The former government drugs adviser Professor David Nutt has produced a report published in the Lancet that claims that alcohol causes more harm than crack cocaine or heroin.

The report is based around a new method of measuring the harm that any particular drug does to both the individual and to society as a whole. There are nine categories of harm to the self and seven that cover harm to society.

What came out of the report is that drugs like heroin and crack cocaine caused more harm to the self, alcohol came out as causing more harm to society. In fact alcohol came out as three time more harmful overall than cocaine and tobacco.

The report concludes: “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. They also accord with the conclusions of previous expert reports that aggressively targeting alcohol harms is a valid and necessary public health strategy.”

This appears to be a continuation of Professor Nutt's campaign to change the way drugs are viewed in the UK. He was sacked as chairman of the government’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs after he claimed that the drug ecstasy was less harmful than alcohol. He claimed that the government sacked him for political reasons not sound scientific ones.

In this latest report the authors* say that ecstasy is only one eight as harmful as alcohol.

In an earlier 2007 report by Professor Nutt also published in the Lancet, alcohol rated only the fifth most dangerous drug.

One does wonder though whether legalisation and acceptance of drugs like crack would make their use so widespread as to cause problems that makes the odd rowdy Saturday night a pleasant occasion in comparison.

*Report authors: Professor Nutt, of Imperial College London, and the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs, Dr Leslie King, UK Expert Adviser to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, and Dr Lawrence Phillips, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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