Alcohol is the fourth most dangerous drug after heroin, crack and crystal meth and the second most damaging to society, according to a study published today in the British Medical Journal (PDF). It is the largest ever study of its kind. This follows Prof. Nutt’s controversial lancet paper which in 2010 rated alcohol as the most dangerous drug to society.

BMJ Drug harms 20121 The largest ever study in to drug harms places alcohol in the top four

This latest study is a pretty weighty verdict, the study used responses from 292 individuals sourced from responders from the membership list of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in Scotland as well as a range of addiction professionals. The parameters used were:

(a) physical harm caused by acute, chronic and parenteral use.

(b) psychological harm; physical harm and intensity of pleasure linked to dependence.

(c) social harm from intoxication; other social harms and associated healthcare costs.

It’s worth noting that the study only assessed the drugs listed and doesn’t address research chemicals that are increasingly moving from the grey market to the black market as a result of recent government bans. The authors make a damning  indictment of the recent bans of research chemicals, citing evidence that the mephedrone ban has done nothing to affect use and “may only act to drive up the price”. The authors do not mention that a ban has a range of knock on effects inherent to black market supply such as effects on purity, the “gateway” effect of having to visit an illegal dealer and the societal implications of criminalising the user. Only today, London police have issued a blanket drug warning after one person has died and two remain hospitalised after taking a white powder that still has not been identified. The authors state that drug use should be treated as a medical issue and “should be separated from the criminal justices system and associated penalties”.
Taylor M, Mackay K, Murphy J, McIntosh A, McIntosh C, Anderson S, & Welch K (2012). Quantifying the RR of harm to self and others from substance misuse: results from a survey of clinical experts across Scotland. BMJ open, 2 (4) PMID: 22833648(PDF)

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  • John Robertson

    Those ‘addiction professionals’ were overwhelmingly front line staff in addiction treatment – 133 ‘Addiction community psychiatric nurses’, 39 ‘Addiction workers’ and 52 ‘Social workers’. Only 24 Consultant psychiatrists took part.
    The lead author questioned the competence of the respondents as a way of excusing the result for cannabis.
    It is counter-intuitive to say that alcohol, which Nutt 2010 said was the most harmful substance in the UK, should only be 4th in Scotland when all evidence is that alcohol is a bigger problem for Scotland than the rest of the UK.

    • billhobin

      requires a per capita analysis as well though.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t dispute this study with one exception. The societal impact of cannabis is much greater then those NORML guys would have us believe. More kids in treatment for “weed” then any other drug.

    • Neurobonkers

      Check your source – “in treatment” is a pretty poor measure when you have large numbers of non-problem recreational and medicinal users taking up valuable spaces in “treatment programs” against their will, simply to avoid jail time.

      • talking sense

        how many people get caught when young, with anything? how easy is it to get weed compared to anything else? it is the safest thing for a dealer to give a kid because they can’t die from it.

    • This guy is an idiot.

      You’re an idiot. 99% of those kids are there for court orders and because their parents caught them. I don’t have the exact numbers but I know it is in the high 90’s% tile for kids going involunatirly or as a way to escape prision time or get it expunged from their record.

  • Anonymous

    You may also like this scatter graph of the results:

  • raegal

    mushrooms and pot… better for you than a drug routinely prescribed to children……

  • Daniel

    Where is the Tobbaco ?

    • Al

      is the “Nico” for Nicotine

  • Rob

    Where’s sugar? It’s another addictive substance and it’s massivelly used.

    • Large G

      Heroin and sugar are like the same since they trigger the same part of the brain, but sugar is not a drug unfortunately since it’s not psychoactive

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