Drug harm comparison

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Harm to user:

  • UK Scientific Committee on Tobacco and Health report 1998:
    "1.39 Smoking is the most important cause of premature death in developed countries. It accounts for one fifth of deaths in the UK: some 120,000 deaths a year".
  • Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs report 'Reducing Drug-Related Deaths':
    "between 28,000 and 33,000 people die annually as a result of alcohol."
  • Government's 'Ten Year Strategy for Tackling Drugs':
    "the number of deaths in the UK attributable to the misuse of [illegal] drugs has risen from 1,399 in 1993 to 1,805 in 1995."
  • Home Affairs Select Committee report 'Government Drugs Policy: Is it Working?':
    "9. Legal drugs, such as tobacco and alcohol, are responsible for far greater damage both to individual health and to the social fabric in general than illegal ones".
  • Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs report 'The classification of cannabis under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971':
    "5.1 The high use of cannabis is not associated with major health problems for the individual or society."
  • The World Health Organisation's report 'Cannabis: a health perspective and research agenda':
    "…cannabis poses a much less serious public health problem than is currently posed by alcohol and tobacco in Western societies".
  • World Health Organisation:
    "In an initial estimate of factors responsible for the global burden of disease, tobacco contributed to 6% of all deaths world wide, followed by alcohol at 1.5% and illicit drugs at 0.2%".
    More, with references on-line:
    deaths and long-term health

Addiction:

  • Department of Health's booklet 'Dangerousness of Drugs' 2001:
    p.60: "What this would suggest is that tobacco has the greatest potential for dependence followed by heroin, then cocaine and alcohol. Cannabis has the lowest 'addictability' of all the drugs listed above."
  • Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs report 'The classification of cannabis under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971':
    "4.4.5 It is possible to rank the risks of dependence of abused drugs with heroin and crack cocaine the worst and cannabis well below nicotine and alcohol".
    More:
    addiction

Harm to others:

  • The World Health Organisation's report 'Cannabis: a health perspective and research agenda':
    "Alcohol intoxication is strongly associated with aggressive and violent behaviour."
    "There is little to suggest a causal relationship of cannabis use to aggression or violence."
  • Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs report 'The classification of cannabis under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971':
    "4.3.6 Cannabis differs from alcohol, however, in one major respect: it seems not to increase risk-taking behaviour. Cannabis intoxication tends to produce relaxation and social withdrawal rather than the aggressive and disinhibited behaviour commonly found under the influence of alcohol. This means that cannabis rarely contributes to violence either to others or to oneself, whereas alcohol use is a major factor in deliberate self-harm, domestic accidents and violence."
  • UK Scientific Committee on Tobacco and Health report 1998:
    Annex H: "passive smoking in non-smokers .... could account for several hundred lung cancer deaths per annum in the UK."
    More:
    crime & harm to others

Which is the safest intoxicant, alcohol or cannabis?

Driving and drugs

The World Health Organisation's comparison of drug prevalence and harm