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  • Alcohol, tobacco among worst drugs

    new British study

    LONDON, England (AP) -- Alcohol and tobacco are more dangerous than illegal drugs like marijuana or ecstasy, 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 percent 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 UK 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 Dr. 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."

    http://edition.cnn.com/2007/HEALTH/0....ap/index.html
    ...............................








    Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

    -Benjamin Franklin

  • #2
    Re: Alcohol, tobacco among worst drugs

    Sounds more like an excuse to raise taxes even higher on alcohol and tobacco. I don't buy it that alcohol/tobacco are worse than ecstasy. Yeah, more people are hospitalized due to them, but that's simply because way more people use the stuff.
    "Common sense is not so common." -Voltaire

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    • #3
      Re: Alcohol, tobacco among worst drugs

      Wait a second. If you give someone a list of 20 drugs, two of which are alcohol and tobacco, how are those two drugs not going to end up "among" the "worst drugs"??

      Plus, as previously mentioned, alcohol and tobacco are among the most commonly used drugs as well - perhaps eclipsed in use only by caffeine.
      Last edited by Nikolas; 03-23-2007, 01:20 PM.
      A policy of freedom for the individual is the only truly progressive policy. -F.A. Hayek

      "$250,000 a year won't get me to Central Park West."

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      • #4
        Re: Alcohol, tobacco among worst drugs

        Originally posted by War.mongeR1 View Post
        Sounds more like an excuse to raise taxes even higher on alcohol and tobacco. I don't buy it that alcohol/tobacco are worse than ecstasy. Yeah, more people are hospitalized due to them, but that's simply because way more people use the stuff.
        Ecstasy doesn't make you prone to retarded judgment, violent behavior, lowered reaction times, and liver damage.

        Alcohol abuse is not only dangerous to the user, but also all those around him.

        Ecstasy abusers are too busy drinking massive amounts of water and going on about how good their clothes feel against their skin to actually hurt anybody. And most incidents are based around other drugs as well.

        The long-term health effects of ecstasy are largely unknown at this point as testing is difficult to do (it being illegal) and most users of it are known to use other drugs as well. The overdose hazard is present, but that's usually due to what it's being "cut" with, which would be a quality control issue because there's no way to regulate it. But as it stands right now, moderate use of ecstasy has no ill effects on the body or mind.

        Ecstasy doesn't cause multiple forms of cancer and kill the amount of people cigarettes do.

        The main problem with Ecstasy is that stupid high-school kids involved in the rave scene think they're invulnerable. They don't realize that a side-effect is the body's lowered ability to regulate and decreased sweating. Without a solid intake of water (but don't drown yourself), you are prone to dehydration and possible stroke (which I've seen while working security at a rave).

        When was the last time you were accosted by an Ecstasy addict? The last time I was (once again, working security) it was a 6'7"+ 250 some-odd pound guy I had to tell to "settle down" because he was getting out of hand (he was on the dance floor with glow-sticks on a string, going nuts. One of the DJs was afraid he was going to pass out). The guy nearly started crying and promised me about 20 times that it wouldn't happen again. Then he wanted to give me a hug so there were no hard feelings. That's not a joke.

        Anyways, without equal numbers of users per drug, we need to look at "per capita" results.

        From Here
        The death rate for MDMA, assuming that there really were about 60 deaths directly caused by MDMA in 2000, would be roughly 2 in 100,000 users. The death rate from smoking, by contrast, is on the order of 400 per 100,000 users. Even alcohol, America's official "it's not really a drug" drug, nets about 50 deaths per 100,000 users each year:[3]
        Your tax dollars at work.

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        • #5
          Re: Alcohol, tobacco among worst drugs

          Granted, alcohol kills a moderately high number of people per-capita of usage. However, the vast majority of those deaths occur when abusing alcohol in ways that are already illegal. Deaths from legal alcohol use are far lower.

          This line of thought could probably be extrapolated to possible regulated usage of other drugs, but I haven't thought that far ahead yet. Feel free to speculate.

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Alcohol, tobacco among worst drugs

            Originally posted by Kerostasis View Post
            Granted, alcohol kills a moderately high number of people per-capita of usage. However, the vast majority of those deaths occur when abusing alcohol in ways that are already illegal. Deaths from legal alcohol use are far lower.

