The research was based on several factors including, drug-related deaths, damage to health (including depression), drug dependence, social damage (loss of relationship), economic costs, environmental damage, family conflict and drug related crimes.
“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”, said Prof. David Nutt.
The WHO (World Health Organization) links 2.5 million deaths a year (3.8% of all deaths) to alcohol, ranging from road accidents, cancer, suicide, heart disease, and liver disease, to be the third biggest risk factor for premature death worldwide.
Considering the most lethal to individuals, heroin, crack cocaine and methamphetamine (crystal meth) were found the most lethal, yet considering the social effects, scientists found alcohol to be the most dangerous.
Alcohol scored 72 overall from a zero to 100 based on their criteria, while heroin scored 55, crack 54, crystal meth 33, cocaine 27, tobacco 26, cannabis 20, ecstasy 9, anabolic steroids 9 and magic mushrooms 5.
“We need to rethink how we deal with drugs in the light of these findings. We do need a classification system, we do need to regulate the ones that are very harmful to individuals like heroin and crack cocaine”, Prof. Nutt added.
Throughout this study published in Lancet medical journal, researchers call for more efforts to reduce the harmful effects of alcohol, as the government focuses only on illicit drugs.
“The government should now urgently ensure alcohol is made less affordable and invest in prevention and treatment services to deal with the rise in alcohol dependency that has occurred”, said Don Shenker, chief executive of Alcohol Concern.