Alcohol is a more dangerous drug than both crack and heroin when the combined harms to the user and to others are assessed, British scientists said Monday.
Presenting a new scale of drug harm that rates the damage to users themselves and to wider society, the scientists rated alcohol the most harmful overall and almost three times as harmful as cocaine or tobacco.
According to the scale, devised by a group of scientists including Britain's Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs (ISCD) and an expert adviser to the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), heroin and crack cocaine rank as the second and third most harmful drugs.
Ecstasy is only an eighth as harmful as alcohol, according to the scientists' analysis.
Professor David Nutt, chairman of the ISCD, whose work was published in the Lancet medical journal, said the findings showed that "aggressively targeting alcohol harms is a valid and necessary public health strategy."
He said they also showed that current drug classification systems had little relation to the evidence of harm.
Alcohol and tobacco are legal for adults in Britain and many other countries, while drugs such as ecstasy and cannabis and LSD are often illegal and carry the threat of prison sentences.
Alcohol is more damaging to society at large than heroin or crack... Yet we are worried about legalizing cannabis?
Personally, I'm interested in keeping other people from building Utopia, because the more you believe you can create heaven on earth the more likely you are to set up guillotines in the public square to hasten the process. -- James Lileks
You can't compare something that is illegal and widely used against substances that are illegal and used on a very small subset.
Why not? Statisticians do such things all of the time; comparisons of very different things require normalization but it is quite possible. Besides, they are comparing the effects of an item which doesn't rely on the number of people using it. Alcohol would still be responsible for liver disease and wet brain independent of the legal status and the number of people using. We had a similar discussion in another thread a few months ago where I argued that heroin causes relatively small amount of damage to the body comparatively. Add to the fact that the decrease inhibition of alcohol causes more life-threatening stupidity than other drugs.
Science is much more than a body of knowledge. It is a way of thinking. This is central to its success. Science invites us to let the facts in, even when they don’t conform to our preconceptions.
~ Carl Sagan
Why not? Statisticians do such things all of the time; comparisons of very different things require normalization but it is quite possible. Besides, they are comparing the effects of an item which doesn't rely on the number of people using it.
Sure it does. They also consider the effects on society, which would put alcohol at a disadvantage because of the number of people that abuse alcohol versus those that abuse illegal drugs.
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