            I think your statement is inaccurate. Unless there is an illegal use of alcohol other then operating a motor vehicle that should be considered.

            The leading causes of death in 2000 (the latest figures available) show alcohol consumption the third highest cause of death in the country.

            The Journal of the American Medical Association, Jan. 19, 2005, Vol. 293, No. 3, p. 298, reported on the leading causes of death in the United States:

            * Tobacco (435,000 deaths; 18.1% of total US deaths)
            * Poor diet and physical inactivity (400,000 deaths; 16.6%)
            * Alcohol consumption (85,000 deaths; 3.5%)

            (Note: 16,653 deaths from alcohol-related vehicle crashes are included in both Alcohol consumption above and Motor vehicle crashes below.)

            http://www.drugwarfacts.org/causes.htm#item1
            http://www.csdp.org/research/1238.pdf

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Alcohol, tobacco among worst drugs

              Originally posted by Kerostasis View Post
              Granted, alcohol kills a moderately high number of people per-capita of usage.
              When compared to Weed or Ecstasy, it is well above moderate.

              However, the vast majority of those deaths occur when abusing alcohol in ways that are already illegal.Deaths from legal alcohol use are far lower.
              What is defined as "legal alcohol abuse?" In Texas, being out in public with a limit over .08 is illegal. Dying of an overdose in a bar or someone else's home is negligence, also illegal.

              So basically, we're stuck with people who overdose on alcohol while in the comfort of their own home. I'm sure that's much lower. And I can also say with some certainty that the incidences of Ecstasy users dying the same way (albeit ANY use is illegal, so we're still comparing apples to oranges) is slim to none, and most the happen in that way are probably from a "dirty tab" anyways, which could actually be the result of something besides MDMA.

              This line of thought could probably be extrapolated to possible regulated usage of other drugs, but I haven't thought that far ahead yet. Feel free to speculate.
              Legislation is already in place to regulate these drugs. Driving Under the Influence and Public Intoxication are not solely based around alcohol. In fact, it's a "catch all" with law enforcement if they can't prove or don't know what you're intoxicated with.

              There's still to problem of what to do with drugs like Cocaine, PCP, mescaline and other drugs that are extremely addictive and destructive. But the "war on Drugs" is hypocritical and a waste of resources that could be better spent elsewhere. I think something like 50% of that money is spent housing the non-violent mandatory minimums for small time drug offenses.

              Hell, just throwing that money into hiring more cops with better pay and training is a step in the right direction.

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Alcohol, tobacco among worst drugs

                Originally posted by TheFeniX View Post
                The long-term health effects of ecstasy are largely unknown at this point as testing is difficult to do (it being illegal) and most users of it are known to use other drugs as well. The overdose hazard is present, but that's usually due to what it's being "cut" with, which would be a quality control issue because there's no way to regulate it. But as it stands right now, moderate use of ecstasy has no ill effects on the body or mind.
                I read an article many moons ago about MDMA and the lethality of the drug. A number of "overdose" victims (resulting in fatality) were found to have died not from the MDMA, but rather from hyperhydration. One of MDMA's well known side effects includes (what I believe was) a chemical imbalance in the brain that makes its users feel very thirsty. As such, It's common to consume large amounts of water on the drug. Death by hyperhydration occurs when your brain absorbs too much water causing severe swelling.

                I can't find the article now, maybe someone with a little more time and not under a deadline can find it.

                Disclaimer: I am not an MD nor do I believe anyone in this thread to be an MD. But if anyone has additional third party information to contribute, please feel free! I'm still shocked that you can die simply by drinking too much water.
                Diplomacy is the art of saying "good doggie" while looking for a bigger stick.

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                • #9
                  Re: Alcohol, tobacco among worst drugs

                  Originally posted by Hambergler View Post
                  I think your statement is inaccurate. Unless there is an illegal use of alcohol other then operating a motor vehicle that should be considered.

                  The leading causes of death in 2000 (the latest figures available) show alcohol consumption the third highest cause of death in the country.

