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A comparison of alcohol vs marijuana

Updated on August 5, 2012

Our comparison test

This hub was inspired by some others who compare marijuana (hence called pot) to alcohol.

It is about a test that was carried out among 12 college students.

I make no claims about its scientific value, or any other value, it was done out of simple curiosity on the part of those concerned.

The test; a simple comparison of performance in eye / hand coordination and mental agility with increasing doses of alcohol vs pot.

For the test we choose 2 computer games. The first game was Atari’s Asteroids.
For those too young to remember, this game put you in a spaceship that was represented as a simple triangle. You were in a stream of asteroids which you had to either dodge or eliminate. Your ship was free to move and could fire in the direction of the point. Occasionally there would be another ship that would shoot at you.

The second game was Mattel’s Space Spartans.
In this game you had several spaceships to defend against ever increasing attacks from multiple squadrons of hostile aliens. You had both battle sounds and verbal input from your own ships computers as well as alarms.
This game is far more challenging as it requires ever improving tactics under pressure. As the name implies there is no winning this game the more enemy ships you destroy the more come, they travel faster and their attack tactics get better as you go.

Each player had 2 sessions of 20 minutes 1 in each game.

Each player started with a set of “clean runs” (4, 20 minute sessions in each game) after a self imposed 5 day detox. We finally had to settle for 5 days since none of us could manage to abstain over weekends. (An interesting note here, the hard core drinkers had a tougher time abstaining than the rest of us.)

For booze we used first vodka and in a second run Coors or Budweiser beer.

For pot we used Thai sticks, a very potent variety readily available and very consistent in potency.

Doses; 1 shot vodka = 1 beer = 5 tokes. 20 minutes was allowed for things to take effect between turns. The tests were done over a number of days, after all we did have studies and personal lives. This also accounted for anyone having an off day.
Everyone involved was carrying a full class load and a GP of 3.0 or higher. All were between 20 – 25, 3 were women.

Since this all took place some 36 or so years ago I no longer remember the exact scores only the overall trends.

As would be expected the first round was very close to the straight sample runs (controls).

The second round actually saw improved scores for both pot & booze, chalk that up to becoming more relaxed.

But in the 3rd round things started going south for the boozers while the smokers were getting better.

Round 4 was a repeat of round 3 but there was an interesting shift.
The smokers were shooting less and hitting more, they had begun to be so focused that they became oblivious to outside distractions. Their manuvers became more subtle yet more effective.
At the same time the drinkers started shooting wild surviving by shear firing rates rather than skill.

After 5 the smokers leveled off easily switching games and scoring well.

The drinkers were too far gone in their game focusing on one zone while being hit from another. Accidentally moving into the path of one target while trying to hit another.

We ran the whole thing with everyone switching drinking for smoking and vodka for beer, the results stayed the same.

The 3 girls did worse in the booze section, no doubt due to smaller body mass and therefore higher blood alcohol. They did the same as the boys with pot.

One last interesting note; the drinkers became very angry at the mythical opponents and then at the game hardware while the smokers remained in good spirits and never lost their cool.
The beer drinkers became more angry than the vodka drinkers. (I lived across from a bar for 15 years and without fail the loudest and most troublesome drinkers were always the beer drinkers.)

So what did all this prove,,, well nothing as far as serious science is concerned. But our results were constant and as 12 people switched roles they quickly fell into the “norm” for the group they were in.

Did I take anything away from the test. Only that in all likelihood it is safer to be in a car, or on the road, with a smoker rather than a drinker. I believe that DUI stats would prove this out if there were some way to garner numbers of total intoxicated drivers vs drivers caught.

I personally know a lot who drove after smoking but none that ever received a DUI citation based on their driving mistakes. In contrast I know quite a few who got DUIs while drunk do to their bad driving.

I knew 2 people who died very young from complications from drinking, one from liver failure (32) and one from acute alcohol poisoning (19).

Nobody has ever died from complications directly from smoking pot.

Of course many have died from stupidity related to all forms of intoxication.

A final note; I am not in any way condoning driving while intoxicated from any substance. You need a sober driver when you imbibe in anything that can impair either your coordination or your thought processes in any way.


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    • Borsia profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Currently, Philippines

      Thanks Giri; As I said it wasn't a test that would pass scientific standards and was very informal. But all involved really wanted to make it a fair and unbiased test and we all followed the rules we laid out.

    • girishpuri profile image

      Girish puri 

      6 years ago from NCR , INDIA

      very well expressed the difference and an interesting experiment, useful hub.

    • Borsia profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Currently, Philippines

      Thanks for stopping by MB

    • mythbuster profile image


      6 years ago from Utopia, Oz, You Decide

      Interesting experiment. Thanks for sharing!

    • Borsia profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Currently, Philippines

      Thanks for your comment PT; I know that I have been guilty of driving under the influence in my youth. I also know that I was a far greater hazard to myself and others if I had been drinking. I would love to claim I always behaved perfectly and waited an appropriate time after drinking but that would be a lie.

      These days I rarely drink at all, 2 drink max for an entire evening maybe once every couple of months, and I never drive under the influence.

      Living in a foreign country I don't do any drugs of any kind, I'll pass on visiting a 3rd world jail or prison.

      But I can hardly believe the numbers of expats I see DUI here. It's true that enforcement is very lax and if you do see police cars on the side of the road there is a 90% chance they are napping. But the sober drivers here are terrible and the chances of an accident are high enough without being stupid. The consequences of being convicted of DUI are bad and if you are DUI in an accident you can kiss your future good bye and your cell mate hello.

    • Peanutritious profile image

      Tara Carbery 

      6 years ago from Cheshire, UK

      Borsia, I couldn't agree more. I do not condone driving under the influence of any substance either but if I had to choose, I would rather be driven by a driver who had smoked. I know several people that change into nasty, venemous individuals after a few drinks. I don't know anyone who does after smoking a joint or two. I agree that driving after a spliff can make you more focused and aware of speed, other drivers etc. Driving whilst drunk is just a recipe for disaster and a gambol with your own life and anyone else's on the road. Great hub.


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