Alcohol is deadlier than ecstasy, says Government's drugs adviser
United Kingdom - Alcohol is more harmful and causes more deaths than the drug ecstasy, a leading scientist who advises the Government on drug safety is warning.
Professor David Nutt, a senior member of the drugs panel which recommended the downgrading of cannabis, is calling for the current system of drugs classification to be widened, to reflect the dangers posed by excessive drinking.
The addiction expert says only 10 premature deaths a year in the UK can be blamed on ecstasy, compared with at least 22,000 attributable to drinking. He highlights the fact that alcohol is exempt from an official system of harm rating despite being the cause of 10,000 assaults a year, unlike ecstasy, which is not linked with violence.
Professor Nutt says in the latest edition of the journal Psychopharmacology that the Tory leader, David Cameron, is "correct in his logic" in suggesting that E, currently a class A drug, should be in a lower category than drugs such as heroin and cocaine.
The scientist, who chairs the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) technical committee, writes: "Why is ecstasy illegal when alcohol, a considerably more harmful drug, is not? When we consider that the possession of a drug that is much less dangerous than alcohol can lead to a seven-year prison sentence, whereas alcohol use is actively promoted, perhaps David Cameron did not go far enough."
But Professor Nutt's comments have enraged drugs prevention charities, who say he is wrong to compare the harm caused by drugs such as ecstasy with the effect on health from excessive drinking.
"Ecstasy kills at random and there is a lot of cumulative harm," said David Raynes from the National Drugs Prevention Alliance. "Although there is a lot of harm from alcohol, very few people just die from drinking alcohol, but they do die from taking E. If the Government does downgrade E, then it sends a signal that it's less harmful than it was before."