                  The Journal of the American Medical Association, Jan. 19, 2005, Vol. 293, No. 3, p. 298, reported on the leading causes of death in the United States:

                  * Tobacco (435,000 deaths; 18.1% of total US deaths)
                  * Poor diet and physical inactivity (400,000 deaths; 16.6%)
                  * Alcohol consumption (85,000 deaths; 3.5%)

                  (Note: 16,653 deaths from alcohol-related vehicle crashes are included in both Alcohol consumption above and Motor vehicle crashes below.)

                  http://www.drugwarfacts.org/causes.htm#item1
                  http://www.csdp.org/research/1238.pdf

                  Um...right.

                  Did you look at their methods? They draw a correlation that basically reduces to this: You drink alcohol occasionally, and you died. Therefore alcohol killed you. You uncle smoked, and he's dead too. Therefore, tobacco killed him.

                  Note that the number 1 medical cause of death was heart disease, at 710,000 deaths.

                  Originally posted by TheFeniX View Post
                  What is defined as "legal alcohol abuse?" In Texas, being out in public with a limit over .08 is illegal. Dying of an overdose in a bar or someone else's home is negligence, also illegal.

                  So basically, we're stuck with people who overdose on alcohol while in the comfort of their own home. I'm sure that's much lower.
                  I was gonna compare it with non-abusive behavior, rather than specifically "legal abuse". To be on the safe side, lets say all legal usage, whether abusive or not. Alcohol has millions of users who manage to use it safely rather than binge drinking and then getting on the highway. Their death rate is pretty low.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Alcohol, tobacco among worst drugs

                    Originally posted by Kerostasis View Post
                    I was gonna compare it with non-abusive behavior, rather than specifically "legal abuse". Alcohol has millions of users who manage to use it safely rather than binge drinking and then getting on the highway. Their death rate is pretty low.
                    That's why I posted a link containing a "per capita" listing of the alcohol vs MDMA based deaths. Even with these millions of people drinking safely all the time, alcohol still has a disapportionate (over 10 times) the amount of deaths per user than MDMA.

                    No matter which way you swing it, there's a whole lot more idiot alcohol abusers than idiot MDMA abusers out there. Even if we give the sketchy data of 2 per 100,000 MDMA users dying some leeway (make it 10 per 100,000, 5 times the listed amount), you're still 5 times more likely to get yourself killed by drinking than using MDMA. And with alcohol, you don't have to worry about miscreant dealers putting rat poison in your alcohol.

                    Based on this information, it's hypocritical to keep alcohol legal and deny the same treatment to other much less harmful drugs.

                    By legalizing these drugs, could we see a jump in the per capita deaths in response? Quite possibly. But this is why I'm all for harsher sentences against DUIs and vehicular manslaughter aided by intoxication. You have to show people that driving while intoxicated by ANY DRUG is bad news and will get a beat down laid on you (metaphorically).

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Alcohol, tobacco among worst drugs

                      Originally posted by Kerostasis View Post
                      Um...right.

                      Did you look at their methods? They draw a correlation that basically reduces to this: You drink alcohol occasionally, and you died. Therefore alcohol killed you. You uncle smoked, and he's dead too. Therefore, tobacco killed him.

                      Note that the number 1 medical cause of death was heart disease, at 710,000 deaths.
                      So your methods are more accurate then the American Medical Association and the Center for Disease Control?

                      The equation they used takes into account relative risk factors. Saying that they made calculations based solely on whether or not someone has ever tried alcohol is ridiculous.

                      "We used 2000 mortality data reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to identify the causes and number of deaths. The estimates of cause of death were computed by multiplying estimates of the cause-attributable fraction of preventable deaths with the total mortality data."

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Alcohol, tobacco among worst drugs

                        New angle: Any given drug has generally 3 or 4 different ways to kill people:
                        -1-Immediate health failure due to overdose
                        -2-Impaired judgement leading to death from other causes such as car accidents
                        -3-Long term gradual impairment of health due to continued use
                        -4-Incidental deaths related to criminal activities involved in obtaining the drugs

                        Legal drugs (tobacco and alcohol) primarily register deaths in categories 2 and 3. The study cited by Hambergler suggests that number 3 represents the bulk of alcohol-related deaths, and certainly the bulk of tobacco-related deaths.

