Alcohol still number one drug threat

Alcohol is a more dangerous drug than heroin or crack cocaine, a study claims.

Scientists have found that alcohol is the most harmful drug overall and three times as harmful as cocaine and tobacco, according to a new scale of drug harm that rates the damage to both users and to wider society.

Ecstasy is only an eighth as harmful as alcohol, according to the new analysis, led by the controversial sacked government drugs adviser David Nutt with colleagues from the breakaway Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs.

The study says that if drugs were classified on the basis of the harm they do, alcohol would be class A, alongside heroin and crack cocaine.

The findings of the study, published in the Lancet, are likely to reignite the debate over the government's drugs classification system in the UK.

Prof Nutt told the BBC: "Overall, alcohol is the most harmful drug because it's so widely used.

"Crack cocaine is more addictive than alcohol but because alcohol is so widely used there are hundreds of thousands of people who crave alcohol every day, and those people will go to extraordinary lengths to get it."

He said it was important to separate harm to individuals and harm to society.

Professor David Nutt was sacked last year by then home secretary Alan Johnson after he challenged ministers over their refusal to take the advice of the official Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, which he chaired.