Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The "evidence" alcohol is more harmful than heroin? A one day workshop!

I don't believe it. The media around the world have yet again been played for suckers by an attention seeking activist "researcher."

And, completely predictably, this highly dubious and simplistic claim has been simply regurgitated without question or a moment's thought by the press and the television stations.

Alright, no surprise here really, but one does wish that just for once these people would actually do their jobs properly.

Thankfully, we have "new media" outfits like Spiked Online who aren't prepared to take any press release they receive on face value and aren't afraid to ask some inconvenient questions.
Nor does the methodology of the current paper - drug ranking by committee - inspire a great deal of confidence. Nutt’s views on the dangers of alcohol are well known and this method of comparing harms seems to open up plenty of potential for subjective interpretation of the evidence.

Moreover, there are problems with the criteria used, which are often not really intrinsic to the drug itself. For example, the individual harm of drugs will include HIV acquired from shared needles. But needle-sharing is as much a consequence of the criminalisation of heroin as the drug itself. If heroin was consumed in the same kind of civilised surroundings as wine, HIV would not be a problem. Road traffic accidents are caused by alcohol and other drugs, it is true, but measuring that effect is difficult; for example, just because one driver involved in an accident was over the drink-drive limit at the time does not mean alcohol caused the accident.


Rod said...

If I was to argue that knives were more harmful than atomic bombs I would also have to be prepared to make concessions before I could expect that any kind of law could be enacted.

Rod said...

Good blog post about this here: