Alcohol ‘more harmful than heroin’ says Prof David Nutt

“The findings run contrary to the government’s long-established drug classification system, but the paper’s authors argue that their system – based on the consensus of experts – provides an accurate assessment of harm for policy makers. “Our findings lend support to previous work in the UK and the Netherlands, confirming that the present drug classification systems have little relation to the evidence of harm,” the paper says. “They also accord with the conclusions of previous expert reports that aggressively targeting alcohol harms is a valid and necessary public health strategy.” In 2007, Prof Nutt and colleagues undertook a limited attempt to create a harm ranking system, sparking controversy over the criteria and the findings.”

“The adviser, Dr. David Nutt, said in a lecture that alcohol is more hazardous than many outlawed substances, and that the United Kingdom might be making a mistake in throwing marijuana smokers in jail. His comments were published in a press release in October, and the next day he was dismissed. The buzz over his sacking has yet to subside: Nutt has become the talk of pubs and Parliament, as well as the subject of tabloid headlines like: “Drug advisor on wacky baccy?” But behind Nutt’s words lay something perhaps more surprising, and harder to grapple with. His comments weren’t the idle musings of a reality-insulated professor in a policy job. They were based on a list – a scientifically compiled ranking of drugs, assembled by specialists in chemistry, health, and enforcement, published in a prestigious medical journal two years earlier.

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