back to article Booze worse than Speed or Acid shocker

Research from today's Lancet magazine suggests a better way to categorise drugs based on the harm they do to the user and to society more widely. Drugs in the UK are classified as A, B or C, and punishment, as well as treatment, varies accordingly. The researchers looked at 20 drugs and asked two separate groups of experts to …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    About time, mushies should not be class A

    One thing that has always confused me. Why are mushrooms class A? Why are they even illegal? Its vertually impossible to overdose (if you take too many you freak out yes, but it wont kill you. And it'll stop you taking any drugs for a long long time, i speak from personal experience). They are not addictive. In fact if you keep taking mushrooms on a regular basis the effect eventually just gets boring and crap (again personal experience). Also by making them illegal people go out into forests, pick what they think are the right mushrooms and end up getting liver or kidney problems and die, because they were the wrong shade or in the wrong place. Canabis should stay illegal though. I nearly failed my uni degree because i smoked too much pot. Bad stuff. I'm not a crack head by the way.

  2. jon

    about time

    Its about time we had some realistic and pragmatic research on drugs, illegal and legal.

    It simply confirms what pretty much every drug user has always said, tobacco is more addictive than many class a's and alcohol is more damaging than most illegal drugs.

    Hats off to those who carried out this research.

    Will it change Government policy? Doubtful.

    It seems to become a politician these days you must have your common sense ship removed and replaced with an emotional propoganda creation unit.

  3. nanuk

    Booze worse than speed

    I do believe that the article is quite correct in its assumptions but it's up to government now whether to heed its advice or throw it aside.

    For those of you wanting to read more you can visit

    The article from BBC is dated July 2006 by the way ;)

  4. Mark Charlton

    Numbers Game

    Apparently the basis of this is the cumulative amount of harm caused by the relevant drugs. Apparently Alcohol is more dangerous than extasy as one preson dies a day due to Alcohol Poisoning.

    Surely if everyone that drank alcohol also took extasy with the same frequency, there would be more extasy deaths per day.

    What a pointless flawed study, (AGAIN).

  5. Tom Davie

    They seem to have misinterpretted figures

    They seem to be using the fact that 40% of hospital illness is caused by tobacco as a reason to say that it's very harmful. But they don't appear to be comparing apples to apples. Perhaps if Heroin were as readily available as Tobacco a far higher proportion of hospital illnesses or deaths would be caused by that instead.

  6. John PM Chappell

    Not really....

    Ecstasy (and that *is* the spelling) won't kill anyone at all, for example. Heroin is relatively harmless, as a drug but injecting it carries all kinds of risks, and so on.

    Only sensible system is total liberalization with taxation and control of distribution.

  7. Mr Spoon


    I wonder if Mark and Tom have actually read the methodology in the Lancet article or if they just saw the 40% in this article and assumed that the health care cost and danger of a drug are being measured based on totals rather than per user?

    Because from reading the Lancet article it seems to me that they're measuring it per person not as a total. They do mention the high figures for health costs of tobacco and alcohol, but only as an example.

  8. George

    Mark Charlton, you talk nonsense

    What makes you think they base these results on "how many people die of alcohol poisoning a day"? Did you not even read the article? It clearly stated: Drugs were considered for the physical harm caused - immediate effects, consquences of repeated use, and specific problems caused by injecting drugs.

    I hate it when people don't think before making comments.

    This kind of study, whilst not new, has been needed for a long time. As someone else said, whether the government take notice is a completely different matter. If they start publicy publishing that graph that shows two of their main tax revenue streams as being more dangerous/damaging than Ecstacy, they open themselves up to waaaay more problems than if they just leave it alone and bury the evidence.

  9. Geoff Gale

    re: about time by jon

    "...Will it change Government policy? Doubtful..."

    If one is of a speculative nature, one can easily imagine that the drugs distribution businesses (read drugs cartels and organised crime) have a hand in maintaining the illegal status of their products. Were it not for the illegality of the goods in which they deal, they'd be sitting on warehouses filled to bursting with potions worth a mere fraction of the billions they are worth as illegal goods. The last I read, the illegal drugs business is globally worth nearly 80bn pounds - that sort of cash has a life of it's own and the people who stand to benefit from that money will take whatever steps are necessary to perpetuate the flow of money. While you can easily see the politicos, law enforcement agents and zealots who speak out about the ills of drug abuse, there is likely an equal, if not larger number of drugs trade figures working invisibly to make sure that society doesn't get too soft on the drugs trade - it's bad for business.

