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Scientists Say Alcohol is Worse for Us Than Crack or Heroine

David Mittleman

First experts said wine was good for us, now they’re telling us alcohol is worse for us than crack or heroine. According to a new study, British scientists rated alcohol as a more dangerous drug compared to crack or heroine, when the effects to the user and to wider society were taken into consideration. In fact, the scientists ranked alcohol as three times more dangerous than tobacco or cocaine.

Overall, the scientists devised the scale since they argue that the current system in place in the UK has little relation to the evidence of harm on the individual and to wider society. The scale was developed by a team of scientists, including one from Britain’s Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs and another from the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction. The team, led by Professor David Nutt, rated drugs using a technique called multicriteria decision analysis which assessed the damage of drugs based on nine criteria of harms to the user as well as seven criteria of harms to others. Harms to the user included things such as drug-specific or drug-related death, damage to health, drug dependence and loss of relationships, while harms to others included crime, environmental damage, family conflict, international damage, economic cost, and damage to community cohesion. The Drugs were then scored out of 100, with 100 given to the most harmful drug and zero indicating no harm at all. Alcohol ranked 72 out of 100. In addition, other drugs included:

  • crystal meth (33),
  • cocaine (27),
  • tobacco (26),
  • amphetamine or speed (23),
  • cannabis (20),
  • benzodiazepines, such as Valium (15),
  • ketamine (15),
  • methadone (14),
  • mephedrone (13),
  • ecstasy (9),
  • anabolic steroids (9),
  • LSD (7)
  • and magic mushrooms (5).

Alcohol and tobacco are legal drugs for adults in the UK. However, Professor Nutt recently stated:

“It is intriguing to note that the two legal drugs assessed — alcohol and tobacco — score in the upper segment of the ranking scale, indicating that legal drugs cause at least as much harm as do illegal substances.”

In fact, Prof. Nutt was forced to resign from his prior position on the British Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs after publicly criticizing government ministers of ignoring evidence showing that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol. The World Health Organization currently ranks alcohol as the third leading risk factor for premature death and disability worldwide. Prof. Nutt recently stated that he is hopeful that the team’s findings will spur policy makers to aggressively target alcohol harms as a public health strategy.


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