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Alcohol the Most Harmful Drug? Come On!

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Alcohol is the most harmful drug?

This world is really going crazy. Now, I must admit that I haven’t read the article in the British Medical Journal which states, demonstrates, whatever, that alcohol is the most harmful of all drugs; yet, using my humble mind I know it’s a…., well, you know what I mean.

When I studied statistics at school, one of the first things my teacher said was “You can make numbers to tell whatever you want; it just depends from what side you look at them!” Strangely it’s the same thing the head manager of a firm I was working at told me more than once.

Now, I’m not saying that alcohol isn’t a drug or that it doesn’t affect our health, I just have to walk around my city to see the effects of alcohol on some people. But saying that it’s more dangerous than other drugs is completely nonsense.

While it’s true that alcohol is considered a kind of “social drug” or an accepted behavior, and I can even agree that the effects of drinking alcohol are sometimes underestimated, we must take into account several factors about this statement:

  1. There are many different kinds of alcohol; drinking one liter of beer is far different than drinking half liter of whiskey.
  2. While alcohol has been with humanity for thousands years, most drugs have not.
  3. Time. Unless you try to drink the Thames in one day, for alcohol to affect your health a long time is needed, and if you don’t exaggerate alcohol has positive effects indeed on your health. Think about the French Paradox!
  4. Drugs like Ecstasy can kill you the first day you use them, not because you drive your car under its influence but because your body and your brain gets short-circuited.
  5. Crack can get you addicted in a very short time.
  6. Antidepressants or  painkillers do the same too.
  7. Etc.Etc.Etc.

Everything that is abused can kill a human being, even Valium, Viagra, or aspirin. But putting on the same level a glass of wine, or a beer, as Ecstasy or Crack is completely crazy.

Before believing this kind of news, the best thing to do is ask yourself: who prepared this “medical study”? For whom do they work? Who pays their salaries? Are the numbers credible or are they just used a bunch of people? And the most important of all: who benefits from this kind of assertion?

It would be much a much better use of time, money, and resources to discover why these days so many people, and especially the young ones, have all this “need” to modify their reality. That would be the right thing to do.


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About hypnodude

  • I wish you had specified which article in the British Medical Journal contends that alcohol is “the most harmful of all drugs.” The link you provided leads to the BMJ home page, which lists numerous articles; plus there are hundreds more in BMJ’s online archives. It’s bad enough that you would sound off on this topic without having read the article. But at least you could identify that article so that less lazy readers might judge for themselves just how full of crap you are.

  • El Bicho

    actually what would be the right thing to do would be read the article you are claiming to dispute.

  • The modelling exercise concluded that heroin, crack and methylamphetamine, also known as crystal meth, were the most harmful drugs to individuals, but alcohol, heroin and crack cocaine were the most harmful to society.

    Each drug was scored …for harms including mental and physical damage, addiction, crime and costs to the economy and communities.


    Perhaps crack and heroin are not used by a large enough portion of the population to rate up there with alcohol? Apparently the study does not claim alcohol is more dangerous to an individual, but would likely include things like how many drunk drivers have caused deaths of others. Probably a few more than have been caused by driving while on crack.

  • neil

    I think you rather cleverly undermine your own argument by pointing out your ignorance of the subject at the start.

    The article is a scientific study of the impact drugs have socially and physically in the UK.

    Alcohol is directly responsible for over 30,000 deaths plus many others indirectly and costs our national health system billions of pounds annually in alcohol related incidents and accidents.

    Compare this to the total of drug related deaths annually in the UK which is less than 1,000 annually.

    The report describes an index of harm with heroin and cocaine rightly at the top but then goes on to compare the use levels between that and alcohol to find the impact to our country as a whole.

    It is this total harm factor that describes alcohol as the most dangerous. And, according to the un-manipulated raw social and economic statistics, even the the least gifted person academically can see that alcohol causes more damage to the UK than drugs.

  • Just so there’s no misunderstanding, David Nutt’s article in The Lancet cited by Cindy (#3) is not the same as the unidentified article alluded to by hypnodude in the British Medical Journal. Far from contending that alcohol is the most harmful of all drugs, the aptly named Professor Nutt has argued for years that alcohol is the fifth most harmful. He has also contended that the drug Ecstasy is statistically no more dangerous than riding horses. In 2009, this latter assertion got Nutt sacked as chairman of the UK’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs. Home Secretary Alan Johnson explained that “Nutt cannot be both a government adviser and a campaigner against government policy.”

