Courtesy of The Lancet

Alcohol is the most dangerous drug compared to cannabis, heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and other drugs, British scientists concluded in a study released last week.

According to a CBS article published on Nov. 1, David Nutt, a professor at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom, headed a research study held by the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs (ISCD) which was published the same day in The Lancet one of the oldest weekly peer-reviewed general medical journals.

As stated in The Lancet, members of the ISCD scored the effects of 20 drugs using 16 criteria. Nine of the criteria were related to the harms that a drug produces in the individual and seven to various harms the drugs have on others.

The harms to others category included crime, environmental damage, family conflict, international damage, economic cost and damage to community cohesion. The harms to the user category included things such as damage to health, drug dependence, drug-related death and loss of relationships, as stated in an article on Yahoo! News.

Also stated in The Lancet article, the group found that heroin, crack cocaine and methamphetamines were the most harmful drugs to individuals with scores of 34, 37 and 32 respectively. Alcohol, heroin and crack cocaine were the most harmful to others with scores of 46, 21 and 17 respectively — all scores are on a scale from one to 100, with 100 being the most harmful.

When both the individual harm and the harm to others scores were added together, alcohol was the most harmful drug with an overall harm score of 72.

Heroin received a score of 55 with crack cocaine coming in a close third with 54.

Based on the study results, alcohol is significantly more harmful than many other illegal drugs.

Kinesiology junior Shannon Roberts said she was surprised by the outcome.

“I think because the media gives (alcohol) such a fun image, it kind of sways your view of it,” she said. “You don’t think of it as a drug.”

The Health and Drug Specialist at the Cal Poly Health Center, Mary Peracca, said this viewpoint is part of the problem.

“If you ask students what a drug is, they do not include alcohol on that list,” Peracca said.

Peracca, who previously worked in a county health and drug services setting, said she agreed with the results of the study and said from her experience alcohol is the most dangerous drug.

However, she also said to take the results with a grain of salt because methamphetamines and other hard drugs are still risky.

“I am a little bit torn to say alcohol is the most dangerous because meth also takes a toll on individuals and society,” said Peracca. “But by sheer numbers, more people abuse alcohol by quantity.”

History junior Jessica Mullins said she felt the legality of alcohol may play a role in why it is so dangerous.

In a statement about the study, Nutt said “it is intriguing to note that the two legal drugs assessed — alcohol and tobacco — score in the upper segment of the ranking scale, indicating that legal drugs cause at least as much harm as do illegal substances.”

Tobacco scored 26 in the study, ahead of drugs such as ecstasy, LSD and magic mushrooms — with scores of nine, seven and five respectively.

“Those scores are shocking because of the preconceived notion that these drugs are incredibly harmful,” Mullins said.

The low score of drugs like ecstasy also surprised Roberts, she said.

“It makes me think that I know nothing about drugs,” Roberts said.

Roberts is not the only one with those feelings. Peracca said she felt it could be because of the way children and young adults are educated about drugs.

“It’s all about moderation,” Peracca said. “Any of those hard drugs would not be that bad if it was only used once in a while, but that’s just not how it works for most people.”

She said the media does play a huge role in how we perceive drugs. In movies, the crackheads and meth addicts are always in dark, scary places while those who use alcohol and tobacco seem to be having the time of their lives, Peracca said.

Despite media portrayals and the stigmas which come with each drug, Mullins said the study is believable because alcohol could quite possibly be the most dangerous drug.

“It seems reasonable that alcohol is the most dangerous because it impairs balance and perception, and so many people abuse it,” Mullins said.

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