhand harms were reported as follows:

  • Alcohol: 34.2%
  • Cannabis: 5.5%
  • Opioids: 7.6%
  • Other drugs: 8.3%

The study found that secondhand harms from alcohol are six times more common than those from cannabis. These harms included family and marriage difficulties, traffic accidents, vandalism, physical harm, and financial difficulties.

One notable finding was the substantial overlap among lifetime harms. Nearly 30% of those reporting secondhand alcohol harms also experienced harms from other drugs. Significant correlates of secondhand substance harms included:

  • Female sex (alcohol and other drugs)
  • White race/ethnicity (alcohol and opioids)
  • American Indian/Alaska Native race/ethnicity (opioids)
  • Black race/ethnicity (cannabis)
  • Separated/divorced/widowed marital status (opioids)

Additionally, individuals with a family history of alcohol problems had significantly higher odds of reporting secondhand harms across all substance types. Frequent cannabis users were more likely to report secondhand alcohol and opioid harms but had lower odds of experiencing secondhand cannabis harms.

The findings suggest that while marijuana use does lead to some secondhand harms, these are considerably less common than those associated with alcohol.

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