Alcohol is more harmful than drugs such as heroin,ecstasy or crack cocaine,a new British study has claimed.
The research led by Professor David Nutt,former drugs adviser of Britain,found that alcohol is three times as dangerous as cocaine and tobacco.
Presenting a new scale of drug harm that rates the damage to users themselves and to wider society,the scientists ranked heroin and crack cocaine as the second and third most harmful drugs after alcohol.
Ecstasy is only an eighth as harmful as alcohol,according to the new study,published in journal Lancet.
The researchers said if drugs were classified on the basis of the harm they do,alcohol would be class A,alongside heroin and crack cocaine.
Professor Nutt,chairman of UK’s Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs (ISCD),said the findings showed that “aggressively targeting alcohol harms is a valid and necessary public health strategy”.
The new study is expected to reignite the debate over UK’s drugs classification system,the Daily Mail reported.
Prof Nutt was sacked last year after he challenged ministers over their refusal to take the advice of the official Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs,which he chaired.
The committee wanted cannabis to remain a class C drug and for ecstasy to be downgraded from class A,arguing that these were less harmful than other drugs when social factors were taken into consideration.
In the latest study,Prof Nutt and his team examined nine categories of harm that drugs can do to the individual “from death to damage to mental functioning and loss of relationships”,as well as seven types of harm to others.
Overall,alcohol scored 72 out of a maximum ‘harm’ score of 100,compared to 55 for heroin and 54 for crack. And while the most dangerous drugs to individual users were judged to be heroin,crack and then crystal meth,alcohol was deemed most harmful to society,followed by heroin and then crack.
Prof Nutt said a new classification system “would depend on what set of harms ‘to self or others’ you are trying to reduce”.
“But if you take overall harm,then alcohol,heroin and crack are clearly more harmful than all others,so perhaps drugs with a score of 40 or more could be class A; 39 to 20 class B; 19-10 class C and 10 or under class D,” he added.
This reclassification would result in tobacco being labelled a class B drug alongside cocaine. Cannabis would also just make class B,rather than class C. Ecstasy and LSD would end up in the lowest drug category D.
Meanwhile,a Health Department spokesperson said though drinking moderately would not damage a person’s health,the government is “determined to prevent alcohol abuse without disadvantaging those who drink sensibly”.