  • The new paper updates a study carried out by Nutt and others in 2007, which was also published by the Lancet and triggered debate for suggesting that legally available alcohol and tobacco were more dangerous than cannabis and LSD.

    Alcohol, in that paper, ranked fifth most dangerous overall.

    This article in the Guardian UK should clear things up. The BC article and the link I posted, both refer to the newer study by Nutt. The one you are referring to, where alcohol is placed at the 5th most dangerous drug, is from 2007 and has been superseded.

  • Thank you for the update on Professor Nutt’s position. However, the Guardian UK story refers to The Lancet. Notwithstanding your assurance that “the BC article and the link I posted both refer to the newer study by Nutt,” hypnodude mentions neither Nutt nor The Lancet. Instead, he expressly refers to the British Medical Journal. Probably all that hypnosis has clouded his brain. Even so, I’d still like hypnodude to tell us himself what learned article he failed to read but nevertheless based his blog on.

  • Perhaps hypnodude was taking one of the less harmful types of drugs whilst he wrote. I do not see an alcohol citing the BMJ. I will wager he got the name of the journal wrong.

  • not ‘alcohol’ citing…’article’ citing…

    Perhaps, I need some alcohol. It is good for the heart, according to studies, from what I hear.

  • hypondude- I can certainly see where the article in the British Medical Journal is coming from.
    I’ve used a number of recreational drugs in my 26 years. I’ve taken Ecstasy about a hundred times. (I don’t do E anymore because it would strongly counteract with my antidepressant medication.) I’ve smoked marijuana thousands of times. I’ve dropped acid and taken shrooms dozens of times. I smoke a pack of cigarettes a day, and I have a couple of drinks per week.
    Marijuana is close to harmless. The most harmful part of smoking weed is inhaling smoke, and even that can be bypassed with a vaporizer or eating pot brownies.
    Ecstasy can be very harmful, but in my times taking the drug, I stayed cool, hydrated and I did it at home alone, not in some club. If you don’t take the drug frequently, you’ll probably be okay.
    Acid and shrooms are a lot less stressful to your body and brain. They’re also easier on your health than alcohol.
    I’ve completely avoided cocaine, heroin, meth and crack, and wisely so. But I’ve known some people who do lines sometimes and function relatively well.
    A lot of the war on drugs bullshit of the past few decades has been funded by the alcohol and tobacco industries. The world would be much better off without a war on drugs.
    The British Medical Journal makes a good point- alcohol use takes a heavy toll on SOCIETY. Most people who drink are okay, but alcoholism and drunk driving lead to many deaths, every single year. And more deaths are due to alcohol than any other recreational drug.
    With that in mind, most adults are able to drink responsibly, and moderate alcohol use, as opposed to heavy alcohol use, rarely leads to liver disease.
    But, people have it in their minds that alcohol is relatively ‘safe’, and marijuana and other illegal drugs are a lot more dangerous. We can thank drug war propaganda for that.

  • Thanks to Kim Crawley (#10), we now know how to “certainly see where the article in the British Medical Journal is coming from,” even if said article does not exist. All you need do is take Ecstasy about a hundred times, smoke marijuana thousands of times, drop acid and take shrooms dozens of times, smoke a pack of cigarettes a day, and have a couple of drinks per week. If you do all the above, plus completely avoid cocaine, heroin, meth and crack, you too will think that hypnodude’s imaginary article in the British Medical Journal “makes a good point.”

    Yes, recreational drugs are indeed some wondrous shit.

  • Hi Alan, thanks for your kind comment, and for the full of crap thing. There isn’t a link to the article because it’s going to be published on Monday at The Lancet website and my post is based on a CNN article. This post reflects just my opinion, if I’m entitled to have one.

    While I agree with you that reading the article would have been better I have to say that it’s not strictly necessary to have an opinion about it, the title is enough.


  • Hi El Bicho, as soon as it’s published I’ll write another post about it. Thanks.

  • Hi Cindy, thanks for adding so much to my article. As you said drivers under alcohol are a danger for society, and I agree that alcohol it’s frequently underestimated, and socially accepted. But if we take into account how many people drink alcohol as a whole and how many of them either kill themselves or kill others with their cars I guess it’s a much smaller number if compared with how many use drugs and either kill themselves, kill others driving or to steal their money. Or, said in another way, if 100 persons begin to use drugs how many of them survive or do not have health problems? Then there is the time factor: crack gets you addicted in one week, alcohol do not. Ecstasy burns brain cells from the beginning, alcohol do not.

