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Friday, November 5, 2010

Alcohol More Dangerous than Crack and Heroin - Tell Me Something I Don't Know

The Economist reports on a new study suggesting alcohol is more harmful than heroin or crack.

Researchers led by Professor David Nutt, a former chief drugs adviser to the British government, asked drug-harm experts to rank 20 drugs (legal and illegal) on 16 measures of harm to the user and to wider society, such as damage to health, drug dependency, economic costs and crime.

They found that Alcohol is the most harmful drug in Britain, scoring 72 out of a possible 100, far more damaging than heroin (55) or crack cocaine (54).

Duh! Let's start with the fact that alcohol is legal. Of course that makes it more dangerous - just about can get it. Alcohol is addictive - yes so are heroin and crack cocaine but many people are functional alcoholics while we don't really hear much about functional heroin addicts or coke heads.

The British media and to some degree the American media, jumped all over this study with headlines screaming that alcohol is the worst drug.

One thing they missed - is alcohol is the commonly used drug among teens and has been for decades. If a teen has a family history of alcohol use or is going through death of a friend/parent/relative/etc. or divorce or fragmented family, alcohol is often the drug of choice. It's open and in our homes and many people will buy alcohol for underage kids.

We're advocating that parents and caregivers forbid their kids alcohol - to a teenager that's a license to go out and get drunk. But talk to them - the science of how alcohol hurts teen brains and bodies is very persuasive. Here's a great guide written by yours truly with lots of help.

A new e-book from AAAS  entitled Understanding the Effects of Alcohol from the Science Inside Alcohol project, explains in language aimed at adolescents how alcohol affects their bodies. When used with a companion book for parents, Delaying that First Drink: A Parents’ Guide, by Aimee Stern, the entire family can learn the science behind why drinking young is a bad idea.  

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