Mortality Rate Among Marijuana Users Much Lower than Users of Alcohol and Other Drugs

Those who consume marijuana have a significantly lower Standardized Mortality Rate (SMR) than those who consume alcohol or other drugs such as opiates.

The study was published by the journal Substance Use & Misuse. It “presents a 30-year follow-up study of a cohort of 1163 substance misusers who were in inpatient treatment in the early 1980s. Data was originally collected in the Swedish Drug Addict Treatment Evaluation (SWEDATE).”

Researchers state that the aim of the study “is to examine the overall mortality and identify causes of death in different groups based on self-reported most dominant substance misuse among those who have died during January 1984-December 2013.”

Here is the method used:

SWEDATE-data was linked to the National Cause of Death Register. Five mutually exclusive study groups were created based on self-reported most dominant substance misuse for the last 12 months before intake to treatment: Alcohol, Cannabis, Stimulants, Opiates, and Other. The Standardized Mortality Ratio (SMR) was calculated.

According to the study; “During the follow-up, 40% died. SMR is 10.3 for women and 11.7 for men. The study groups differed regarding SMR; 13.1 in the Alcohol group, 9.2 in the Cannabis group, 9.6 in the Stimulants group, 16.7 in the Opiates group and 10.8 in the Other group.”

The study’s conclusion:

Alcohol misuse among substance abusers might have a negative impact on mortality rates. Methodological changes in how drug related deaths is registered affects the interpretation of the statistics of cause of death. Further analysis on the relation between drug related cause of death and drug misuse related death is needed.


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Emily Watkins is a PhD student majoring in public policy. Emily has been a freelance editor for multiple websites, and has spent hundreds of hours volunteering to help legalize marijuana. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, and can be reached at