    Maybe I have the wrong perspective but I’ve seen some of my friends dying or destroying their lives with drugs while I haven’t due to alcohol abuse. But maybe I’ve just been lucky. And I honestly think that driving under the effects of alcohol has much more to do with human stupidity than with substance abuse. It would be interesting to know how many drivers kill others because they are under the effects of alcohol alone and how many because they are under both alcohol and drugs. Here in Italy the latter is more common. But knowing how many have accidents because they just drive bad would be an interesting addition.
    Thanks again for you interesting comments.

  • Neil, interesting comment, thanks. As regards the UK you’re surely right, but as regards numbers if alcohol is directly or indirectly responsible of 30.000 deaths is a big number, not so big if compared with, let’s say 1.000.000 UK people who drink alcohol. While if drugs cause 1.000 death with 100.000 drugs users it’s a much bigger number, as a percentage.
    If you drink you can have just one beer and then stop, on the other side with drugs, except maybe marijuana, you can’t just take some and stop, you’re addicted and you’re done.
    All those accidents has much more to do with other reasons than with just drinking too much; I don’t know much about UK but in Italy it happens once in a million that the driver is a 50 yo father while it happens every weekend that someone under 30 with usually both alcohol and drugs has an accident and kills someone.
    But it would be interesting to know how many persons drink alcohol compared with 30.000 deaths per year and how many use drugs (not marijuana) compared with 1.000 deaths.

    As regards the dangers of drugs it should be also taken into account the threats drugs pose on society with all those crimes related to their use. I think it’s quite uncommon being robbed to buy a bottle of whiskey while being stabbed for your wallet by a heroin or crack addicted isn’t.
    Thanks for your contribution.

  • Hi Kim, thanks for commenting. I think something has changed within society. When I was younger I remember a lot of us drunk alcohol but when driving the car almost everyone drove slowly to get home safe. These days people seem to think that they are immortals and drive like in Formula One, or in a Rally race.

    What makes the difference is that you can be a light drinker, while you can’t be a light drug addict, except maybe marijuana. And making a comparison between the total number of drinkers vs deaths and the total number of drug users and deaths would put things in the right perspective.

    Clearly you can die the first time you drink alcohol because you fall down a staircase but it has the same chance of happening than walking on a street and being hit by a falling brick. It happens but it doesn’t count so much statistically. On the other side how many times happens that someone taking ecstasy or acids for the first time dies? Much often.

    Very interesting contribution Kim, glad you did.

  • Thanks everyone for your kind comments much appreciated. All of them. 🙂

  • I will bet that the number of people who kill others while driving drunk or by killing them for money to buy drugs is much smaller than the number of sober people who either kill people with cars or in other ways. Therefore, I conclude that being sober is the most dangerous state.

  • Lol, this is simply great. I like your style and your witty comment. And there is logic behind it. 🙂

  • Ravikumarnaidu.Katakam

    alcohol is very danger.it is decreasing memory power and lossing your liver and damaging your body some parts,they are
    2)liver etc…;

  • lachlan

    Ecstasy killing on the first use? wtf are you on dude? That is about as rare as alcohol killing on the first use by causing dangerous behaviour.

  • Thanks for your kind comments, while alcool if abused can be a real threat to our health just like a ton of other substances, used within reason it has a lot of benefits for our health. There is a saying that states “If you can’t handle it, don’t use it.” Drinking some alcohol with common sense isn’t dangerous given that it’s approved also by doctors, one or two glasses a day mainly.

    As for Ecstasy it has happened that someone died using it for the first time especially during rave parties. Then clearly if it was the first time has to be demonstrated but ecstasy is so harmful for our body that if someone uses it as a habit it’s not so hard to find out during autopsy.

    I think that while alcohol is dangerous only when abusing it and not being able to handle it ecstasy is a poison and nothing else all the times. Imho.

    Thanks again for your kind comments and have a great weekend.

  • Anything can kill on the first use; your logic is defective.

  • Royce Beverage

    Did you really just make a blog post saying that you don’t believe this study because it doesn’t ring true with what you think you know? The fact that you did not take the time to read the article at all, and yet question how it was conducted is pathetic (I don’t want to be offensive, but I honestly can’t think of any other way to put this). The British Medical Journal is one of the most respected medical and scientific journals on the planet, and you think just because it goes against what you’ve been told, it must be slanted in some way. The level of statistical analysis will blow anything you could’ve learned in your statistics class out of the water. Now, I would never want to see someone’s right to free speech violated, but for the love of God do some BASIC research into a subject before you start preaching about it.

