Which is the most dangerous drug in the world?
You’d probably take an educated guess and say the one which is most likely to kill you, right? But it turns out this is a question for which the answer isn’t actually as simple as it might appear.
Sure, most people (including the UK government) would probably point to class A substances like heroin, crack cocaine or crystal meth as the drugs which are most likely to ruin lives and cause severe health problems or death.
However, despite the high addictive properties of those drugs, not to mention the absolute havoc they’ve wreaked on people and societies, it isn’t any of those narcotics which top the list of the world’s most dangerous drugs.
In fact, according to a new study by scientists, the most dangerous drug on Earth is none other than alcohol.
Yes, you read that correctly – alcohol. That completely legal substance which you can enjoy down your local pub. Hell, you’re probably still recovering after drinking a whole heap of the stuff over the weekend.
It may seem like a surprising conclusion but, according to IFL Science, the result comes down to a dizzying range of factors.
They cite two studies – one by the British Government’s former chief drugs advisor David Nutt and another by European scientists. In both cases, sixteen parameters of harm were chosen and divided in terms of each drug’s direct and individual effect on the user, as well as the substance’s effect on others and wider society.
Twenty drugs were put through this process, which was considered the best method to determine which drug was the most harmful. The list of factors included the likelihood of dying, dependence, impairment of mental functions, loss of things like your house or job, physical injury, criminal activities, and even the economic cost to a country.
And, although heroin and crack cocaine came in at second and third on the list, alcohol took pole position as the most dangerous drug in the UK and Europe – primarily because of its harm to others, including the wider economy.
On the surface, the outcome may seem like a shock but, when you consider that 3.3 million deaths every year are caused by the harmful use of alcohol, maybe it shouldn’t be such a surprise. According to the World Health Organisation, that’s 5.9 per cent of all annual deaths, which works out at a shocking rate of one death every 10 seconds.
You can go more in depth on the studies here but, in the meantime, maybe put down that glass of mulled wine.