Alcohol is more dangerous than illegal drugs like heroin and crack cocaine, according to a new study.
British experts evaluated substances including alcohol, cocaine, heroin, ecstasy and marijuana, ranking them based on how destructive they are to the individual who takes them and to society as a whole.
Researchers analyzed how addictive a drug is and how it harms the human body, in addition to other criteria like environmental damage caused by the drug, its role in breaking up families and its economic costs, such as health care, social services, and prison.
Neuropharmacologist David Nutt, MD, of Imperial College London, and colleagues rated 20 different drugs on a scale that takes into account the various harms caused by a drug. Drugs are rated on nine harms a drug causes an individual and seven harms a drug causes society.
The scale, developed by a panel of experts called the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs (ICSD), ranges from 0 (no harm) to 100 (greatest possible harm). It is weighted so that a drug that scores 50 is half as harmful as a drug that scores 100.
“The highest and lowest overall harm scores … are 72 for alcohol and 5 for mushrooms,” Nutt and colleagues calculate. “The ICSD scores lend support to the widely accepted view that alcohol is an extremely harmful drug both to users and to society.”
Alcohol was found to be the most harmful drug to society and the fourth most harmful drug to users.
The findings should come as no surprise: Alcohol has been linked to more than 60 diseases.
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