Publicizing rational ranking of drug harms to show relative safety of cannabis.

Patriots interested in ending the tyranny that is the war on drugs have been given a powerful new tool.  From Britain comes a novel ranking of the dangers of various drugs to their consumers and harms to families and society. In a finding that tears at the foundation of drug prohibition, ranked the legal drug alcohol the most dangerous of all drugs, legal or illegal. The Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs, headed by the esteemed Professor David Nutt found highly illegal marijuana, by contrast, was to be far safer.

Many were shocked that alcohol was declared the most dangerous drug. But others were less surprised, as alcohol is by far the most abused drug, causes the most addiction and promotes behaviors damaging to family and society. It also directly causes disease and death, especially through liver disease. Heroin came in as the second most harmful drug, mainly from it highly addictive nature, although it is not any where near a cause of violence as alcohol. Crack, the most volatile form of cocaine, was ranked as the next most destructive drug. Far down the harm list came marijuana and even lower other psychoactive drugs such as ecstasy and LSD.

The ranking looked at 9 categories of drug harm. Harm-to-self categories are:

  • Drug-specific mortality
  • Drug-related mortality
  • Drug-specific damage
  • Drug-related damage
  • Dependence
  • Drug-specific impairment of mental function
  • Drug-related impairment of mental functioning
  • Loss of tangibles
  • Loss of relationships
  • Injury

Harms-to-others categories include:

  • Crime
  • Environmental damage
  • Family conflict
  • International damage
  • Economic cost
  • Decline in community cohesion.

Numeric rankings were assigned to the Overall Harm Score, the higher the score, the more harmful the drug.

  • Alcohol – 72 – This is a huge number far out pacing the rest.
  • Heroin – 55
  • Crack –   54
  • Crystal meth – 33
  • Cocaine – 27
  • Tobacco – 26  – This number seems low considering the 5 million yearly world-wide cigarette deaths.  1,200 Americans die from cigarettes every day. Tobacco is also the most highly addictive drug and 3,000 American teenagers become addicted to cigarettes each day.
  • Amphetamine/speed – 23
  • Cannabis – 20 – This seems a little high, considering that zero medical deaths are associated with marijuana, and use of cannabis tends to reduce violence.
  • Benzodiazepines – Valium -15
  • Ecstacy – 9
  • Anabolic steroids – 9
  • LSD – 7 – Powerful potential as a psychiatric drug
  • Mushrooms – 5 – Yet psilocybin mushrooms, which grow from cattle dung and may be spiritually beneficial, are persecuted as Schedule I by the DEA

Headlines blared the new rankings:

This is not news, of course. Over a decade ago a similar ranking looking a addictive potential, impairment, danger to health and other indicators had cannabis competing with coffee as the least dangerous drug. The fresh rankings are news, though, in that they diverge from much of the public’s distorted view of drug dangers, fed by decades of federal drug war propaganda. And the new rankings of drug dangers are in nearly a directly opposite ranking of the legality of the drugs in the US federal government. The most dangerous drug, alcohol, is legal (as is the most addictive and lethal drug, cigarettes) while the far safer cannabis is legally ranked as Schedule I. This labels it as among the most dangerous drugs, without medical value, deserving of the harshest prosecution in criminal codes.

Ecstasy, MMDA, LSD and even psilocybin mushrooms are also legally scheduled as terribly dangerous, and of no medical use.  It turns out they inflict little harm and many may well have great value, especially in treating war caused disorders such as PTSD. If only the psychiatrists could use them, but they cannot, because congress and the DEA, in their self-serving wisdom, have declared them Schedule I. Politicians and bureaucrats have set the drug’s schedules, science be damned, and harms not considered. Knee jerk scheduling remains decades later, after legally scourging millions of American lives.

This new, rational ranking of drug harms can be used effectively for those arguing to end the damage of drug wars. This has already been done, e.g. in letter to the Pot Shots at the Criminalization of a Soft Drug. The writer, Alan Shanoff, state, “The Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs in England recently rated marijuana with a harm score of 20 compared with alcohol at 72.” This numerical rating can be a real eye-opener and winning argument for reducing the only real harms from cannabis, those that come from its prohibition.