Παρασκευή, Μαρτίου 23, 2007

Study: Alcohol, tobacco worse than some drugs

USA Today
March 23, 2007

LONDON (AP) — New "landmark" research finds that alcohol and tobacco are more dangerous than some illegal drugs like marijuana or Ecstasy and should be classified as such in legal systems, according to a new British study.
In research published Friday in The Lancet magazine, Professor David Nutt of Britain's Bristol University and colleagues proposed a new framework for the classification of harmful substances, based on the actual risks posed to society. Their ranking listed alcohol and tobacco among the top 10 most dangerous substances.

Nutt and colleagues used three factors to determine the harm associated with any drug: the physical harm to the user, the drug's potential for addiction, and the impact on society of drug use. The researchers asked two groups of experts — psychiatrists specializing in addiction and legal or police officials with scientific or medical expertise — to assign scores to 20 different drugs, including heroin, cocaine, Ecstasy, amphetamines, and LSD.

Nutt and his colleagues then calculated the drugs' overall rankings. In the end, the experts agreed with each other — but not with the existing British classification of dangerous substances.

Heroin and cocaine were ranked most dangerous, followed by barbiturates and street methadone. Alcohol was the fifth-most harmful drug and tobacco the ninth most harmful. Cannabis came in 11th, and near the bottom of the list was Ecstasy.

According to existing British and U.S. drug policy, alcohol and tobacco are legal, while cannabis and Ecstasy are both illegal. Previous reports, including a study from a parliamentary committee last year, have questioned the scientific rationale for Britain's drug classification system.

"The current drug system is ill thought-out and arbitrary," said Nutt, referring to the United Kingdom's practice of assigning drugs to three distinct divisions, ostensibly based on the drugs' potential for harm. "The exclusion of alcohol and tobacco from the Misuse of Drugs Act is, from a scientific perspective, arbitrary," write Nutt and his colleagues in The Lancet.

Tobacco causes 40% of all hospital illnesses, while alcohol is blamed for more than half of all visits to hospital emergency rooms. The substances also harm society in other ways, damaging families and occupying police services.

Nutt hopes that the research will provoke debate within the U.K. and beyond about how drugs — including socially acceptable drugs such as alcohol — should be regulated. While different countries use different markers to classify dangerous drugs, none use a system like the one proposed by Nutt's study, which he hopes could serve as a framework for international authorities.

"This is a landmark paper," said Leslie Iversen, professor of pharmacology at Oxford University. Iversen was not connected to the research. "It is the first real step towards an evidence-based classification of drugs." He added that based on the paper's results, alcohol and tobacco could not reasonably be excluded.

"The rankings also suggest the need for better regulation of the more harmful drugs that are currently legal, i.e. tobacco and alcohol," wrote Wayne Hall, of the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, in an accompanying Lancet commentary. Hall was not involved with Nutt's paper.

While experts agreed that criminalizing alcohol and tobacco would be challenging, they said that governments should review the penalties imposed for drug abuse and try to make them more reflective of the actual risks and damages involved.

Nutt called for more education so that people were aware of the risks of various drugs. "All drugs are dangerous," he said. "Even the ones people know and love and use every day."

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

5 σχόλια:

Fuchsia είπε...
Αυτό το σχόλιο αφαιρέθηκε από τον συντάκτη.
Fuchsia είπε...

Boy... I realise this isn't a very popular view, but I have to say that yes, alcohol is in my opinion one of the most dangerous drugs around and its social acceptance and the flippancy with which people are encouraged to handle it has long disturbed me... The thing is, not only is it highly addictive and harmful for the individual abusing the it, but it also has the distinctive characteristic (as opposed to most other drugs) of making its users violent and dangerous to those around them. One of the first things that always strikes me when living in northern Europe, is the ubiquitous "woo-hoo, lets get drunk tonight" mentality, which in connection with the prevalence of alcohol-induced crime to be witnessed on a daily basis and on any given street is highly disquieting...
If a society is going to consume alcohol, it is well-advised to encourage a responsible attitude towards it.

