Friday, March 23, 2007

Sky News: Scientists rank drugs by health risk- differs widely from legal status of substances

Sky News: The Dangers Of Alcohol:

Alcohol and tobacco are more harmful than many illegal drugs, according to a new drug classification system.

A number of leading scientists compiled a list to show the danger that certain substances pose to human health.

They claim that their list of 20 substances is more scientific than the current Misuse of Drugs Act system, which attaches "a, b, and c" labels to illicit drugs.

Heroin was top of the new list, followed by cocaine.

Alcohol came fifth and tobacco ninth, while cannabis was 11th, LSD 14th and ecstasy 18th.

The table, published in The Lancet medical journal, was drawn up by a team led by Professor David Nutt, from the University of Bristol, and Professor Colin Blakemore, chief executive of the Medical Research Council.

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The criteria used to determine harmfulness were: the physical harm to the individual user caused by the drug; the tendency of the drug to induce dependence; and the effect of the drug's use on families, communities and society.

Each of these categories was split into three sub-components, providing nine parameters of risk, and scores for these were then combined to provide overall estimates.

Prof Blakemore said: "Alcohol and tobacco are way up there in the league table, with alcohol being not very far behind demonised terrors of the street like heroin.

"We hope that policy makers will take note of the fact that the resulting ranking of drugs differs substantially from their classification in the Misuse of Drugs Act and that alcohol and tobacco are judged more harmful than many illegal substances."

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