classification of harm

“The exclusion of alcohol and tobacco from the Misuse of Drugs Act is, from a scientific perspective, arbitrary,” write Nutt and his colleagues in The Lancet.
from: washington post

a study, published in the Lancet (a very respected medical journal out of UK – ie its not the national enquirer!) proposes to replace the ancient and ridiculous (and quite class-driven, really) existing classification of ‘harmful’ substances with one that has scientific backing. interesting, huh? essentially, the researchers designed a ranking of drug harmfulness (20 drugs, such as heroin, cocaine, etc) based on input from psychiatric, medical, legal experts. researchers considered three dimensions of drug harmfulness:

  1. the physical harm to the user
  2. the drug’s potential for addiction
  3. the impact on society of drug use.

the results?

heroin and cocaine came in 1st and 2nd, respectively. following this – barbituates and street methadone. then alcohol (coming in 5th). tobacco came in 9th on the most harmful list. cannabis? 11th. somewhere near the bottom (not specified in the article) – ecstacy.

just an FYI sorta post.

**a note about cocaine and heroin. ok. i put my ‘former nurse’s hat’ on for this one – bear with me. personally, i think cocaine should be listed as the most dangerous drug. i think the experts have underestimated its harmfulness in society and to the health of users, who likely underreport. lemme demonstrate why with a little parable.

PART 1. dude does heroin. dude ODs. dude stops breathing. dude’s heart stops. dude gets revived by paramedics with oxygen and stimulant drugs – ie narcan to reverse the opiate and then others stimulants, if needed to restart the heart.

PART 2. dude does cocaine. dude ODs. dude’s heart stops. dude dies. nothing will revive dude, since the cocaine has overstimulated his heart to death, and stimulants are what we use to revive asystole (ie non beating) hearts. meaning – the heart that has stopped d/t cocaine use cannot be restarted. we did not just have a power failure here. we are talking the circuitry is fried. and cannot regenerate itself. read: THE END.

so …. NOW do you get why cocaine is soooo dangerous? lol. like you knew, intuitively before. but – seriously, its more deadly that most realize. (pssst – this here’s one of the few little useful facts i have retained in my brain cells from taking that $400 TNCC course a couple years ago!) **

i will have this weekend to visit blogs that i have missed visiting this past week.
see ya soon!

psssst – i have a wet mangey little pigeon friend. her pics are posted in the montage blog. take a look. i write a more detailed story maybe tonight or tomorrow.

post signature


~ by frizzyscissorhands on March 24, 2007.

9 Responses to “classification of harm”

  1. Coke is often seen aa non addictive, just like weed, whereas heroin, meth, pain killers are addictive. That is such bullshit. You’ve probably known some crackheads–so have I. They get hooked almost immediately. How can crack be addictive and cocaine not so? And cocaine is dangerous in other ways because lives really get ruined–meth is now becoming the new Destroyer of mankind–so cheap to make and so fun for a while, but a killer. And sorry, you can get hooked on reefer too. I saw it in my niece. If the drug controls you and your decisions, you are an addict. Thanks for posting this.

  2. oh yeah. that’s the crux of addiction, isn’t it? who else but an addict would spend all the money they have left (ie to subsist on until next payday, what-have-you) on drugs? an addict, that’s who!

    @ some point a person goes from making the decision to the desire for said drug driving the decision. wierd. and mostly, unbeknownst to the individual, on a certain level. and known on others. sort of like that sensation you get when you wake up from a deep sleep, but you’re not awake and your body is paralyzed and you cannot move it. sort of like that. ALOT like that.

    its all addictive. it all gets us high … it all stimulates pleasure receptors on the brain … therefore, its all addictive. anyone who has come down from a coke binge will know that. and yes, i have suffered withdrawl even from reefer. its absolutely addictive.

    coke – anyone who thinks its non addictive is seriously full of shit. most cokeheads can’t stop. they would snort an entire room full of the stuff if they happened upon the chance, even if they knew it was harmful. now, ain’t that the classic definition of addictive behaviour?

    that this post got written at all – its entirely serendipitous. i just happened to see this news headline on google news about drugs … after just having read the updates of comments on your latest post!

    i want to write more about my experiences in the drug world – personal and professional. i have to find the right voice for that …


  3. /bark bark bark

    no crack is cheap and immediate, thats why its defined as worse. most cokeheads dont smoke it. weve all seen “functioning” snowpeople…but for my money? alcoholics are the mack daddys of destructive addiction. i rather deal with a pothead any day of the week.

    and meth? its the scariest thing yet because its just some crap cooked up by anybody. like sniffing glue. insane. i dont know why there arent more PSA’s on TV and in print showing how UGLY meth is. rotted teeth, sores on skin. hideous.

    up here they call meth “hillbilly blow”


  4. indeed about crack – its form of cocaine so i just lump it all in with coke. crack is sort of like the cheap man’s cocaine. yes meth is bad. no – its a scourge. and oh yeah about the rotting teeth and PSAs. (that anyone can just go out and make their own is fucking frightening!) crack will rot your teeth too – just erodes the enamel and causes the gums to recede.

    all this said – makes me wonder how heroin, not cocaine (which includes crack), can be classified as most harmful drug.

