Study: Alcohol, tobacco worse than drugs
By MARIA CHENG
AP Medical Writer
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.
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