So this week, the much government-maligned scientist Professor Nutt published a paper with other scientists in The Lancet to claim that alcohol was the most dangerous drug in society ahead of crack cocaine and heroin. In this study LSD and ecstacy were considered the least harmful of all.
Many have jumped at this either in support of this paper or in defence of a substance that has become so embedded in to the culture of Western society.
It is importance to point out that this was based on a multi-criteria analysis involving various factors such as the harm done to oneself and the harm caused to others in society as well as psychological issues and overall alcohol was overwhelmingly on top of the board for danger, mainly due to the harm that it causes to society.
In terms of scoring, alcohol overall scored 72/100, with heroin coming second on 55/100. At this point people may look at this and claim that it’s high time that prohibition was reintroduced and laws on drugs should be tougher than before. However, the findings of this paper may not be as simple as it seems. It cannot be disputed that alcohol is unhealthy, it has always been known that it causes damage to many organs of the body and when in heavy quantities, dramatically reduces life expectancy, although it may be argued that in moderation the harms of such usage may be negligible.
The issue with the paper is whether or not it takes proportionality into thinking. Alcohol is accepted in society due to it’s availability and the heavy advertising that makes it appealing to all members of society and generally allows people to become ignorant of the effects it may be having. As such usage is extremely widespread and as such a large number will be found to abuse it. As well as this because of such high numbers using alcohol, as well as the well known effects it has on people in terms of their actions, the damage to society is profound. Anybody who has been to any English city on a Friday night will know what this entails.
However, let us consider a different society. If alcohol were banned and heroin and crack cocaine were legal, what would this same study find? Although we will never know, logic suggests that as alcohol usage would be far lower, alcohol related incidents would be much lower and as such the score it will have obtained from this study would reflect that and as such it’s decriminalisation would be called for, whereas crack and heroin would be far higher including any other illegal drug that were to become legal.
I am not doubting the results of this study are accurate, I actually think it reflects what society has become in terms of acceptance and the available of cheap alcohol that leads to the unsavoury behaviour that we have become so accustomed to in British society. However, I do not think the scientists were aiming to give this as an indication to bring in prohibition and ban it altogether.
The scientists have shown, without the government muzzle that prevents them speaking out on such topics, that the current drug laws are out of date and inadequate for the substances in question and that changes must be made. However, until the government are willing to listen to those that are knowledgeable of these facts, the scientists, this will not happen. The government believe they know what is correct rather than the academics that perform the studies to educate us.
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