  5. /bark bark bark

    i think i read somewhere that whitney houston had done a ton of damage to her teeth. as far as heroin being the bad guy…

    about 4 years ago i was in a wedding and the best man was the sons groom. at the rehersal dinner he was a little weird, didnt make a lot of sense, but ate two plates of food…seemed okay.

    next day the wedding is on, kid doesnt show up, we postpone, postpone…finally they draft a friend from the audience to stand.

    after the wedding they go back to the hotel…kid OD’ed from speedballing…the coke and heroin mix. and from what i have learned since then is the blow gets somebody so jacked up its intolerable, yet they keep on just like the rats with the bar. and finally, in order to keep doing the coke, they got to take the edge off and herion is how they do it.

    i think the reason its considered the worst is that the outcome is wildly unpridictable and is often in combination with other drugs. and you just die…and i dont know if you heard about all the tainted heroin that killed a bunch of people last year but thats coming from other countries.

    so much for globalizaton. kind of like how wheat from china is killing all the dogs and cats with tainted pet food.

    the only way to go is clean and sober. think about a river phoenix type: here ya have a strict vegan who wouldnt eat poison, and then shoots up and dies on the sidewalk in front of his friends.

    that my friend is what is known as an embarassing death.


  6. ahhhh – the speedball. a deadly cocktail – its what killed john belushi.

    heroin by itself is quite benign, except for the stigma of it which drives people to shoot up alone and, of course, if you stop breathing and no one’s around … you just bought the farm.

    anything with cocaine is the ultimate evil.

    as far as bad drugs … it happens all the time here in vancouver – bad stuff (meth, heroin) on the streets or very high in purity. they put warnings out in the downtown east side – where the open drug scene is here.

    just another side effect of the whole illicit drug trade being illicit, and therefore unregulated. people never die from tainted morphine. that’s because its sterile, made under controlled conditions with a known potency.

    i hear where you’re coming from with the get clean thing. not everyone is ready for that. in the meantime – maybe it might be nice to keep them alive? that’s the harm reduction mantra.

  7. regarding meth – here’s a link i found. very timely, considering many of us have been thinking heavily of addiction – esp our own.

    death by meth

    34-year old trucker dies from long-term meth use

    this destruction will simply continue until we as a human race get our effing heads outta our asses … and outta the sand.

    or perhaps we should use the drug addict’s treatment algorithm for heart, stroke and diabetic patients too? lifestyle choices are major causative factors of all these diseases. often related to addictions to fast foods, transfats, sedentarism, general life attitude and emotional aptitude.

    think. would society be a better place if we denied these people treatment because ‘they brought their disease upon themselves?’ i can tell you that heart, stroke and diabetic patients suck up a majority of health care dollars.

    imagine the $ we could save.

    think i am being flip? spend a day in hospital medical wards and personal care homes. then you will see.

  8. /bark bark bark

    no no no. i hear you. when i talked clean and sober as the way to go i am talking about personal choice. you make a good argument about addiction vs other diseases the only difference is the stigma that comes with drug use and then theres crime to support habits. as we know there are huge segments of wealthy prosperous drug addicts that are never going to have to steal. and then there is the crime because of the black market/drug cartels which is the real devastator. however, im not sure the amsterdam model is the solution either. i dont know what should be done, except for myself.


  9. possibly across-the-board decriminalization of all drugs seems just as ludacris as criminalizing certain types of food. but — i must say i am not into censorship/prohibition of any kind. and … well, history tells the failure of prohibition, don’t it? and truth is … most of the social harm of drugs comes from the fact that they are forbidden-criminalized. that’s the irony.

    i guess the bottom line is … what’s our first clue that the status quo is not working? duh! how many more decades of ‘the war on drugs’ do we all need to endure …?

    i am not sure (aside from the obvious decriminalizing and regulation of production of benign drugs such as cannabis) what the answers are either. but i am quite sure that denying a (young!) drug addict a necessary mitral valve replacement because of the notion of self infliction does not play a role!

    ok. off the soapbox. i guess the bottom line is we all know what’s right for us. and that we need to stop thinking of people as disposable commodities that we just toss aside when they don’t suit us, or meet ‘our standards’ … as long as people are disposable commodities, nothing will change.

    also, it occurs to me that few understand that, to an addict, their drug is just as necessary for subsistence as food or oxygen. what happens when you deny someone food or oxygen? they go ape. naturally. or what happens when i decide i an gonna hold my breath? my brain eventually forces me to breath. to survive.

    possibly its just a perception. isn’t truth all about perception?

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