Marijuana or alcohol: Which is more dangerous?

The debate over whether alcohol or marijuana is more dangerous tends to generate tremendous interest with passionate opinions on both sides.

Recently we saw fresh evidence, prosecutors say, of how dangerous and even deadly alcohol can be.

Just last week, we learned more about an alleged case of binge drinking that claimed the life of a promising young college student.

Three former fraternity pledges at Cornell University are facing charges in the apparent alcohol-related death of a fellow student during an alleged hazing incident. 19-year-old George Desdunes, of Brooklyn, was found unconscious on a couch at the Sigma Alpha Epsilon house on February 25th and later died. Authorities say his blood alcohol level was 0.35 percent.

The death of Desdunes certainly isn't the first case we've seen that underscores the dangers of drinking too much alcohol.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, from 2001-2005, there were approximately 79,000 deaths a year attributable to excessive alcohol use. In fact, excessive alcohol use is the 3rd leading lifestyle-related cause of death for people in the United States each year.

This report by the World Health Organization says alcohol abuse accounts for 2.5 million deaths worldwide each year, prompting the organization to call for a wider implementation of policies "to save lives and reduce the health impact of harmful alcohol drinking."

The long-term health risks also include neurological problems like dementia and stroke, cardiovascular problems, liver disease and cancer. Read more about the effects of alcohol on your brain, heart and other organs.

Yet alcohol is legal to buy and consume here in the U.S.

Marijuana, many would argue, is the more dangerous substance. After all, it is illegal.

There are concerns it will act as a gateway drug, and many parents fear it will lead their children down a dangerous path. It can have harmful effects on the heart and lungs, and cause distorted perceptions, impaired coordination, difficulty thinking and problems with learning and memory. Read more about the risks from the National Institutes of Health.

But two large studies, explored in this Web MD article online, find there have been no marijuana-related deaths. There have been cases where people die from abusing multiple drugs at once, but not marijuana alone.

The researcher does warn though that "longer-term data may indeed show that marijuana smoking eventually raises the risk of premature death."

For now, marijuana is only legal in a handful of state and only for medicinal purposes.

What most people tend to agree on is that drinking and driving and smoking marijuana while driving don't mix. They are both dangerous and can have deadly results.

Just last week, a Liverpool man was accused of driving drunk, slamming into a tree and killing a young woman. His 2-year-old child and two others were also in the car. They walked away with only minor injuries.

Time after time, we have seen the deadly consequences of drinking while driving.

And just a few months ago, we had a local case where a Central Square woman was accused of smoking a bong while driving on Interstate 81 in Syracuse. Fortunately, no one was hurt in that case.

And while most would agree that driving while using alcohol or pot is dangerous, what many still debate is which substance in and of itself is more dangerous. What do you think? Do you think alcohol or marijuana is the more dangerous substance? Why? Leave your thoughts below.