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Is alcohol a class A drug?

23rd March 2007

The debate over the dangers of alcohol and tobacco rages on as experts warn the two substances are more harmful than many illegal drugs.

According to drugs specialists, the current system for assessing drugs - as set out in the Misuse of Drugs Act - is ‘arbitrary’ and they have called for widespread changes.   Under current guidelines, a class A substance is deemed the most dangerous and a class C the least harmful.  Scientific evidence proves that heroin and cocaine are rightly ranked as class A substances due to the harm they cause but LSD and ecstasy are proven to be low risk in terms of health but are also deemed to be class A drugs. 

Campaigners are so worried about what they see as the misclassification of some drugs that they have drawn up a new league table of 20 drugs and the harm they cause to try and effect a change in the law.  The league table highlights flaws in the current system as the eight drugs ranked by the new research as most dangerous include two that are currently unclassified in the Misuse of Drugs Act (alcohol and tobacco) while the eight judged least dangerous by the new research includes two class A drugs (ecstasy and LSD).

The new research found that the amount of physical and social harm caused by alcohol means it should be re-classified as a Class A drug and cigarettes have been shown to be as dangerous as Class B drugs amphetamines and barbiturates. The team who put together the new league table included forensic, police and medical experts.  Lead researcher Professor David Nutt, from the University of Bristol said the current system was "not fit for purpose" and was not helping deter young people from using drugs.

 

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