Former Chief Drugs Advisor: ‘Alcohol More Harmful Than Heroin’.

Originally published 01 November 2010

The former UK Chief Drugs Advisor, Professor David Nutt, has co-authored a paper for the medical journal ‘The Lancet’ that has claimed that alcohol is more dangerous then either Heroin or Crack Cocaine.

The paper devised a ranking scale to rate the most prevalent illegal drugs against each other, judging them by their effect on the user and on society in general. Ranked among the least damaging were ecstasy and LSD, among the worst were alcohol and Meth. Tobacco and cocaine were deemed equally harmful. Professor Nutt was sacked from his role as the UK Drugs Advisor by the then Home Secretary Alan Johnson (Lab) after publicly stating his belief that alcohol was/is more dangerous than ecstasy or LSD. The public and professional support for his stance was such that he started the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs with Dr Les King, who had left his own government position over Professor Nutts’ treatment.

The ranking system they used looked at each of the chosen drugs and assigned them scores for the level of harm they caused to individuals and society as a whole in areas such as mental/physical harm, crime and the cost of crime prevention, possibility of addiction, cost to communities etc. The results were delivered in two demographics, the danger to the user and the danger to society. Then the score earned on both can be tallied and the totals show the more/most harmful of drugs.

This new scale is widely different to the current system of classification in place in the UK and the authors claim that it is much more accurate and relevant, as; “the present drug classification systems have little relation to the evidence of harm.” The paper also states, regarding their findings: “They also accord with the conclusions of previous expert reports that aggressively targeting alcohol harms is a valid and necessary public health strategy.” It was Professor Nutt who, in 2007 and while still holding his government advisory role, tried to introduce the same new ranking system to the UK to the complaint of the sitting Labour government.

The Home Office had only recently given an emergency Classification B to the ‘legal high’ mephedrone (meow meow). The proposed system contradicted this move, claiming that alcohol was at least 5 times more harmful. What neither method of classification does, or reasonably can do, is rank the effect of taking drugs together or misusing two or more over a period of time. The story as reported by the BBC. Professor Nutt sacked for speaking out. The Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs.

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