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Alcohol 'more harmful than heroin'


Alcohol is more dangerous than illegal drugs like heroin, ecstasy and crack cocaine, a new study has said.

Researchers rated alcohol the most dangerous substance based on the overall dangers to the individual and society as a whole.

The work was led by Professor David Nutt, the former government drugs adviser who was sacked for criticising the then Labour government’s decision to upgrade cannabis from class C to class B.

His team analysed how addictive a drug is and how it harms the human body as well as other factors like environmental and socio-economic costs, such as health care, social services, and prison.

They found heroin, crack cocaine and methamphetamine, or crystal meth, to be the most lethal to individuals.

When considering their wider social effects, alcohol, heroin and crack cocaine were the most dangerous.

But overall, alcohol outranked all other substances, followed by heroin and crack cocaine. Marijuana, ecstasy and LSD scored far lower.

Marking substances from zero to 100 based on their criteria, alcohol scored 72 overall, compared to 55 for heroin and 54 for crack.

Other drugs examined included: crystal meth (33), cocaine (27), tobacco (26), amphetamine/speed (23), cannabis (20), GHB (18), ketamine (15), methadone (13), ecstasy (9), anabolic steroids (9), LSD (7), buprenorphine (6) and magic mushrooms (5).

The study was produced by Prof Nutt’s Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs (ISCD).

Its authors said: “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 harms is a valid and necessary public health strategy.”


Readers' comments (19)

  • Hardly a surprise! But will anything be done about it?

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  • Interesting but it is sensational and all it will do is condone drug taking. I have seen the cost of heroin taking time and time again not to mention the use of cocaine which is not harmless when seen from the healthcare perspective. This article seems like statistical manipulation. Both heroin and alcohol addiction are sometimes symptoms of other problems not just whether they are dangerous or not. He does not mention the other issues with heroin and alcohol such as crime, abuse of children, addiction of foetuses, prostitution and the added cost on personal health and safety and for the addict and society with inability to work etc. benefits, social housing. Alcohol is not illegal and yet it is a huge problem. Do we want drugs to be legal as well. Whether Portugal seems to claim less problems now drugs are legalised or not, we need to see the evidence not just propaganda. If drugs are legal in Portugal how is it measured as you will not be arresting people??? Need more proof. Get this Professor to visit A&E and our psychiatric facilities and tell us again that heroin is not dangerous. It is and so is alcohol.

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  • Michael Sandiford

    Of course nothing will be done about it. The government like the nice amount of tax they get off the nations alcohol.

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  • What a load of crap. The study actually states Heroin, crack cocaine and methamphetamine, or crystal meth, were the most lethal to individuals. When considering their wider social effects, alcohol, heroin and crack cocaine were the deadliest. Marijuana, ecstasy and LSD scored far lower.

    Ridiculous and misleading headlines such as this sends out the wrong message and there are a lot of people out there who will use this as an excuse to justify drug taking or will disgard the health messages we are trying to put out there because of it! That is wrong and it really p****s me off!

    Yes alchohol is a dangerous substance that causes many problems, yes there needs to be tighter regulation of it, BUT THAT DOES NOT MEAN DRUGS ARE SAFE!!!!

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  • Calm down Mike
    This is a webite for nurses who are capable of reading the story and interpreting it. No where in the story does it say drugs are safe. |t is not any more sensational than the report on radio 4 this morning. Perhaps more sensational is your use of language which is offensive and unprofessional

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  • This is indeed not surprising. The only reason alcohol and tobacco have not been made illegal is the government makes a lot of tax from these. It is up to individuals to see that drugs including caffeine in tea and coffee are of no benefit to one's well being and abstain from anything that is addictive and which in fact one could become a slave to.

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  • Yeah, calm down Mike!

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  • there is nothing addictive about tea and coffee and in moderation it has been found that they may have a prophylactic role against cardiac and vascular diseases.

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  • Mr Nutt. Says it all really.

    Of course alcohol is dangerous when drunk in high for that matter are doughnuts.

    Statistical rubbish. Most of the problems caused by alcohol are violence related incidents and they are the fault of the inadequate judicial system in the UK.

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  • I actually agree with Mike and think the headline does sensationalise the subject and people will interpret it that drugs are safer than alcohol. I know that the article does NOT state that, it is merely stating how dangerous alcohol is in our society. People need to realise how negative the affect is of alcohol on our society and how it ruins lives probably more so than drugs. The fact that it is legal is why it has such a bad effect, and unfortunately, as many of you have said, the government DO enjoy the taxes gained from it. But is that a false economy? Does the money in taxes then get swallowed up in the NHS, police etc sorting out the mess that alcohol causes in the first place? And as for the government extending opening hours for pubs etc, I think it was disgraceful, we all new it would cause more problems.
    Drugs ARE dangerous, the article is merely saying ALCOHOL can be rated just as dangerous due to it's overall effect on society.

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