Is alcohol more dangerous than heroin or cocaine?

Originally appeared at: Alcohol is more dangerous than other widely abused drugs, like heroin and cocaine, according to a new study that appears in the British medical journal, Lancet. For the study, a team of expert drug researchers assessed substances including alcohol, cocaine, heroin, ecstasy and marijuana, and ranked them based on their impact to the individual who takes them and to society as a whole. The research team assessed each drug based on its addictiveness, propensity to cause physical damage to the user, levels of environmental damage associated with the drug, along with its impact on families and its economic costs, such as health care, social services, and prison. Overall, heroin, crack cocaine and methamphetamine, or crystal meth, were the deadliest drugs on an individual level. That is, they claimed the highest number of deaths for individual users. However, when the research team considered the wider impact of the drugs, alcohol topped both heroin and crack cocaine as the deadliest, most dangerous drug overall. Other, common illegal drugs, such as marijuana, ecstasy and LSD fell at the bottom of the danger scale. According to the research team, alcohol’s high risk rating is a result of its widespread use and devastating consequences for both drinkers and people around them. With regards to alcohol, said Wim van den Brink, professor of psychiatry and addiction at the University of Amsterdam, and co-author of a commentary published with the study, “…just think about what happens at every football game.” Excess consumption of alcohol damages nearly all organ systems, and is also tied to higher death rates and is associated with more crimes than most other drugs, including heroin. Still, the panel noted that it would be impractical and unwise to outlaw alcohol. The study was funded by Britain’s Centre for Crime and Justice Studies. Another brief article discussing the findings of the study published in the Lancet suggesting that alcohol might be more harmful than heroin or cocaine when the impact on society as a whole is accounted for.