Heroin less dangerous than alcohol?

U.K. drug policy researcher, David Nutt, is making news again. A group he formed and heads concluded that alcohol is the most harmful of all drugs.

I’m not one to advocate prohibition or point to alcohol policy as a model. Doesn’t this beg the question, how much of this is related to alcohol’s ubiquity and its status as a culturally celebrated drug?

If alcohol were a merely tolerated drug, would these harms be reduced? Were these harms reduced by the reduced consumption during prohibition?

This isn’t meant to argue for prohibition, rather to challenge the assumption that legalization leads to fewer problems.

As I’ve said many times in this blog, there is no perfect drug policy. It really comes down to deciding which problems we are most willing to live with and which we are least willing to live with.

UPDATE: Jacob Sullum says, “Here is the point that defensive drinkers like Simmonds miss: If this is possible with alcohol, it is possible with any intoxicant that large numbers of people have shown an interest in consuming.” Implying that the report demonstrates that alcohol is inherently more harmful. I meant to address this earlier. I see alcohol as pretty societally noxious, so this isn’t a defense of alcohol, but, really?

How is it possible to disentangle the effects of its widespread use and cultural attitudes? Do the authors really believe that, if the cultural norms around alcohol were to become the norms around heroin, crack and methamphetamine use, they would be less harmful than alcohol? If large numbers of college students were binging on crack? If large conglomerates spent half a billion dollars annually in advertising heroin and invested millions in developing variations for commercial appeal? Really?

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