British scientists say that alcohol does more harm to society than heroin, crack cocaine, and methamphetamine, or crystal meth — a finding that could shake up thinking about the drug war. Those illegal drugs are more lethal to individuals. But the researchers say alcohol causes more overall damage because it is used more widely. It also harms not just drinkers but those around them, who have to deal with crime, medical bills, and other social costs of alcohol abuse. Is alcohol really more harmful than hard drugs?
You cannot compare alcohol and drugs: It's "pretty ridiculous" to suggest that alcohol is really as dangerous as heroin, says Mary Elizabeth Williams at Salon. Alcohol is everwhere, and plenty of people consume it in moderation. Hard drugs are far more likely to "decimate the hell out of a person's life," and if they were as easy to obtain as alcohol they would be far more ruinous for society.
"Is alcohol worse than crack?"
The point is that not all drugs are as harmful as we think: These scientists aren't out to bash drinkers, says Maggie Koerth-Baker at Boing Boing, or to get alcohol banned. They are just trying to encourage government to "take alcoholism more seriously," and rethink drug policies so they will be based on scientific evidence rather than social and political prejudice. "I couldn't agree more."
"What would an evidence-based drug policy look like?"
The study is meaningless: There's no "actual research data" here, says Dr. John M. Grohol at PsychCentral. The study's conclusions come from "subjective ratings" given to each substance by a group of 15 experts. A "comprehensive, data-driven analysis of each drug" might just come up with different findings — especially since alcohol's harm to society stems from its "wide distribution and popularity," not simply its addictive nature.
"Alcohol the most dangerous drug? Probably not"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- How academia's liberal bias is killing social science
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- Why Pakistan won't hunt down the terrorists within its borders
- Are there human remains at the Titanic wreck site?
- 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to
- The real story behind Deliver Us From Evil
- Alien conspiracy theorists think the government is on the verge of spilling big secrets
- A brief history of the Christmas present
- 4 things NASA can teach you about a good night's sleep
Subscribe to the Week