Tuesday, March 27, 2007

If only Prince told this to CC judges.....

On His Blog Andrew Sullivan links to interesting articles on the dangers of various illegal recreational drugs. He points to a new study that argues that one way to measure the dangers of various drugs is to examine how toxic the drug is at various levels. Can too much kill you? And how much is too much?

Money quote:

The most toxic recreational drugs, such as GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyrate) and heroin, have a lethal dose less than 10 times their typical effective dose. The largest cluster of substances has a lethal dose that is 10 to 20 times the effective dose: These include cocaine, MDMA (methylenedioxymethamphetamine, often called "ecstasy") and alcohol. A less toxic group of substances, requiring 20 to 80 times the effective dose to cause death, include Rohypnol (flunitrazepam or "roofies") and mescaline (peyote cactus). The least physiologically toxic substances, those requiring 100 to 1,000 times the effective dose to cause death, include psilocybin mushrooms and marijuana, when ingested.

I've found no published cases in the English language that document deaths from smoked marijuana, so the actual lethal dose is a mystery. My surmise is that smoking marijuana is more risky than eating it but still safer than getting drunk.

Alcohol thus ranks at the dangerous end of the toxicity spectrum. So despite the fact that about 75 percent of all adults in the United States enjoy an occasional drink, it must be remembered that alcohol is quite toxic. Indeed, if alcohol were a newly formulated beverage, its high toxicity and addiction potential would surely prevent it from being marketed as a food or drug. This conclusion runs counter to the common view that one's own use of alcohol is harmless.

When Gareth Prince went to the Constitutional Court to argue that his freedom of religion had been infringed because as a Rastafarian he was not allowed to smoke cannabis, the majority made much of the dangers of dagga. This evidence seems to suggest the judges were severely misguided. If dagga is not dangerous at all, why not allow Rastafarians to use it?

The other statistic that caught my eye in this extract is that 75% of adult Americans "occassionally" enjoy a drink. Only 75%? In South Africa, where drinking alcohol is a national sport, I would imagine its closer to 90%.


Anonymous said...

while grass might not be the most toxic of substances, latest research says other effects are dangerous. This comes from the UK Independent.

"The warnings about the effects on mental health were underlined yesterday in a new report, saying almost a quarter of all new cases of schizophrenia would stem from cannabis smoking by 2010.

The study, published in the journal Addiction, also predicts that young men who smoke cannabis will be particularly at risk. The use of cannabis among under-18s rose 18-fold in the 30 years to 2002, according to the researchers.

Dr John MacLeod, co-author of the study, said: "If you assume a link [with cannabis] then the number of cases of schizophrenia will increase in line with increased use of the drug." Antonio Maria Costa, the executive director of the United Nations office on drugs and crime, yesterday called for people to wake up to the fact that cannabis is now a dangerous drug wrongly portrayed as a "gentle, harmless substance"."

Pierre de Vos said...

You are correct, I think that the harm of a specific substance, cannot be gauged merely by looking at its toxicity. But for me the larger point of the article I quote is that alcohol is particularly dangerous compared to many other drugs, yet it is legal. As with most drugs is the quantity and the frequency with which one takes most of these drugs that will give a better indication of the harm.

Anonymous said...

The question uppermost in our minds here should be this: who poses the greater danger to other people - schizophrenics or drunks? - Clara

Anonymous said...

Well, obviously it depends on the type of drunk or schizophrenic....some drunks are harmless, as are some schizo's, but some are very dangerous. Who is going to distinguish? The fact is that hash users regularly try to convince the general public that theirs is a harmless pursuit. Evidence suggests otherwise.