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Dr. Christopher S. Baird

What is the most harmful drug to society?

Category: Society      Published: August 2, 2013

According to a 2010 study by the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs (ISCD), the most harmful and damaging drug to society is alcohol. Alcohol beat out such heavy hitters as cocaine, LSD, heroine, and tobacco. Note that this does not mean that alcohol is more toxic to the human body gram for gram than these other drugs. Rather, when all behavioral effects are taken into account, including harm to the user and harm caused to others by the user, alcohol causes the most total harm to society.

As should be obvious, the total harm a drug can cause is linked to its availability and legality. While LSD may cause more brain damage per user than alcohol, the relative difficulty in obtaining LSD keeps it from inflicting as much total harm on society. In many societies, drinking alcohol is so easily obtained and such an accepted part of the social culture that many people don't even realize that alcohol is a drug in the same category as heroine and cocaine. The underestimation of the effects of alcohol is perhaps one of the reasons it is able to cause so much harm. The "harm" that the study investigated included damage to health, drug dependency, economic costs and crime. In a report by the Centers for Disease Control, it was estimated that medium and heavy consumption of alcohol caused 75,754 deaths in the United States in 2001.

According to Cancer Research UK, alcohol causes at least seven kinds of cancer: mouth cancer, throat cancer, esophageal cancer, laryngeal cancer, breast cancer, bowel cancer, and liver cancer. In addition, alcohol has significant psychoactive effects that impairs a person's ability to avoid danger and obey the law.

Topics: alcohol, dependance, drug, drugs, harm