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Thread: Ranking harmful substances: Study shows alcohol, tobacco worse than drugs

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    ckb2001's Avatar
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    Ranking harmful substances: Study shows alcohol, tobacco worse than drugs

    This is the first real step toward evidence-based classification of drugs. The study measured the actual risks different substances posed to society. Alcohol and tobacco were both in the top 10.

    Heroin and cocaine were the top 2, then barbiturates and street methadone. At #5 we see alcohol, and at #9 we see tobacco.

    Oh, and cannabis was at #11 with ecstacy near the bottom of the list:
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn...032300284.html

    "New "landmark" research finds that alcohol and tobacco are more dangerous than some illegal drugs like marijuana or Ecstasy and should be classified as such in legal systems, according to a new British study.

    In research published Friday in The Lancet magazine, Professor David Nutt of Britain's Bristol University and colleagues proposed a new framework for the classification of harmful substances, based on the actual risks posed to society. Their ranking listed alcohol and tobacco among the top 10 most dangerous substances."

    "Nutt and colleagues used three factors to determine the harm associated with any drug: the physical harm to the user, the drug's potential for addiction, and the impact on society of drug use. The researchers asked two groups of experts _ psychiatrists specializing in addiction and legal or police officials with scientific or medical expertise _ to assign scores to 20 different drugs, including heroin, cocaine, Ecstasy, amphetamines, and LSD.

    Nutt and his colleagues then calculated the drugs' overall rankings. In the end, the experts agreed with each other _ but not with the existing British classification of dangerous substances.

    Heroin and cocaine were ranked most dangerous, followed by barbiturates and street methadone. Alcohol was the fifth-most harmful drug and tobacco the ninth most harmful. Cannabis came in 11th, and near the bottom of the list was Ecstasy.

    According to existing British and U.S. drug policy, alcohol and tobacco are legal, while cannabis and Ecstasy are both illegal. Previous reports, including a study from a parliamentary committee last year, have questioned the scientific rationale for Britain's drug classification system."
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    TexanPhinatic's Avatar
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    I find the title of this thread somewhat misleading. Alcohol and tobacco are ranked worse than some drugs true, but not the majority of the big name drugs (coke/heroin/LSD/Meth). Also, I wonder what "impact on society" is. Does it mean specific negative acts occuring while on a drug (drunk driving) or just something like how many users die from it?
    On the whole though, nothing we havent really suspected for awhile. Still, as long as the lawmakers are usign the alcohol/tobacco and not the other stuff I wouldnt expect any changes
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    ckb2001's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TexanPhinatic View Post
    I find the title of this thread somewhat misleading. Alcohol and tobacco are ranked worse than some drugs true, but not the majority of the big name drugs (coke/heroin/LSD/Meth). Also, I wonder what "impact on society" is. Does it mean specific negative acts occuring while on a drug (drunk driving) or just something like how many users die from it?
    On the whole though, nothing we havent really suspected for awhile. Still, as long as the lawmakers are usign the alcohol/tobacco and not the other stuff I wouldnt expect any changes
    True, I'd agree it's a bit misleading. However, since that phrase was taken from the title of the article itself (I don't mind modifying the title a bit, but I generally don't like to modify it too much), I'll place the blame for that on the article.

    My first guess as far as what "impact on society" means is extra cost to society as a result of the use of the drug. That is, what they can measure in dollars. Of course, that's just a guess (though it usually turns out to be this), and if it's a point of contention I can try to look up the actual study.

    And I think the point of the study is to start reducing the persuasiveness of the justifications many in government use to keep certain drugs illegal. And I think there are many lawmakers that have at various times used illegal drugs, so I'm not sure how much the justification has to do with what drugs they use (remember what they "use" is heavily dependent on what is legal).
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    Hmm...I wonder if I should look further into this. It could give me some things to argue on your garden variety reefer or MDMA case...I'm sure it wouldn't go toward guilt, but perhaps I could use it as ammo for mitigation.




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    ckb2001's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jimmy James View Post
    Hmm...I wonder if I should look further into this. It could give me some things to argue on your garden variety reefer or MDMA case...I'm sure it wouldn't go toward guilt, but perhaps I could use it as ammo for mitigation.
    Amazing how a football message board can be educational eh?
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    Quote Originally Posted by ckb2001 View Post
    Amazing how a football message board can be educational eh?
    Yeah, it certainly is. It's also amazing where you can find little bits of information that could be useful in the courtroom.

