Which is it? City cops might guess crack, country cops (and dentists) meth. Addiction counselors might chime in on the opiates. "Gateway" conspiracists would point to weed.
But has anyone analyzed the question in scientific terms, defined the harms inherent in each substance and compared them? Has anyone taken the question seriously?
Turns out someone has. Several someones, in fact, and published their answer for you.
Last month, British medical journal The Lancet published results of a study of 20 drugs. The summary can be found here, full version available with (free) registration to the journal's site.
From the summary:
Members of the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs, including two invited specialists, met in a 1-day interactive workshop to score 20 drugs on 16 criteria: nine related to the harms that a drug produces in the individual and seven to the harms to others. Drugs were scored out of 100 points, and the criteria were weighted to indicate their relative importance.
MCDA modelling showed that heroin, crack cocaine, and metamfetamine were the most harmful drugs to individuals (part scores 34, 37, and 32, respectively), whereas alcohol, heroin, and crack cocaine were the most harmful to others (46, 21, and 17, respectively). Overall, alcohol was the most harmful drug (overall harm score 72), with heroin (55) and crack cocaine (54) in second and third places.
There are things one can quibble over when reading how harm criteria were determined and applied (factoring the cost to society of imprisoning cannabis users as part of the drug's net harm?). However, the takeaway is pretty clear: when looking at the total harm done by drugs to both users and bystanders, one poison of choice stands neck and spout above the rest: booze.
Like many of you, I'll be attending a get-together tonight to bid farewell to a year well-quit. Like many, I'll likely lift a glass to wish the annum good riddance and share hopes for a better year to come.
A year in which I sincerely hope to see you all, to read your thoughts, share your troubles and joys, argue against your knuckleheaded pronouncements.
So, whatever your evening's plans, be careful. Keep an eye peeled for harebrained moves by other celebrants, because it doesn't matter how smart and cautious you are if you don't take into account the other guy's jack move, too.
I've lost a good number of dear ones to the world's most dangerous drug. Don't want to lose any more, okay?
Have a good time and get home safe. We'll fight some more next year.