Alcohol Is More Harmful Than Heroin, Crack: Lancet Study

14 Dec

I am home for the holidays!  Ah, what a feeling.  There are lots of festivities planned in the next few days, and so this article is pretty timely.  Thanks Frond for sending it to me.  Be safe with your merry-making, everyone!

In the present study, Dr. Nutt and colleagues undertook a review of drug harms using the multicriteria decision analysis approach, a special approach that has been shown to be useful to help decision makers who face particularly complex issues with many conflicting objectives.

The multicriteria decision analysis (MCDA) model assessed 20 drugs most commonly used in the United Kingdom for their potential to cause 16 harms, as listed below:

  • Drug-specific mortality;
  • Drug-related mortality;
  • Drug-specific damage;
  • Drug-related damage;
  • Dependence;
  • Drug-specific impairment of mental functioning;
  • Drug-related impairment of mental functioning;
  • Loss of tangibles (job, housing, income, etc);
  • Loss of relationships;
  • Injury;
  • Crime;
  • Environmental damage;
  • Family adversities (eg, family breakdown, child neglect, etc);
  • International damage;
  • Economic cost; and
  • Community.

Drugs were scored on a points scale of 100, with 100 being the most harmful drug and zero being something that caused no harm at all.

The study found that overall, according to the new MCDA model, alcohol was the most harmful drug, with an overall harm score of 72. Heroin came second, with a harm score of 55, and crack, with a harm score of 54, came third.

Heroin, crack, and crystal meth (harm score, 33) were the most harmful drugs to the individual, whereas alcohol, heroin, and crack were the most harmful to others.

[…]

They conclude, “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.”

[…]

In the MCDA model used in the study, alcohol did the most harm largely because of the harm it causes to others, he added. “If you just looked at the harm to users, alcohol would actually fall behind heroin, crack, methamphetamine, and cocaine, but because of the ubiquity of its use and because of a lot of things that can happen during intoxication, alcohol ends up doing a lot of damage to other people.”

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