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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Risks of taking drugs compared- Scientific review of dangers of drugtaking- Drugs, the real deal

Health Direct reproduces the first ranking based upon scientific evidence of harm to both individuals and society. It was devised by government advisers - then ignored by ministers because of its controversial findings. The analysis was carried out by David Nutt, a senior member of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, and Colin Blakemore, the chief executive of the Medical Research Council. Copies of the report have been submitted to the Home Office, which has failed to act on the conclusions.

Phil Willis, who chairs the Commons Science and Technology Select Committee, said the current classifications were "riddled with anomalies" and were "clearly not fit for purpose".

"This research shows why we need a radical overhaul of the current law and a radical review of the classification system," he said. "It's clearly not fit for purpose in the 21st century, neither for informing drug-users nor providing public information."

1: Heroin (Class A)
ORIGIN: Vast majority comes from poppy fields of Afghanistan
MEDICAL: Sedative made from the opium poppy. Can be smoked or injected to produce a 'rush'. Users feel lethargic but experience severe cravings for the drug
NO. OF UK USERS: 40,000
NO. OF UK DEATHS IN 2004: 744
STREET VALUE: £30-100 a gram
DANGER RATING: 2.75/3

2: Cocaine (Class A)
ORIGIN: Made from coca shrubs from Colombia and Bolivia
MEDICAL: Stimulant made from leaves of the coca bush. Increases alertness and confidence but raises heart rate and blood pressure and users will crave it
NO. OF UK USERS: 800,000
NO. OF UK DEATHS IN 2004: 147
STREET VALUE: £30-55 a gram
DANGER RATING: 2.25/3

3: Barbiturates (Class B)
ORIGIN: Synthetic lab-made drugs, used to be prominent in clubs
MEDICAL:Powerful sedatives. Widely prescribed as sleeping pills but dangerous in overdose and now superseded by safer drugs
NO. OF UK USERS: Not many
NO. OF UK DEATHS IN 2004: 14
STREET VALUE: £1-2 a tablet
DANGER RATING: 2.10/3

4: Street Methadone (Class A)
ORIGIN: Synthetic drug similar to heroin but less addictive
MEDICAL: Similar to morphine and heroin and used to wean addicts off these drugs because it is less sedating. Street versions may be contaminated
NO. OF UK USERS: 20,000
NO. OF UK DEATHS IN 2004: 200
STREET VALUE: £2 a dose
DANGER RATING: 1.90/3

5: Alcohol (Legal)
ORIGIN: Brewed across the world in many different forms
MEDICAL:Central nervous system depressant used to reduce inhibitions and increase sociability. Increasing doses lead to intoxication, coma and respiratory failure
NO. OF UK USERS: Most adults
NO. OF UK DEATHS IN 2004: 22,000
STREET VALUE: £2.25 pint of lager
DANGER RATING: 1.85/3

6: Ketamine (Class C)
ORIGIN: Anaesthetic drug popular on club and rave scene
MEDICAL:Intravenous anaesthetic used on humans and animals which, when taken in tablet form, creates hallucinatory experiences
NO. OF UK USERS: Unknown
NO. OF UK DEATHS IN 2004: N/A
STREET VALUE: £15-50 a gram
DANGER RATING: 1.80/3

7: Benzodiazopines (Class C)
ORIGIN: Tranquilisers used to beat anxiety and insomnia
MEDICAL:The most common prescription tranquillisers. Effective sedatives which have a calming effect, reducing anxiety, but are addictive
NO. OF UK USERS: 160,000
NO. OF UK DEATHS IN 2004: 206
STREET VALUE: Prescription drug
DANGER RATING: 1.75/3

8: Amphetamines (Class B)
ORIGIN: Synthetic stimulants snorted, mixed in drink or injected
MEDICAL:Man-made drugs that increase heart rate and alertness. Users may feel paranoid. Newer form, methamphetamine, is addictive
NO. OF UK USERS: 650,000
NO. OF UK DEATHS IN 2004: 33
STREET VALUE: £2-10 a gram
DANGER RATING: 1.70/3

9: Tobacco (Legal)
ORIGIN: Most of the leaf comes from the Americas
MEDICAL: Contains nicotine, a fast-acting stimulant which is highly addictive. Tobacco causes lung cancer and increases the risk of heart disease
NO. OF UK USERS: 12.5m
NO. OF UK DEATHS IN 2004: 114,000
STREET VALUE: £4.50 a packet
DANGER RATING: 1.65/3

10: Buprenorphine (Class C)
ORIGIN: Can be made in a laboratory
MEDICAL: More expensive alternative to methadone used to wean addicts off heroin. Preferred by some addicts because it leaves them more 'clear headed'
NO. OF UK USERS: Unknown
NO. OF UK DEATHS IN 2004: N/A
STREET VALUE: Unknown
DANGER RATING: 1.55/3