Fuchsia είπε...

A few statistics from Scotland btw < http://www.scotland.gov.uk/health/alcoholproblems/docs/paap1-00.asp>
(Sorry about that, but that just happens to be where I live at the moment… I don’t think the country matters much. My point is simply to illustrate what gross misuse of alcohol can lead to.)

-1 in 4 adults in the UK are drinking hazardously* In a recent survey of Psychiatric Morbidity, over a quarter (26%) of those interviewed reported hazardous drinking patterns. Men were much more likely to report hazardous drinking behaviour than women.

-Over 50% of male prisoners in the UK were drinking hazardously in the year before coming to prison.

-1 in 5 road accident deaths in Scotland is due to drunk driving.

-Misuse of alcohol was a contributory factor in over 50% of deaths caused by fire in Scotland.

-Of those victims of violent crime who could tell anything about their assailant,
72% reported that the assailant was under the influence of alcohol.

- In 1990, alcohol-related deaths accounted for 1 in 100 deaths in Scotland. By 1999, this had risen to one in 40.

Stop and think about this a minute. One in every 40 of this particular country’s deaths can be traced back to alcohol. The number is horrendous. Other countries handle drink much better of course, but, as far as I can see, the bare fact that this is how dangerous alcohol actually is, remains.

Ανώνυμος είπε...

genarally i agree about the iresponsible flippancy towards alcohol, however you should avoid generalising about "Norhtern Europe" and the tendency towards aggressiveness and violence

1. i doubt to what point Scotland is considered "Northern Europe" culturally

2. i do not have any numbers available, but i am sure that in countries in the same latitude as the UK (The Netherlands, Denmark, Germany" alcohol consumption and alcohol-related criminality is much reduced

3. in the real "Norhtern Europe" (Scandinavian Countries in fact) although the consumption of alcohol is on the same levels as in the UK, the crimes correlated to this are much fewer.

my humble opinion is that the problem of aggressiveness - street crime in the UK is not related only to alcohol consumption but it has much more complex explanations and the tolerance towards violence is deep-rooted in british societies because of many sociologic & historical reasons

Fuchsia είπε...

Absolute_beginner said:"i do not have any numbers available, but i am sure that in countries in the same latitude as the UK (The Netherlands, Denmark, Germany" alcohol consumption and alcohol-related criminality is much reduced"

Are you a native Greek speaker absolute_beginner? You may have noticed that this is a Greek blog (my comments were in English due to lack of access to a greek keyboard at the time of their composition). In this context, “northern Europeans” was meant to refer to any country north of Greece. I realize that this is incorrect usage in absolute terms, but nevertheless it is wide spread among southerners. I suppose that strictly speaking the UK would probably qualify as Western Europe. At any rate, my point still stands.

I would note, that though there is a marked difference in attitudes towards alcohol between Mediterranean countries and those further north (whether Northern in the narrow sense or not), I can’t say I agree much with your comments. Consumption of alcohol is exaggerated throughout Europe (in fact Europe is the heaviest-drinking region in the world.) According to the EU’s website,“55 million adults are estimated to drink at harmful levels in the EU”, while “harmful alcohol use is the 3rd biggest cause of early death and illness in the EU, behind tobacco and high blood pressure” At the same time, about a quarter of the 66 billion euros a year spent on alcohol related problems are due to crime and traffic accidents. I don’t have my hands on data analysing precise consumption in each MS, but given that Scotland’s population comes up to a mere 5 million and its GDP to around 130 billion euros, I find it hard to believe it accounts for the full European figures.

I would also note that similarities between European countries are usually stronger than most Europeans like to admit or are capable of recognising from an insider’s perspective. Finally, I was only using the Scottish statistics because I had them at hand. Like I already mentioned, my concern was not for whether country A or B handles alcohol better, but what the inherent dangers of alcohol are. And again I am not sure I can believe that drinking turns Brits any more violent than it does people of other nationalities.

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