A UK study has found that consuming alcohol is more destructive than taking drugs in the long term for both drinkers and society as a whole. The study was paid for by Britain’s Centre for Crime and Justice Studies and recently published online in the medical journal The Lancet.

Experts in the UK studied the effects of illegal drugs including heroin, cocaine, ecstasy and dope alongside alcohol and found that drinking outranked them all.

The study looked at the nature of both drugs and alcohol including:

  • how addictive they were
  • how they harm the human body
  • the environmental damage caused
  • the social damage caused
  • their role in breaking up families, and
  • their economic costs (healthcare, social services & prison)

For an individual, taking cocaine, crystal meth and methamphetamine caused the most damage to both their health and lifestyle.

However when taking into account the effects of both illegal drugs and alcohol in the wider community, the study found that alcohol was more damaging than illegal drugs such as heroin and crack cocaine.

This was because alcohol was widely used and accepted within society and had devastating consequences not only for drinkers but for those around them.

Researchers found that when consumed in excess, alcohol damaged nearly every organ in the body. It was also connected to higher death rates and was involved in a greater percentage of crimes than most other drugs, including heroin.

David Nutt, former lead author on the Lancet study said “It now seems that most people accept alcohol is a drug, and that there is no apparent dissent from my statement that alcohol is one of the most harmful drugs in use today.”

“Just think about what happens [with alcohol] at every football game,” said Professor Wim van den Brink, a professor of psychiatry and addiction at the University of Amsterdam.

“What governments decide is illegal is not always based on science… Drugs that are legal cause at least as much damage, if not more, than drugs that are illicit,” he said.

Writer Helen Splarn. Editor Dr Ramesh Manocha
Source: The Lancet