What would an evidence-based drug policy look like?


A paper published in The Lancet suggests that, if we really cared about the evidence, we'd be more concerned about how much people have had to drink, and less concerned about whether they'd toked up recently. Basically, Giants fans may be safer than Rangers fans.

When experts sat down and compared the effects of 20 different drugs, friendly old alcohol turned out to have a lot in common with big, scary drugs like heroin and cocaine. Researchers found that those drugs damaged the individual more, but alcohol abuse had a wider-reaching negative impact on society. The scoring system was subjective, but it was based on objective evidence taken from the United Kingdom.

When drunk in excess, alcohol damages nearly all organ systems. It is also connected to higher death rates and is involved in a greater percentage of crime than most other drugs, including heroin.

The point isn't that alcohol should be banned—after all, there's a difference between casual and problem drinkers, and evidence also shows the prohibition doesn't work very well. Instead, the scientists behind this study say we ought to take alcoholism more seriously and rethink the way we classify and ban drugs across the board. I couldn't agree more.

MSNBC: Study says alcohol more dangerous than heroin

The Lancet: Drug harms in the UK, a multicriteria decision analysis

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