Alcohol: a rare moment of truth
- Created on Saturday, 06 November 2010 10:40
We are inundated with reports about studies of the health benefits of alcohol, especially relating to the heart, and you have to wonder who is paying for all those studies. The alcohol industry pays for much of that research, but not as much as the U.S. government pays for. But now, scientists from the UK's Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs (ISCD) have released a study which assessed which drugs cause the most harm to both drug-users and to society. And according to their analysis, alcohol is the most harmful drug in the world- worse than both crack cocaine and heroin.
Published in the medical journal Lancet- one of the most respected medical journals in the world- this study used a process called "Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis" (MCDA) to assess damage caused by various drugs. Nine of the criteria looked at specific harms inflicted on drug-users, while the other seven criteria looked at the harms caused to others. The results were that alcohol was found to be nearly three times more harmful than cocaine and eight times more harmful than Ecstasy.
"It is intriguing to note that the two legal drugs assessed — alcohol and tobacco — score in the upper segment of the ranking scale, indicating that legal drugs cause at least as much harm as do illegal substances," said David Nutt, chairman of ISCD, and author of the study. His report concluded that "aggressively targeting alcohol harms is a valid and necessary public health strategy."
Nutt was forced to resign from the British Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) last year after criticizing British ministers for ignoring scientific evidence showing that alcohol, which is legal, causes more damage than cannabis (marijuana), which is illegal.
The World Health Organization estimates that risks linked to alcohol cause 2.5 million deaths a year from heart and liver disease, road accidents, suicides and cancer -- accounting for 3.8 percent of all deaths.
The WHO also says that alcohol is the third leading risk factor for premature death and disabilities worldwide.
Although this report appeared in the highly revered Lancet, coverage of it was conspicuously absent from the American mainstream media. Here they pounce on every positive news story about alcohol but go silent on the negative ones. Why is that? It's because of the War on Drugs. It makes no sense to criminalize marijuana and other drugs while alcohol is perfectly legal. So, to rationalize that hypocrisy, they laud the supposed health benefits of alcohol. But don't buy into it. Alcohol is toxic to every cell in your body, and it impairs at every level of consumption, down to the smallest drink. The intoxicating effect of alcohol can be easily demonstrated from just one drink. The ideal amount of alcohol in anyone's health program is the amount I consume, which is zero.