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.
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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