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Public ‘frightened’ of truth on drugs

People are too frightened of drugs to take a new approach to the issue and consider evidence suggesting alcohol is more dangerous than heroin, ecstasy and cocaine, a scientist has said.

In a new study, researchers rated alcohol the most dangerous substance based on the overall dangers to the individual and society as a whole.

The work was led by Professor David Nutt, the former Government drugs adviser who was sacked for criticising the then Labour Government's decision to upgrade cannabis from class C to class B. His team analysed how addictive a drug is and how it harms the human body as well as other factors like environmental and socio-economic costs, such as health care, social services, and prison.

They found heroin, crack cocaine and methamphetamine, or crystal meth, to be the most lethal to individuals.

When considering their wider social effects, alcohol, heroin and crack cocaine were the most dangerous.

But overall, alcohol outranked all other substances, followed by illegal substances like heroin and crack cocaine. Marijuana, ecstasy and LSD scored far lower.

Prof Nutt said alcohol was the most harmful to society because it was so widely available. Asked if he was suggesting a drug like heroin was not dangerous, he told BBC Breakfast: “Of course heroin is dangerous.

“What I am saying is in terms of what the cost to UK society is today, alcohol is the biggest harm. It has such a huge impact.”

Prof Nutt argued his team's job was to “keep putting the evidence in front of the public and in front of the Government”.

“If the Government chooses to ignore it, at some point eventually it will come home to roost,” he said.

“I think people are frightened about drugs. They don't want to look at the evidence.

“We've had this mantra for 50 years — ‘don't take drugs, drugs are dangerous, let's use criminal sanctions'. It's almost habit.” The study was produced by Prof Nutt's Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs (ISCD), and published yesterday in medical journal The Lancet.

Gavin Partington, spokesman for the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, said: “Professor Nutt's views are well-known.

“Like some in the medical profession, he chooses to campaign on this issue.

“But his views don't tally with the views of millions of ordinary people around the country who enjoy alcohol as part of a regular and enjoyable social drink.”

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