                        Illegal drugs, by contrast, register most of their deaths in categories 1 and 4, with 2 varying based on the individual drug at hand. They might still be dangerous in the sense given by category 3, but since they are illegal, there is little effective way to measure their long term effects. So it stands to reason that an illegal drug not given to causing type 1 deaths, and cheap enough not to be a major driving force behind type 4 deaths, would register as a very low overall cause of deaths. But this says nothing about its potential danger as a cause of type 3 deaths.

                        Any comparison between the lethality of legal drugs and that of illegal drugs faces a great obstacle in accounting for this effect and comparing like results. It is meaningless to claim that the number of people whose health fails after 50 years of smoking exceeds the number of people who drop dead on the dance floor after one night of taking ecstasy. After all, the number of people who drop dead after one night of smoking is effectively zero. Who knows what the impacts on your health might be after using some other drug for 50 years?

                        (Note that I am making absolutely no claims regarding the optimal legal position on these drugs, just the medical position.)

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                        • #13
                          Re: Alcohol, tobacco among worst drugs

                          Statistical banter aside...

                          I wish we would just stop smoking period. I don't want to see my father die of lung cancer, which he probably already has.

                          Here is how you may call me:
                          Ty (Tie), or Tychus. (Tie-cuss)'. Full pronounciation: Tie-can-dur-us
                          -Tychandrus

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: Alcohol, tobacco among worst drugs

                            Originally posted by Kerostasis View Post
                            New angle: Any given drug has generally 3 or 4 different ways to kill people:
                            -1-Immediate health failure due to overdose
                            -2-Impaired judgement leading to death from other causes such as car accidents
                            -3-Long term gradual impairment of health due to continued use
                            -4-Incidental deaths related to criminal activities involved in obtaining the drugs

                            Legal drugs (tobacco and alcohol) primarily register deaths in categories 2 and 3. The study cited by Hambergler suggests that number 3 represents the bulk of alcohol-related deaths, and certainly the bulk of tobacco-related deaths.

                            Illegal drugs, by contrast, register most of their deaths in categories 1 and 4, with 2 varying based on the individual drug at hand. They might still be dangerous in the sense given by category 3, but since they are illegal, there is little effective way to measure their long term effects. So it stands to reason that an illegal drug not given to causing type 1 deaths, and cheap enough not to be a major driving force behind type 4 deaths, would register as a very low overall cause of deaths. But this says nothing about its potential danger as a cause of type 3 deaths.

                            Any comparison between the lethality of legal drugs and that of illegal drugs faces a great obstacle in accounting for this effect and comparing like results. It is meaningless to claim that the number of people whose health fails after 50 years of smoking exceeds the number of people who drop dead on the dance floor after one night of taking ecstasy. After all, the number of people who drop dead after one night of smoking is effectively zero. Who knows what the impacts on your health might be after using some other drug for 50 years?

                            (Note that I am making absolutely no claims regarding the optimal legal position on these drugs, just the medical position.)
                            I agree.
                            When people think drugs and danger together, they think of death. Although the rate of death is a very small factor concerning this study. It is meant to illustrate the dangers through a human perspective. Danger being: the physical harm to the user, the drug's potential for addiction, and the impact on society of drug use.

                            I think Professor Nutt is doing a good thing, but his study is already being twisted by others into more criminalization; when I think his point was to highlight that socially acceptable drugs can be just as dubious or more so then some of the illegal ones. And by legalizing certain ones it is sending the wrong message.

                            I'll go out on a limb, but I think he is strategically trying to manipulating the legislation into drawing a conclusion that the war on drugs is pointless with alcohol being legal. I think he is betting on the idea that no one would ever make alcohol illegal. So to have laws that would make sense they would have to legalize other drugs as well. Well, I can dream.

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                            • #15
                              Re: Alcohol, tobacco among worst drugs

                              The Netherlands has got it right all along :).

                              Wasn't the war on drugs something to put black people in jail?

                              In case anyone doubts the harm of alcohol, why not google "korsakoff".

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