    The manufacture, distribution and sale of illegal drugs has been a boon to most governments because it provides ample justification to ratchet up budgets for interdiction, enforcement, prosecution, punishment and treatment of those poor souls who use drugs. It's fair to say that it would be cheaper for most governments, national down to local, to simply purchase drugs for all the folks who want to use than it is to fund all of the bureaucracy that accompanies keeping them illegal and punishable. For them, illegal drugs means more taxes, more police, more prisons, more judges, more seizures of property, more technology, and we all know that more is better, right?

    To Mark and Tom - come on lads - inject a spot of common sense into this discussion. Not to say that the drugs you cite aren't harmful in their own right - they are - but honestly, even if they were available at the corner shop, it's their impact on one's ability to perform the activities of daily living that's the real reason they're not used as widely or frequently as alcohol or tobacco. Few of us have the ability to work, participate in social activities, care for our abode, maintain relationships with friends and family and contribute to the community all the while using heroin, ecstasy or methamphetamine.

    Both alcohol and tobacco are special cases precisely because they CAN be used in almost any context or situation and therefore both are prone to frequent and chronic overuse. The man or woman who consumes a pack of fags a day, or a half-dozen pints a day certainly wouldn't be able to use most other drugs at the same rate, simply because the other drugs to which your comparing them are far more potent at a single dose level than are alcohol and tobacco. I think it's well established that the real danger associated with both alcohol and tobacco is their long-term use, not the immediate effect on your ability to perform. Although I wouldn't want to give short shrift to the proven ability of alcohol to cloud judgment and impair reactions thereby causing people to do any number of truly and stupendously stupid things like drive, fight and attempt physical feats well beyond their capacity.


  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward



    from someone who has been a space cadet for many years and manages to hold down a responsible job as a programmer im happy with this report.

    to anyone who has played with most narcotics we know how much worse alcohol is compared to pretty much anything else

    all the people whos lives are falling apart that i know is from alcohol - and these lot arent space cadets! all my space cadet friends have grown out of it and live productive lives

    like the article about a crazed marijuana addict killing someone this week. the guy is a nutter! weed doesnt make you violent - he was just as likely to go crazy from beer or just emotions - just a weak fucked up guy! im sick of being made to feel like a criminal cos i like to smoke weed (stopped everything else years ago now - im 32!)

    lets get some things straight - weed isnt addictive - the most addictive substance ive ever used has been nicotine (quit last year now!) people seem to get addicted to anything they like - not because its addictive but because they are weak (like the guy addicted to porn on TV recently - just a weak idiot)

    also alchohol is the only drug that can kill you from a detox. nothing else can.

    why dont the gov clamp down on alcohol - its by far the most dangerous to others (most violent crime and sex assualts are by drunk people) yet the gov make so much from tax they dont care.

    they are clamping down on weed smokers and these ficticious weed farmers from vietnam (bullshit - every grower i know is just a person who doesnt wanna pay ridiculous prices due to everyone being busted) - this has forced the price of smack down and weed up - well done tony b!

    why do people who dont understand things always get to make up the decisions? become educated - know what you are taking - be safe and you will have no issues.

    remember a lot of drugs actually just release chemicals that your body already has in it. alcohol is getting off on being poisoned..... think about it.....

  11. A J Stiles

    Not even the truth can save you now

    Most of the harm done by illegal drugs should more rightly be attributed to the fact of their being illegal in the first place. For instance, street heroin isn't labelled for purity; a batch which is stronger than expected can lead to an overdose. If it were legal and properly labelled, such overdoses would not happen.

    How many users are actively dissuaded from seeking help by the thought that they might have to get their friends into trouble to save themselves? That goes directly against human nature (interestingly, the body's hard-wired mechanism for rewarding altruistic behaviour such as not grassing on your mates works by releasing endorphins, natural pain-relieving and feel-good chemicals whose effects are mimicked by the opioids) and as a result, their habits end up getting worse.

    And who ever heard of publicans or tobacconists getting involved in a turf war with drive-by shootings and gangland executions?

    But the demonisation of illegal drugs has gone on for too long now. There are too many people with too great an interest in keeping certain drugs illegal. Not even the truth can save you now.

  12. Nìall Tracey



    "Ecstasy (and that *is* the spelling) won't kill anyone at all, for example."

    Hyperpyrexia, vasoconstriction, rhabdomyolysis, water intoxication (due to interference with cell osmosis), hyponatremia, even plain old allergenic reactions... any of these can be fatal.

    You are free to debate the relative safety, but stating that it "won't kill anyone" is wrong, and entirely reprehensible.

  13. Greg Nelson

    each one a junkie, each one h/is/er own drug pusher?

    Putting aside the 'lies, damned lies and statistics' argument the more interesting questions arise as to whether we need more, better drugs, and, whether we are each one of us a junkie and our own drug pusher.

