Recently, David "the Nutt" Nutt published an article in the Lancet in which he claimed that alcohol is the worst drug of them all, even worse than heroin and cocaine. So many months before this, he published a report in which he expressed the widely held belief that alcohol and tobacco are more dangerous than cannabis, ecstasy and LSD. This resulted in lots of criticism of the governments drug policy, for which he ultimately lost his job as a science adviser.
Odd, he loses his job after he claims that alcohol is "worse than" other drugs, suddenly he reappear and begins claiming that alcohol is the "worst drug." Coincidental?
Lets consider his methods, in the more recent article, he based it on a 1 day meeting of an Independent drugs committee, which included two drug experts, who using 16 criteria rated the various drugs on a scale of 0-100, 0 being the least harmful, 100 being the most. The results would then be added to give an overall. The 16 criteria not only included the effects on the individual users body (of which there was 9), but also its effects on society (of which there was 7). Alcohol came the highest at a total of 72, also being the highest damage to society at 42, but only 26 to the body.
Now, to me this doesn't sound like science, they're not doing any experiments on rats or human volunteers, neither are they analysing national statistics. It just sounds like a group of well paid individuals with a level of neurological knowledge having a chat about drugs. For this reason it seems highly conjective, and when things are conjective they are open to the individuals opinions.
For the earlier article, David Nutt used 9 criteria that were crunched using "an expert Delphic procedure" whatever the hell that means. These are the Criteria he used:Acute Physical pain, Chronic physical pain, Intravenous harm, Intensity of pleasure, Psychological dependence, Physical dependence, Intoxication, Other social harms, Health care costs.
Once again, this seems really conjectural. For example, how can you measure pain? It is something personal to the person feeling it, the closest you could do in my understanding is to place a clamp on someones body, tightening it, measuring every newton of force you apply and stop when the subject is concentrating more on the pain from the clamp rather than the pain he/she is feeling. Even this has conjective elements, but I doubt that David Nutt even considered. I'll leave you to guess the conjectiveness of the others, the only ones that seem measurable to me are Intravenous harm and Health Care costs.
So, here is a man making judgments about drugs and the governments stance on drugs using methods highly susceptible to his own and others opinions. What might these opinions be? Well, alcohol is one of the oldest drugs known to humanity. Conservatives, who at their most basic definition, are people who want to keep things the same, will probably support alcohol due to its age. Since Cannabis and other drugs have only really been known to Europeans at least for the last 300 years, originating from somewhere that isn't Europe, they therefore will "logically" be against it. For progressives (who are sometimes liberals or socialists to boot, but not always) are going to have the exact opposite approach, with Cannabis and chemical drugs being the bright new intoxicants of the future whilst alcohol can be left to the dank dreary past. This is a very simplistic, stereotypical depiction of conservatives and progressives, but I'm sure that these opinions do play around, often in places where science should be dominant.
There is also a well known meme (possibly a normal observation, possibly a conservative rant) that intellectuals that go to university mysteriously manage to have more progressive view points than others. Possibly David Nutt, an intellectual who went to university, might be swigging his Progressive opinions way too much.
As with all blogs that have an egotistical slant, what do I think. Well, I would say I have conservative opinions about many things, since I guess other conservatives support keeping alcohol legal and cannabis legal, I'd support them. If I was asked, would you rather smoke dope or drink beer, I would say "that's about as interesting as asking me 'would I rather choke to death or burn'."