The Most Harmful Drug


Jacob Sullum flags a new Lancet study that "rates the harmfulness of 20 psychoactive drugs according to 16 criteria and finds that alcohol comes out on top":

As usual, defenders of drinking are outraged by the comparison between alcohol and illegal drugs. Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, tells The Sun, "The vast majority of people know it's just not rational to say that enjoying a social beer with friends in the pub or glass of wine over dinner has the moral or societal equivalence of injecting heroin or smoking a crack pipe." Such reactions are based on the observation that the vast majority of drinkers are not alcoholics. Despite alcohol's very real dangers, they generally manage to consume it in a way that not only does not harm them or others but on balance enhances their lives. Here is the point that defensive drinkers like Simmonds miss: If this is possible with alcohol, it is possible with any intoxicant that large numbers of people have shown an interest in consuming.