Alcohol more harmful than heroin, crack

Alcohol is the most dangerous drug in Britain, beating heroin and crack cocaine, according to a new study, which proposes the drugs classification system be rethought.

The study by the breakaway Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs says that if drugs were classified on the basis of the harm they do, alcohol would be class A, The Guardian reports.

The study examines nine categories of harm that drugs can do to the individual "from death to damage to mental functioning and loss of relationships" and seven types of possible harm to others.

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Out of a maximum harm score of 100, alcohol scored 72 - easily beating 55 for heroin and 54 for crack.

The most dangerous drugs to their individual users were ranked as heroin, crack and then crystal meth.

The most harmful to others were alcohol, heroin and crack, in that order.

For overall harm, the other drugs examined ranked as follows: crystal meth (33), cocaine (27), tobacco (26), amphetamine/speed (23), cannabis (20), GHB (18), benzodiazepines (15), ketamine (15), methadone (13), butane (10), qat (9), ecstasy (9), anabolic steroids (9), LSD (7), buprenorphine (6), and magic mushrooms (5).

The study, published by medical journal The Lancet, was led by former government drugs adviser David Nutt, who was sacked last year by the home secretary at the time, Alan Johnson, for challenging ministers' refusal to take advice of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs.

The committee wanted cannabis to remain a class C drug and for ecstasy to be downgraded from class A, arguing these were less harmful than other drugs.

"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," the authors of the study wrote.

Nutt told the Lancet a new classification system would depend on what set of harms "to self or others" you were 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, or under 10 class D."
This would result in tobacco being labelled a class B drug alongside cocaine, while ecstasy and LSD would end up in the lowest drug category, D.