11: Cannabis (Class C)
ORIGIN: Plant is easily cultivated in temperate climates
MEDICAL: Leaves of the cannabis sativa plant or resin can be smoked or eaten. It is a relaxant but stronger forms can also cause hallucinations and panic attacks
NO. OF UK USERS: 3m
NO. OF UK DEATHS IN 2004: 16
£40-100 an ounce
DANGER RATING: 1.40/3

12: Solvents (Legal)
ORIGIN: Organic compounds found in glues, paints, lighter fluid
MEDICAL: Includes glue, gas lighters, some aerosols and paint thinners. Produces euphoria and loss of inhibitions but can cause blackouts and death
NO. OF UK USERS: 37,000
NO. OF UK DEATHS IN 2004: 53
STREET VALUE: £9.99 a tin of paint
DANGER RATING: 1.35/3

13: 4-MTA (Class A)
ORIGIN: Amphetamine derivative; similar effects to ecstasy
MEDICAL: Amphetamine derivative, similar to ecstasy, and also known as 'flatliners'. Popular dance drug, producing feelings of euphoria
NO. OF UK USERS: Unknown
NO. OF UK DEATHS IN 2004: N/A
STREET VALUE: Unknown
DANGER RATING: 1.30/3

14: LSD (Class A)
ORIGIN: Hallucinogenic, synthetic drug more popular in 1960s
MEDICAL: Man-made drug that has a strong effect on perception. Effects include hallucinations and loss of sense of time. A 'bad trip' can cause anxiety
NO. OF UK USERS: 70,000
NO. OF UK DEATHS IN 2004: N/A
STREET VALUE: £1-5 a tab
DANGER RATING: 1.25/3

15: Methylphenidate (Class B)
ORIGIN: Medicine, similar to amphetamines
MEDICAL: The chemical name for Ritalin, the stimulant drug used to treat children with attention deficit hyperactive disorder which helps them concentrate
NO. OF UK USERS: Unknown
NO. OF UK DEATHS IN 2004: N/A
STREET VALUE: Unknown
DANGER RATING: 1.20/3

16: Anabolic Steroids (Class C)
ORIGIN: Hormones used by bodybuilders and sportsmen
MEDICAL: Synthetic drugs that have a similar effect to hormones such as testosterone. Used by body builders to increase muscle bulk
NO. OF UK USERS: 38,000
NO. OF UK DEATHS IN 2004: N/A
STREET VALUE: £7.99 a tablet
DANGER RATING: 1.15/3

17: GHB (Class C)
ORIGIN: Synthetic drug, sold as 'liquid ecstasy'
MEDICAL: The date rape drug, Gammahydroxybutyrate, is a sedative that has a relaxing effect, reducing inhibitions, but can lead to stiff muscles and fits
NO. OF UK USERS: Not many
NO. OF UK DEATHS IN 2004: 3
STREET VALUE: £15 a bottle
DANGER RATING: 1.10/3

18: Ecstasy (Class A)
ORIGIN: Synthetic drug in tablets; popular in dance scene
MEDICAL: MDMA or similar man-made chemicals. Causes adrenaline rushes and feelings of wellbeing but also anxiety and high body temperature
NO. OF UK USERS: 800,000
NO. OF UK DEATHS IN 2004: 33
STREET VALUE: £1-5 a pill
DANGER RATING: 1.05/3

19: Alkyl Nitrites (Legal)
ORIGIN: Liquid, better known as 'poppers'; inhaled
MEDICAL: Gives a strong, joyous rush and a burst of energy for a few minutes which quickly fades and can leave a powerful headache
NO. OF UK USERS: 550,000
NO. OF UK DEATHS IN 2004: N/A
STREET VALUE: £2-6 for 10ml
DANGER RATING: 0.95/3

20: Khat (Legal)
ORIGIN: Green-leaf shrub grown in region of Southern Africa
MEDICAL: Natural stimulant, its leaves are chewed to produce a feeling of wellbeing and happiness. Popular with the Somali community
NO. OF UK USERS: 40,000
NO. OF UK DEATHS IN 2004: Not many
STREET VALUE: £4 a bunch
DANGER RATING: 0.80/3

http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/health_medical/article1207619.ece

For more information please see the two Health Direct postings below:

Monday, July 31, 2006 MPs demand changes to the classification of illegal drugs The ABC system of classifying illegal drugs should be replaced with a more scientifically based scale of harm. In a scathing report entitled Drug Classification: Making a Hash of It?, the Commons science and technology committee says there is no consistency in the way drugs are classified A, B or C and no evidence to support the official view that the classification has a deterrent effect.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006 Drug classes have little link to the dangers the Home Office has now been warned by its own senior advisers that alcohol and tobacco are more harmful to the nation's health than the Class A drugs LSD and ecstasy.

Britain's antiquated drugs laws stand accused of failing millions of people because they bear little or no relationship to the harm caused by everything from a hit of heroin to a seemingly harmless pint of lager.

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