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Alcohol Can Affect Many Aspects of Life

Alcohol Is the Most Harmful Drug

By BuddyT

Alcohol is the world's most dangerous drug when you consider the harm it does to drinkers, their friends and families and to society in general. The harm that alcohol does exceeds the dangers of even heroin and crack cocaine when the overall danger to the user and others is taken into account.

This is the conclusion of a panel of British experts that assessed and ranked the harm caused by 20 different drugs, both legal and illegal.

Members of Britain's Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs (ISCD) and two specialists from the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) carefully assessed the harm caused by each drug in 16 separate categories.

Ranking the Harm Drugs Do

The scientists ranked each drug on a scale of 0 to 100 in nine areas related to the harm that the drugs do to the individual and seven categories of harm they do to others. They looked at the physical, psychological and social harm the drugs do to life expectancy, health risks, dependence, mental functioning, loss of tangibles, loss of relationships, crime, costs to society, family adversities and other factors.

By applying a multicriteria decision analysis to each drug and then weighing which harms are more important than others, the scientists were able to give each drug a score that could be compared and combined across all 16 criteria.

The panel's analysis showed that heroin, crack cocaine and methamphetamine were the most harmful drugs to the individual user, while alcohol, heroin and crack were the most harmful to others. When the two harms were combined, the overall most harmful drugs were alcohol, heroin and crack cocaine.

The Most Harmful Drugs

Here are the scores each drug received for overall harm caused on a scale of 0 to 100:

  • Alcohol 72
  • Heroin 55
  • Crack Cocaine 54
  • Methamphetamine 33
  • Cocaine 27
  • Tobacco 26
  • Amphetamine 23
  • Marijuana 20
  • GHB 19
  • Benzodiazepines 15
  • Ketamine 15
  • Methadone 14
  • Anabolic Steroids 10
  • Ecstasy 9
  • LSD 7
  • Buprenorphine 7
  • Mushrooms 6

Legal Drugs Do Much Harm

The ISCD panel, chaired by Professor David Nutt, concluded that the current drug classification systems do not take into account the actual harms done by various drugs and have little relation to that harm caused.

"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," Nutt told reporters.

Nutt said public health strategies need to be adjusted to aggressively target the harm that alcohol does. It's a valid and necessary step, he said.

Source: Nutt DJ, et al, "Drug harms in the UK: a multicriteria decision analysis," The Lancet. November 1, 2010.

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