    This won't be a huge thing for me even if I use it, but I think the key to my job as a defense attorney is to be creative and try different approaches. First of all, it keeps me engaged even if I get to the point where I've done so many pot cases that I could walk through them in my sleep. Second, you never know what you can bounce off of a judge that he'll end up really liking and pouncing on. I saw a no driver's license case just yesterday where the judge pounced on the prosecutor's argument against an early "no contest" plea that was really weak, but the judge grabbed on and turned it into a much stronger argument for delaying the case due to some unusual facts so both sides could make some inquiries.
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    Chavez Ravine's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ckb2001 View Post

    My first guess as far as what "impact on society" means is extra cost to society as a result of the use of the drug. That is, what they can measure in dollars. Of course, that's just a guess (though it usually turns out to be this), and if it's a point of contention I can try to look up the actual study.

    .
    If cannabis was legalized wouldn't that drastically alter it's "impact on society" thus moving it up on the list.

    I'd imagine it would at minimum become even w/ tobacco 2 slots ahead.

    (assuming that the impact of society refers to lung cancer and 2nd hand smoke adding to that the fact that cannabis can hinder your judgement moreso than tobacco)
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    ckb2001's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chavez Ravine View Post
    If cannabis was legalized wouldn't that drastically alter it's "impact on society" thus moving it up on the list.

    I'd imagine it would at minimum become even w/ tobacco 2 slots ahead.

    (assuming that the impact of society refers to lung cancer and 2nd hand smoke adding to that the fact that cannabis can hinder your judgement moreso than tobacco)
    All good points. I'll add a few though.

    Without doing a thorough search on the net, I can tell you there is some serious debate as to whether the positive effects of marijuana outweigh or do not outweigh the negative effects.

    Before I continue, note that many countries in Europe have legalized (smaller) amounts of marijuana and there seems to be no serious problem those societies have had because of that.

    Note that because it is illegal in the US, lots more people are thrown into jail (a huge percentage of our relatively large prison population is due to marijuana) than would otherwise be. Those are costs too.

    And legalization of marijuana doesn't necessarily mean arbitrary amounts of the drug would be legalized. One could consider something similar to what many European countries have implemented.

    Now, there are known positive and negative effects of the drug. Most of the positive effects are therapeutic in nature. For some diseases like Multiple Sclerosis, marijuana seems to be one of the most effective pain-killers. And I do know that the NIH (National Institute of Health) has published studies showing its benefits in different therapies (that would be one place to look for such studies - however I also know most are in consensus there have been too few studies on the positive effects done, and so we're not too confident in many of the results).

    As far as negative effects are concerned, I know that some have argued marijuana is a "gateway drug", but I've never actually heard researchers agree on it being one. In fact, I remember hearing about (never read) a study that showed just the opposite (another thing one could google).

    The obvious negative effects are loss of judgment as you mentioned. So, even in legalizing marijuana it would make sense to forbid it while driving, etc.. I'm not certain how Europe has handled this (another thing we should look up), but like I said they're doing fine with their "legalization" of the drug.

    Anyway, the point is the question of whether the impact on society (if legalized) is really more positive or negative is in doubt. No doubt the impact would be greater if legalized, but it's not clear whether that would push marijuana up the list into the top 10 or lower it.

    When I have time, I'll look into this a bit more.
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    Nice article. Just going from what I have seen with my own two eyes, I would have said alcohol and tobacco are more dangerous than marijuana. I don't have any first hand experience with pot or any other drugs.

    But I have many friends that do all three. And I have never seen any problems with them smoking pot. I'm not saying we should all toke up or something. It just seems odd that alcohol and tobacco are legal whereas marijuana isn't.

    I would be interested if anyone decides to look into Europe some more discerning this topic. What kind of problems/benefits arise from their legalization of marijuana?


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    the first step toward a legalization process should be finding a way of establishing if one is in an altered state. the current tests for marijuana say sometime within the last 30 days you've done marijuana.

    so that's really no good for finding if someone is driving or operating a crane, etc. impaired.

    most people i know that smoke pot aren't impaired for 30 days after smoking. there needs to be a thc/blood level established for impairment, and a non-invasive way to test that level.

    i haven't been to any of the countries where it is legal, but i think it's a great idea whose time has come. we have jails that are filled with potheads while killers, child molesters, and much more hardened criminals are being let out of jail, for good behavior or by plea bargain, while the pothead is in for mandatory minimum sentencing.

    i think the benefits would be it would put a lot of street dealers out of business, thus some gang activity would cease to exist. kids would have a much harder time getting it. i know some kids can get cigarettes and alcohol now, but it's a lot harder than getting drugs, since most of their friends can get drugs for them, now. we won't even go into the tax benefits.
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