A scale to assess the harm of drugs of potential misuse

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There are three main factors that together determine the harm associated with any drug of potential abuse: the physical harm to the individual user caused by the drug; the tendency of the drug to induce dependence; and the effect of drug use on families, communities, and society.

Nutt, David & King, Leslie & Saulsbury, William & Blakemore, Colin. (2007).

According to a research study published back in 2007 the methodology and processes underlying classification systems for drug use and the harm they have on people are generally neither specified nor transparent, which reduces confidence in their accuracy and undermines health education messages.

The researchers went along and developed and explored the feasibility of the use of a nine-category matrix of harm, with an expert delphic procedure, to assess the harms of a range of illicit drugs in an evidence-based fashion.

They also included five legal drugs of misuse (alcohol, khat, solvents, alkyl nitrites, and tobacco) and one that has since been classified (ketamine) for reference.

The process proved practicable, and yielded roughly similar scores and rankings of drug harm when used by two separate groups of experts.

The top 5 ranking from this study is as follows:

  1. Heroin
  2. Cocaine
  3. Barbiturates
  4. Street methadone
  5. Alcohol

A lot of people would be surprised to see alcohol on the list.

About Mduduzi Mbiza 110 Articles
Mduduzi Mbiza is a creator. Author of the book, ‘Human Education: The Voyage of Discovery’.