    IIRC the French symbolist poet Baudelaire said of us that we each carry our own drug in our heart, a statement somewhat akin to Marx's characterization of religion as the opiate of the people. Apparently love has recently been characterized as a drug. Would it be allowable to extend the argument and look at our socio-economic mileu as a basis for stimulation that in terms of neurotransmitters and hormones makes each of us a junkie and each of us a drug dealer. Do we by way of symbols supply our brains with the precursors that allow it to whip up a batch of the really good stuff? Of course if one is socially well adjusted, free of substance abuse and productive in an over populated, polluted, war torn world where the externalities of the maintaining the status quo are swept under the rug or into the dustbins we call prisons then, as Dr. Pangloss would be quick to point out, all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds. The question again arises do we need more, better drugs.

    Drugs like prostitution have been with us forever. I experimented with a wide variety of drugs. Tried heroine once, liked it so much I never went near it again. Stayed awhile with pot and mushrooms and beer because they're fun and I could shake off the effects easily. My problem is I'm an information junkie, can't get enough, dream about mainlining printers' ink or jacking into everything. Information ruined my life, jack of all trades master of none. To each their own, maybe the alcoholics and nicotine addicts and other junkies just can't function any better in a world so fucked up that power and greed are the daily arbitrators of their lives?

  14. Jack Simon

    I agree with the study

    Its hard to judge if "X is worse than Y" overall... but id defiantly say weed, tobacco and alcohol is more dangerous to quality of life than ecstasy (from personal experience).

    More people than youd think take ecstasy and yet death rates are quoted insanely low in comparasion to any other class A drug (some put it close to vehicle accident death rates, while others only a few times higher), the actual causes of death are almost always 2 things, Inproper water intake(You sweat alot, causing some to panic and drink loads, others to not drink enough and dehydrate) and over heating (Due to less sensation of it). Both of which can easily be avoided if taking the correct precautions, same with any other drug.

    Other than that, the small dose risks are minimal. Although due to its concentration, its much easier to consume enough to over do it, not because its more dangerous in regular doses.

    Id say ecstasy should be placed in class B at least, then tobacco needs to be slightly more restricted.

  15. Tre LaDormin

    Is that all there is?

    WTF? The world's biggest group of former boozers and chain-smokers now sit on high and pass judgement on what qualifies as the best drug for abuse? And all they can come up with is this pitiful list....What have they been doing with all that research money??? We want better drugs! We need something as easy to use (and abuse) as booze but with the kick of Special K mixed with H! Now that would be an major medical accomplishment!



    I've been an opiate addict as well as various other assorted drugs for over 20 years. I've seen more than my fair share of what various drugs (this includes alcohol kids, make no mistake) can do to an individual and believe me when I tell you in terms of cost to health and to society at large alcohol is far and away the top contributor to the misery. Heroin, while not something that should be put in any kind of positive light is used by a very small minority and even smaller are the amount of people who actually go on to become hardcore addicts. The associated behaviors of crime and spreading of HIV due to dirty needles are all issues that stem from the drugs illegality (here in the US anyway). Technically a person who had an endless supply of the drug and taking a maintenance dose daily for the rest of their lives wouldn't have to deal with any physical issue worse than constipation. Withdrawal is incredibly uncomfortable but not a life threatening malady. Also, being shocked over that LSD came in under alcohol goes to show the now debunked theory of chromosome damage etc is still alive and well in some countries. Because of this, promising studies in the treatment for alcoholism have been shut-down due to the cowardice of our senators not wanting to be the ones to vote for anything that puts the drug in anything other than a evil, life destroying light. US law enforcement loathe to remove any negative bullet points on a drug even if its been shown to be false. Perhaps this is partly why teen students on the whole do not take any warnings seriously over here, particularly from law-enforcement.

    The list in terms of physical and mental damage should read thusly:

    1.) alcohol

    2.) methamphetamine

    3.) Barbiturates

    4.) inhalants

    5.) Cocaine

    6.) PCP

    7.) Heroin

    8.) Pharmaceutical amphetamine/diet meds

    9.) Benzodiazapines

    10.) Over the counter cough/cold medicine

    the rest are various sundry pharms plus negligible stuff like Ecstasy and Marijuana.

    I've always maintained that if a new, illegal drug were introduced that had the potential adverse social and physical affects of alcohol that there would be a worldwide outcry to ban it.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    booze is worse then smack

    Well, chronic alchoholism does far more physiological damge then chronic heroin addiction. But that's *IF* the heroin user is careful to use a clean needle each time, or better yet snorts it. Also its easier to OD on heroin then alcohol, but primarily because strength per dose of heroin street samples varies widely.

  18. Paul Murray

    It'l never happen

    The right wing will never permit the legalisation of cannabis. Dope makes you unagressive and unafraid, and the right relies on fear and hate to win their elections.

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