Alcohol is deadlier than ecstasy, says Government's drugs adviser

By Sophie Goodchild, Chief Reporter 
Published: 07 May 2006

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." 


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