A study best left unpublished

According to a study published recently in the British medical journal The Lancet, alcohol is a more harmful drug than heroin or crack cocaine based on how much it affects people and society in general. In other news, sewer rats also have a larger effect on today’s society than saber-toothed tigers do. However, all ridicule aside, the fact remains that the only reason alcohol has the most widely reaching effect on today’s society is because it’s legal and much more widely used. The study focused on 20 drugs, judging them on a scale of 1 to 100 using 16 criteria of personal and societal harms that drugs can cause. Alcohol scored the highest — 72 out of 100 — with heroin and crack cocaine rounding out the podium with distant scores of 55 and 54, respectively. When asked about the study, Dr. Jeffrey Parsons of Hunter College went so far as to say that “the negative health consequences of alcohol are greater than with many illegal drugs.” I find this hard to believe, considering the nature of these “illegal drugs” in question. Alcohol is legal for people over the age of 21, meaning a lot of stupid people can get their hands on it and subsequently do stupid things. That does not mean that alcohol is more harmful to a responsible user. Drink responsibly. Good advice to follow, and it is very possible to drink alcohol responsibly, as many people exhibit on a daily basis. On the other hand, one cannot smoke crack responsibly. By that same token, it’s scientifically a lot easier to get addicted to illegal drugs such as cocaine and heroin, hence their illegal status. The main problem I have with studies like this is that their big headline-getting results are misleading to people who look at such headlines and say “damn, maybe these other drugs aren’t so bad after all.” I’m sure the creators of this study would agree that if cocaine or heroin were practiced on the scale that alcohol consumption is today, the social and personal repercussions would be much greater. Then the only purpose this study serves is to tell us that because so many dumb people do dumb things with alcohol, while hardcore drug use is less rampant, alcohol has a more widespread effect on society. The only new strain of thought they are fueling is the one of those irresponsible alcohol users, who may look at their findings and be more inclined to go ahead and try these “less dangerous” drugs. Alcohol is legal for a reason, and its legality undoubtedly leads to a greater strain on our society; but to say that it is more dangerous than cocaine or heroin is just dangerously misleading.