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UK Study Finds Alcohol Most Harmful Drug – Worse than Heroin and Crack

When considering the total costs of drug use by substance, and when factoring both personal costs and costs to society at large, researchers in the UK say alcohol is far and away the most harmful drug out there today.

David Nutt, the former UK Drug Czar who was fired last year for publically disagreeing with the Labour Govt’s political and non scientific stance on drug policy, says that alcohol is worse than heroin or crack cocaine – and he’s got the numbers to prove it.

Publishing his results in the medical journal, The Lancet, Nutt worked with a number of experts in the field of neuropharmacology and drug and alcohol abuse to rate the harms of different drugs and alcohol. Each substance was rated and scored on a number of criteria based on how harmful it was to individual health and well being and how harmful it was to society as a whole.

Some of the criteria measured include how the substance affected

  • Death age
  • Loss of mental functioning
  • Healthcare costs associated with use
  • Harms done to relationships associated with use
  • Crime and prison costs associated with use
  • How addictive the substance is
  • Others

The results are:

  1. Alcohol (72)
  2. Heroin (55)
  3. Crack (54)
  4. Crystal Meth (33)
  5. Cocaine (27)
  6. Tobacco (26)
  7. Amphetamines – (23)
  8. Cannabis (20)
  9. GHB (18)
  10. Benzodiazapines (15)
  11. Ketamine (15)
  12. Methadone (13)
  13. Butane (10)
  14. Qat (9)
  15. Ecstasy (9)
    • When looking only at harm to self, the three worst substances are 1- heroin, 2- crack cocaine, 3 - crystal methamphetamine
    • When looking only at harm to others, the three worst substances were ranked 1 – alcohol, 2 – heroin and 3 – crack

In commenting, the study authors wrote, "Our findings lend support to previous work in the UK and the Netherlands, confirming that the present drug classification systems have little relation to the evidence of harm. They also accord with the conclusions of previous expert reports that aggressively targeting alcohol harm is a valid and necessary public health strategy."

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