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Professor David Nutt and colleagues reiterate:  Alcohol more harmful than heroin…”

This data was presented last year and resulted in the sacking of Professor David Nutt from his position as Chief Adviser to the Government’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs. Its publication in the Lancet today underlines the importance of this good quality science, and the complications of trying to differentiate between the financial and social costs of alcohol and other drugs when there is good evidence that there is a very significant proportion of poly drug users (people taking both alcohol and illegal drugs) in society.

Download the Lancet article here  (pdf 303kb)

This is a clear conflict between good quality research and the politics of drug control.

What the report highlights is the very significant harm caused to individuals and society by alcohol.

From a pathological perspective, in contrast to other drugs, the small molecule of ethanol/alcohol can affect every organ in the body. Alcohol molecules are more pervasive and harmful from a toxicological viewpoint than those of any other drug.

This report highlights the need to review the classification of drugs but throws into sharp focus the need to review the  guidelines for the consumption of alcohol by individuals, particularly as there is  a significant difference between young people and adults in their response to alcohol, and also the need for tighter controls over its marketing.

It has been known for many years that changes in behaviour begin with the first drop of alcohol. Increased vulnerability occurs during conception, and in adolescents, who metabolise alcohol differently and whose physiological and psychological reactions to alcohol are different from those of adults.

Illegal drugs have a harmful effect on individuals and society and clearly, legislation is needed to control their supply and use. Illegal drugs are produced by an illegal and dispersed source of production. This is in contrast to the legal production of alcohol.

The control of illegal drugs and the regulation of alcohol production are two sides of the same coin, when viewed from the perspective of harm caused to individuals, families and society.

Comment from Open All Hours campaign group:

The problem of ‘passive drinking’ is damaging towns and cities and must be tackled in the same way as passive smoking, say campaigners.   Residents should be given more influence over licensing laws to make them less lax.   “Too many of our streets and town and city centres are plagued by shouting, vomiting, fights, urination and other rowdy behaviour”, said Matthew Bennett, Chairman of Open All Hours campaign group.   Alcohol-related crime and disorder is thought to cost taxpayers £13 billion a year.