Drug classification is out of order

Mark Easton’s BBC News blog tackles a recent study that has ranked the dangers of numerous recreational drugs – citing alcohol as the most hazardous to health ahead of even heroin and cocaine.

The study, just published in The Lancet, is interesting not just because it is yet another that shows the disconnect between official policy and the actual evidence on drug harm, but because the authors are some of the people who were sacked or resigned after the UK government got upset that they kept highlighting inconvenient evidence to this effect.

Its worth noting that ranking drug harms is an inexact science. For example, injecting any drug regularly massively increases the health risks, so opinion varies on whether you should count this is as a danger attached to a specific substance – when some drugs – like heroin, can be taken with or without injecting.

Regardless of the exact ranking, the general pattern found in this any many other studies highlights the ongoing reluctance to deal with drugs as they actually affect society.

Mark Easton’s BBC News blog is consistently excellent by the way, and a genuinely incisive attempt to get at the real evidence behind many pressing social issues.
 

Link to Mark Easton on ‘Drug Debate Hots Up’.
Link to paywalled Lancet study.

2 Comments

  1. Posted November 4, 2010 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    I completely agree that there is a serious disconnect between official policy and the actual evidence on this topic, and I’m thankful that many big names in the community are willing to risk and have risked their jobs over getting this information public.

    However, I keep noticing that Professor Nutt is not declaring his conflict of interests in this area and it worries me (if this conflict is still relevant) that if this were to become widely known it would harm Prof. Nutt’s work.

    According to The Telegraph (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/6874884/Alcohol-substitute-that-avoids-drunkenness-and-hangovers-in-development.html), Prof. Nutt is helping to develop an alcohol substitute. A worthwhile endeavour, it seems, but one that should be clarified, I feel.

  2. simone
    Posted November 6, 2010 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

    The piece in the Lancet is an excellent example of junk science. It is not based upon facts. It is a group of people whose opinions are reified by the application of a quantitative method.

    It is likely that there is no disconnect in policy and practical impacts.

    I would suggest that you read the paper and note the method employed.


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