Addictive Properties of Drugs, Part 2

In last week's blog, we read and explained a graph used in an online book called Drug War Facts. This article will work more with the same book, indicating a different type of rating system for several drugs of common use/abuse. These ratings are by the types of harm the drugs cause for those who use them. These ratings are derived by asking two separate groups to determine and rate the various drugs. These groups are experts in the field of addictive drugs, one a group of psychiatrists who consult on Royal College of Psychiatrists' register. The second group is comprised of experts in addiction; with a wide range of areas covered in medicine and psychiatry. These areas of expertise include pharmacology, chemistry, and forensic science, according to the article in the publication.

The scale they used to rate the substances had four points; with 3 registering extreme risk, 2 moderate, 1 some, and 0 indicating no risk.

Drug Rankings by Harm

Substance

Physical Harm

Dependence

Social Harm

UK

Class

US

Schedule

Heroin

2.78

3.00

2.54

A

I

Cocaine

2.33

2.39

2.17

A

II

Barbiturates

2.23

2.01

2.00

B

III

Street Methadone

1.86

2.08

1.87

A

II

Alcohol

1.40

1.93

2.21

n/s

n/s

Ketamine

2.00

1.54

1.69

C

III

Benzodiazepines

1.63

1.83

1.65

C

IV

Amphetamine

1.81

1.67

1.50

A

II

Tobacco

1.24

2.21

1.42

n/s

n/s

Buprenorphine

1.60

1.64

1.49

C

III

Cannabis

0.99

1.51

1.50

B

I

Solvents

1.28

1.01

1.52

n/s

n/s

4-MTA

1.44

1.30

1.06

A

n/s

Solvents

1.13

1.23

1.32

A

I

Methylphenidate

1.32

1.25

.097

B

II

Anabolic Steroids

1.45

0.88

1.13

C

III

GHB

0.86

1.19

1.30

C

I

Ecstasy

1.05

1.13

1.09

A

I

Alkyl nitrates

0.93

0.87

0.97

n/s

n/s

Khat

0.50

1.04

0.85

C

I

As is easily understood by reading through the ratings of the various substances most commonly abused, there is high risk for certain narcotics involving physical harm, some without high ratings for dependence. Social harm may or may not be an indicator of the dangers of the substance.

Tobacco, a highly addictive substance, has a relatively low rating for physical harm. While known to cause lung and heart diseases, as well as several forms of cancer, the risk of physical harm is long-term, therefore not as great as numerous other substances on the list. It is also very low on social harm, because smoking was such a popular habit in years past and the social impact is certainly lower than many other substances.

Heroin and cocaine are both at the top of the ratings' lists, being harmful in all aspects. There are no listings for some of the substances being most popularly used by teens at this time. The inclusion of "bath salts" and DXM and other popular substances of abuse for them would be helpful. But this is a good tool for those who want to understand more about the social and physical impact for most of the drugs of abuse in the US and the United Kingdom.

References:

[1] Common Sense for Drug War Policy. Drug War Facts. 6th Edition. Retrieved online from: www.drugwarfacts.org/cms


Kelly McClanahan has an MSW in clinical social work, with a specialization in substance abuse treatment. Having worked in this field for over 20 years, she is currently working on her certification as an addictions' counselor.\

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