    I would also have to say, I agree with the article. It bases the dangers of the drug on a biaxial scale, measuring social and individual damage. Yes, while crack is incredibly addictive and PCP can ruin you immediately, the amount of people killed by those under the influence of alcohol is greater than the number of people killed by someone under the influence of all other drugs combined (I could find some actual statistics, but honestly, look at drunk driving alone and tell me this isn’t true).

    Also, have you tried ecstacy? I’m sure you’ve tried alcohol. Yet in the most recent post, you claimed “I think that while alcohol is dangerous only when abusing it and not being able to handle it ecstasy is a poison and nothing else all the times [sic]. Imho.” If you want an actual personal experience to go by, well then then; yesterday I went skiing. We had some alcohol, and I knew that taking such a debilitating drug while skiing is extremely dangerous (if it gets difficult to walk after too much, imagine skiing). I did, however, take one and a half hits of ecstasy (the second time I had done the drug). It was my third time ever skiing. I felt the effects of the drug very strongly, and you know what happened? I enjoyed the experience more. My motor functions, my brain capabilities, were all completely normal. I did this because I was aware that ecstasy is honestly not that bad. Yes, some people die from it on their first time, but not because of the drug. It’s because of hyperthermia induced by the how one usually acts on the drug (crazily) and, yes, somewhat due to the chemical alterations in your body. But this is easily addressed by drinking water. No such fix exists for being too drunk.

    Speaking of dying from the first ever dose, you claimed “On the other side how many times happens that someone taking ecstasy or acids for the first time dies? Much often.” Looking specifically at LSD (the most common and most awesome hallucinogenic acid), what you said is wrong. Just purely wrong. Here’s documented proof. No one has ever died from a first-time overdose on LSD, as an actual affect of the drug. Ever. Please don’t make that argument again, you are spreading misinformation.

    (Now, true, one can go out and do something incredibly stupid on LSD and die, but to claim this happens more on a hallucinogenic than under the influence of alcohol is outlandish)

    In another comment, you stated “What makes the difference is that you can be a light drinker, while you can’t be a light drug addict.” This is true only because you used the term “addict”. It’s like saying you can’t be a light alcoholic, they always drink a lot of alcohol. Well, this is true, but a redundant point, because it comes with the definition of an “alcoholic”. If you were to change what you said to “…you can’t be a light drug USER”, which makes more sense given the context, then, well, this is very simply wrong. LSD, ecstasy, shrooms, these are NOT addictive drugs. There are tons of casual users, just as there are casual drinkers, who see little to no downside from it. Trust me on this one; I’m a college student.

    In closing, alcohol and tobacco are the worst drugs I’ve ever had in my life, and trust me this is saying something–marijuana, LSD, psilocybin (shrooms), salvia, 2-CI, ecstasy, molly (essentially ecstacy, and Clonazepam. The fact that those two are the most legal is absolutely disgusting, and I hope that this article in the BMJ helps society understand this. In hindsight, I guess this is why I wrote this comment in the first place, and why at times it may seem heated–I just don’t want society to stay so backwards.

  • Royce, you make a number of excellent points, but you do somewhat undermine your own argument by criticizing the author because he “just knows” that other drugs are more harmful than alcohol, then in almost the next breath advising us to “just look at drunk driving alone and tell me this isn’t true” [contending that alcohol kills more people than all other drugs combined].

  • Zingzing

    I had a little dalliance with ecstasy a dozen years ago, and while it may not be physically addictive, it certainly was on a psychological level. At the height of my time with it, I was doing it 6 nights a week, and it nt from one to two to three pills a night over the course of the 6 months I enjoyed it’s magical properties. I ended up head butting my girlfriend twice in one night on the dance floor because I was so off my head and she broke up with me because I was so off my head all the time, so I quit. I spent the next month with severe shooting pains in my stomach and insomnia. I even found a patch of vomit between my bed and nightstand, so I got off lucky there. Them’s were good days followed by bad days, but i’ve only experimented with x once since then, and it was a dud. It can fuck up your psychology, I’ll tell you that. Spent a lot of time listening to bad cure records and other miserable indie rock. Also primal scream’s “exterminator,” which I’ll stand by.