Monday, 1 November 2010

Drugs Harms in the UK: some observations

As Mark Easton reports in his blog this morning,
The Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs has today released an analysis of the relative harms of the drugs that are routinely used in the UK today. The analysis has yielded a quite different result to a previous harm assessment that Nutt and colleagues carried out in the fact that alcohol has come out as a clear "winner" in terms of harm done to others and overall harm, with heroin and crack coming in second and third and the rest trailing some distance behind.

The analysis has been made very accessible and informative through the graphical representation of the different components of the final harm score (available on MArk Easton's blog), thus allowing enthusiasts to pick apart where these harms come from and hypothecate how the graphic might be different were drug policies to change.

I am rather disappointed that medically supervised diamorphine (pharmaceutical heroin) consumption has not been included in the analysis, but we can certainly identify major contributors to heroin's harm score which would be substantially reduced by consumption of a pharmaceutical product in a medically supervised environment. Indeed the three major contributors to heroin harm: drug-specific and drug-related mortality and crime would all be substantially reduced, and the only indicators that I suspect would not be reduced are dependence and drug-specific impairment of mental functioning.

The take-home message we should be going away with from this study is that

A: The misuse of drugs act categorisation of drugs is an absolute joke.
and B: A great many of the harms considered by this study are created or exacerbated by prohibition.

With home office and justice spending being slashed, it's about time we thought about doing things differently.

1 comment:

HomeGrownOutlaw said...

A few things struck me on this whole debate:

The complete & firm defence of alcohol. Whether it be the domestic user of this drug or the Home Office and Department of Health with the ironic quote;

"In England, most people drink once a week or less. If you're a women and stick to two to three units a day or a man and drink up to three or four units, you are unlikely to damage your health. The government is determined to prevent alcohol abuse without disadvantaging those who drink sensibly."

Now, overlooking the fact that the facts and figures certainly repudiate this sweeping statement, and I'm sure we ALL have circumstantial evidence that also refutes this, but moreover, is this not applicable to a wide range of substances? Most other substances receive full public damnation with little evidence, but the complete opposite applies here.

This report and media storm highlights the problem we have in attitude towards alcohol.

The Misuse Of Drugs Act needs bringing into line that's for sure.