Rate alcohol and tobacco like illegal drugs, says top scientist
Out of control: Professor Sir Gabriel Horn says alcohol is the most harmful recreational drug (posed by models)
The harm done by tobacco and alcohol should be rated on the same system as illegal drugs, a leading scientist said today.
Professor Sir Gabriel Horn who chaired a special committee on drug use, warned that dependency on drink and cigarettes was spiralling out of control and urgent measures were needed to curb their misuse.
Professor Horn told the Government's drug advisors in London that many people believe alcohol is more harmful than heroin or cocaine.
He told the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs: 'It's been recognised that [alcohol] is the most harmful recreational drug you could use. The risks are very similar to illegal substances.
'Alcohol and tobacco highjack the same part of the brain [as illegal drugs]. This statutory body could be used as a really efficient conduit to prevent misuse. We must do something about this appalling burden to the nation. How long have we known about the dangers of tobacco smoke? But it took the Government a long time to take action and issue warnings. It's dangerous stuff.'
Illegal drugs are regulated according to a classification system from A to C relating to the harm and risks involved in taking them. One possible new system would be for alcohol and nicotine to be ranked alongside them without being banned.
Smoking dangers: Professor Horn warns that tobacco 'hijacks' the same part of the brain as illegal drugs.
In the UK the total burden of alcohol misuse in terms of crime and antisocial behaviour is estimated at more than £12 billion a year. Professor Horn, who chaired the Academy of Medical Science's working group on drugs, also called for a special independent committee to be set up which would take the final decision on what ratings individual drugs should be given. This follows controversy over Prime Minister Gordon Brown's move to reinstate cannabis earlier this year as a class B drug. He overruled advice from the ACMD that there was not enough evidence to support such a move.
The Lords is debating the drug's reclassification today. Professor Horn said a new independent classification committee could act in a similar way to the Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England which decides on interest rates independently of government. Ministers would be barred from choosing committee members, who would be appointed by academic bodies including the Royal Society and the AMS. Professor Horn told the ACMD: 'In my opinion, Parliament should devolve its responsibility on classification to an independent committee. Parliament would have to accept the decision of this classification committee.'
Source: Daily mail UK http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/a...obacco-like-illegal-drugs-says-scientist.html
By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 5:03 PM on 25th November 2008