News and Announcements

Study: Alcohol ‘most harmful drug,’ followed by crack and heroin

By the CNN Wire Staff
(Read article online here)

London, England (CNN) — Alcohol ranks "most harmful" among a
list of 20 drugs, beating out crack and heroin when assessed for its
potential harm to the individual imbibing and harm to others, according
to study results released by a British medical journal.

A panel
of experts from the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs weighed
the physical, psychological, and social problems caused by the drugs and
determined that alcohol was the most harmful overall, according to an
article on the study released by The Lancet on Sunday.

Using a
new scale to evaluate harms to individual users and others, alcohol
received a score of 72 on a scale of 1 to 100, the study says. It was
compared to 19 other drugs using 16 criteria: nine related to the
adverse effects the drug has on an individual and seven on its harm
against others.

That makes it almost three times as harmful as
cocaine or tobacco, according to the article, which is slated to be
published on The Lancet’s website Monday and in an upcoming print
edition of the journal.

Heroin, crack cocaine and methamphetamine
were the most harmful drugs to individuals, the study says, while
alcohol, heroin and crack cocaine were the most harmful to others.

In
the article, the panelists said their findings show that Britain’s
three-tiered drug classification system, which places drugs into
different categories that determine criminal penalties for possession
and dealing, has "little relation to the evidence of harm."

Panelists
also noted that the rankings confirm other studies that say that
"aggressively targeting alcohol harms is a valid and necessary public
health strategy."

The Lancet article was co-authored by David
Nutt, a professor and Britain’s former chief drug adviser, who caused
controversy last year after he published an article saying ecstasy was
not as dangerous as riding a horse.

"So why are harmful sporting
activities allowed, whereas relatively less harmful drugs are not?" Nutt
wrote in the Journal of Psychopharmacology. "I believe this reflects a
societal approach which does not adequately balance the relative risks
of drugs against their harms."

Nutt later apologized to to anyone
offended by the article and to those who have lost loved ones to
ecstasy. He said he had no intention of trivializing the dangers of the
drug and that he only wanted to compare the risks.

In the article
released by The Lancet on Sunday, ecstasy’s harmfulness ranking — 9 —
indicates it is only one-eighth as harmful as alcohol.

The study was funded by the London-based Centre for Crime and Justice studies.