Drugs or tobacco: Which is worse?
Analysis By Mark Easton Home editor, BBC News
The politics of drugs is often seen as a battle between the
prohibitionists and the liberalisers. But after two years study and
reflection, the RSA Commission on Illegal Drugs calls for a quite
different approach - a strategy based on reducing harm.
The report makes the point that, as with alcohol, the majority of
those who use illegal drugs do so without causing significant harm to
themselves or others.
The commission report makes it clear that while there are many
instances of relatively harmless drug use, there is no such thing as
risk-free use of either drugs or alcohol - or tobacco come to that."
Is drug taking a similar habit to smoking?
Call for drug law overhaul The conclusion is that we need to have the same approach to drugs
like alcohol and tobacco as we do with those drugs which, often by an accident of history, are illegal. Instead of a classification of drugs which is ;crude, effective, riddled with anomalies and open to political manipulation there should be an index of substance-related harms - physical, social and economic.
Drugs policy outcomes should be judged in terms of harms reduced rather than drugs seized or offenders prosecuted, the commission says.
'A more enlightened attitude' So what would such a policy actually look like on the ground? The commission shies away from defining its harm index", but it does spend some time assessing the harms caused by different drugs. Heroin is the most physically dangerous of drugs says the
However, it points out that even heroin use can sometimes be kept within bounds; It quotes a report from a team at Glasgow Caledonian University in 2005 which followed 126 long-term heroin users and revealed that more than half were in a stable relationship, a third had children and most had settled accommodation and were in employment or further education.
More people are harmed by alcohol and tobacco than by currently illegal drugs RSA Commission on Illegal Drugs
The report assesses other drugs too.
It says:Many adult cannabis users work out for themselves precisely
when, where, how much and how often they use cannabis so that it does
not dislocate their daily routines.
Cocaine use too can be controlled within a secure social setting.
Where the lives of cocaine users begin to come apart, the problem
may in the end be found to be with their daily lives rather than with
A cool response The commission recommends that the use of criminal sanctions should be confined to the punishment of those offences connected with drugs that cause the most harm.
But the report does not say whether that means the authorities turning a blind eye to heroin or cocaine users whose habit is
controlled. Like many earnest and well-researched reports before it, the commission report calls for a more enlightened attitude towards drug use. "More people are harmed by alcohol and tobacco than by currently illegal drugs.More people are killed every year by sniffing glue than by snorting cocaine. Very many more people are killed in traffic accidents than by drug overdose, the commission says.
It is necessary to be aware of the physical and psychological harms that individual drugs can inflict, but also to keep these harms, and our
reaction to them, in proportionHowever, politicians are giving the report a cool response. All parties know the huge electoral damage that can follow any suggestion that they are going soft on drugs.
***-^^^^that is true, we're in this mess because of the politicians over reacted to the news accounts regarding drugs from especially the LA Times and many others in the media in the early 1900s.