View Full Version : Alcohol Worse than Crack or Heroin

11-01-2010, 12:24 PM
This is an article that was featured on the start page. Thoughts?

LONDON Alcohol is a more dangerous drug than both crack and heroin when the combined harms to the user and to others are assessed, British scientists said Monday.

Presenting a new scale of drug harm that rates the damage to users themselves and to wider society, the scientists rated alcohol the most harmful overall and almost three times as harmful as cocaine or tobacco.

According to the scale, devised by a group of scientists including Britain's Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs (ISCD) and an expert adviser to the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), heroin and crack cocaine rank as the second and third most harmful drugs.

Ecstasy is only an eighth as harmful as alcohol, according to the scientists' analysis.

Professor David Nutt, chairman of the ISCD, whose work was published in the Lancet medical journal, said the findings showed that "aggressively targeting alcohol harms is a valid and necessary public health strategy."

He said they also showed that current drug classification systems had little relation to the evidence of harm.

Alcohol and tobacco are legal for adults in Britain and many other countries, while drugs such as ecstasy and cannabis and LSD are often illegal and carry the threat of prison sentences.

"It is intriguing to note that the two legal drugs assessed -- alcohol and tobacco -- score in the upper segment of the ranking scale, indicating that legal drugs cause at least as much harm as do illegal substances," Nutt, who was formerly head of the influential British Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), said in a statement about the study.

Nutt was forced to quit the ACMD a year ago after publicly criticizing ministers for ignoring scientific advice suggesting cannabis was less harmful than alcohol.

The World Health Organization estimates that risks linked to alcohol cause 2.5 million deaths a year from heart and liver disease, road accidents, suicides and cancer -- accounting for 3.8 percent of all deaths. It is the third leading risk factor for premature death and disabilities worldwide.

In an effort to offer a guide to policy makers in health, policing, and social care, Nutt's team rated drugs using a technique called multicriteria decision analysis (MCDA) which assessed damage according to nine criteria on harm to the user and seven criteria on harm to others.

Harms to the user included things such as drug-specific or drug-related death, damage to health, drug dependence and loss of relationships, while harms to others included crime, environmental damage, family conflict, international damage, economic cost, and damage to community cohesion.

Drugs were then scored out of 100, with 100 given to the most harmful drug and zero indicating no harm at all.

The scientists found alcohol was most harmful, with a score of 72, followed by heroin with 55 and crack with 54.

Among some of the other drugs assessed were crystal meth (33), cocaine (27), tobacco (26), amphetamine or speed (23), cannabis (20), benzodiazepines, such as Valium (15), ketamine (15), methadone (14), mephedrone (13), ecstasy (9), anabolic steroids (9), LSD (7) and magic mushrooms (5).

11-05-2010, 07:50 PM
I read this article too a week or so back. I think that this study needs some more explanation, but I find it very interesting and a thought provoking issue overall.

When my son was using heroin, he told me he didn't have the urge to drink while on it (a longtime struggle for him) and he said he actually felt quite good when he used heroin in moderation. He found he woke the next morning feeling fairly refreshed, etc. That caused me to give this very issue some serious thought.

In fact we had several lucid discussions on WHY heroin has such a bad rap. Why is it the pinnacle of drug abuse in the average citizen's mind? Why is it worse than "recreational" cocaine use or college-years binge drinking excesses?

I hate to admit it, but besides the fact that heroin has always been branded in my mind as "hard core" I didn't have a good answer for him. I didn't have the scientific facts to back it up either. So I did a bunch of internet reading, and learned that physically, heroin itself, in it's purest form, isn't that bad for a person compared to several other drugs or alcohol. I was quite shocked to learn this, I had a very preconceived notion about heroin being THE BIG ONE in addictive and harmful drugs.

Having said that, mixing heroin with cutting agents, used needles, using alcohol or other drugs combined with heroin, and many other aspects of the junkie's lifestyle IS very dangerous and potentially fatal. I learned that most heroin overdose deaths are caused not by the amount of heroin but by combining it with alcohol or other drugs, or by other contributing factors, such as freezing to death on a park bench while homeless and zoned out on horse.

This article makes me wonder, what were the amounts of each substance that they compared against each other and how did they conclude that, for instance, 1 drink equals xx amount of heroin or crack?

I think this article is true, no doubt, but too scientific in it's approach. It is stating that these substances don't do as much harm to a body, to a mind, to the environment or to international relations even!! There is so much information on what cigarette smoke and aluminum cans do to our environment, I am SURE this jacked cigarettes and alcohol way up on the chart. What studies are done on what the environmental effect of crack smoke or used syringes is?

And, all of this is beside the point when it comes to addiction. Some people would be able to recreationally use alcohol, crack, cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, etc. and might argue (successfully) they are not addicts by any stretch.

Others quickly become mentally and physically hooked into the affects and lifestyle of crack, cocaine, meth, heroin, alcohol, etc.

This is the dynamic that the article does NOT touch on. Those of us who can enjoy a glass of wine with dinner then go home safely afterward MAY also, if we were so inclined and it were socially acceptable, be able to snort up a little heroin along with it. Maybe we would wake up the next day none the worse for the wear.

BUT, the addict, the one in the homeless shelter who has sold everything she owns including her own body, for just another hit of crack, is certainly not going to tell you that crack is "better" for her than alcohol or cigarettes. I bet she would give up a kidney to have cigarettes be her biggest demon.

The issue is, once heroin, or meth, or alcohol, or anything has become out of proportion to the rest of your life in it's importance to YOU, then there is a much bigger issue than if your liver in inflamed or your 2nd hand air is contaminated.

When people have reached the place where they will steal, lie, hurt, even KILL to feed their addictions, the point about which substance is more "harmful" than the next is really a moot point, isn't it?

(My 2-cents ---)

11-06-2010, 01:56 PM
I think they make some things they can keep people locked up. (Pot)

I think they make some things they can keep people locked up. (Alcohol)

In other words, they wanna keep people locked up.

I always say, basic Sociology 101....there has to be a bottom to be a top.

The top's goal is to keep as many at the bottom as possible.

It is not rocket science.

11-15-2010, 10:17 PM
I guess that is an interesting article but the facts are anyone of those things can kill you so I don't understand why anyone would take the time to compare which one is worse.