Alcohol is the most dangerous drug in the UK by a considerable margin, according to a Lancet study, beating heroin and crack cocaine (second and third place, respectively). The study will "reopen calls for the drugs classification system to be scrapped and a concerted campaign launched against drink," an article in the Guardian notes.
Led by the sacked government drugs adviser David Nutt with colleagues from the breakaway Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs, the study says that if drugs were classified on the basis of the harm they do, alcohol would be class A, alongside heroin and crack cocaine.
This actually didn't surprise me - given all of the ill effects of alcohol on society, I imagine that the sheer quantity of alcohol, although effects may be smaller, use overwhelms the smaller number of illicit drug users in which effects may be more pronounced. The claim is about alcohol in the context of overall drug use - the most dangerous drugs to their individual users were ranked as heroin, crack and then crystal meth. The most harmful to others were alcohol, heroin and crack in that order. Researchers examined nine categories of harm that drugs can do to the individual "from death to damage to mental functioning and loss of relationships" and seven types of harm to others. The maximum possible harm score was 100 and the minimum zero. Overall, alcohol was tops with a score of 72 out of 100, versus 55 for heroin and 54 for crack.
Don Shenker, the chief executive of Alcohol Concern [a national agency in the UK], said : "What this study and new classification shows is that successive governments have mistakenly focused attention on illicit drugs, whereas the pervading harms from alcohol should have given a far higher priority."
There's a lot going on in this study, both scientifically and politically - more to come.

Source: The Guardian, Monday 1 November 2010