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Drug Users Are Well Informed as to Risks of Controlled Substances

Drug users believe they have an advantage over those who abuse alcohol or tobacco. According to a survey by UCL (University College London) and Imperial College London researchers, these individuals are very well informed about the harms associated with the drugs they use and instead perceive alcohol and tobacco to be among the most dangerous substances.

The study was led by Dr. Celia Morgan and Professor Valeria Curran at UCL and featured in a Science Daily release. A survey evaluating responses from 1,500 UK drug users, this study asked drug users to rate twenty psychoactive substances on a ‘rational’ scale.

Topping the list in terms of harm were heroin, crack and cocaine, with alcohol resting at fifth, solvents at seventh and tobacco at ninth. Ecstasy came 13th in the harm rating, LSD 16th and cannabis 18th. In other words, the survey found no relationship between the drug’s legal status and the users’ ratings of harm.

Dr. Celia Morgan noted, "Given that the Misuse of Drugs Act aims to signal to young people the harmfulness of drugs, this suggests a flaw with the current classification of drugs. We found a high correlation between harm ratings by users and those made previously by scientific experts across all substances, suggesting users are well informed about the harms of drugs.

The reported prevalence of use of each substance also suggests that the classification of drugs has little bearing on the choice of whether to use substances or not. For example ecstasy, a Class A substance, was the fourth most regularly used psychoactive drug, according to our survey.”

Researchers involved in this study highlight that throughout the world, there are an estimated two billion alcohol users, 1.3 billion smokers and 185 million users of other drugs. The rise in misuse of drugs may have much to do with the public’s confusion about the actual risks of different drugs as conflicting messages are often provided by the legal system, the media and health campaigns.

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