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Most Dangerous Drugs Ranked by Researchers
April 16, 2007

crack mari Which drugs are the most dangerous? Is alcohol more dangerous than heroin? Are amphetamines more harmful than cocaine? These were among the questions asked by British scientists and answered in their paper published in the journal The Lancet (March 24, 2007).

Dr. David Nutt and his coworkers asked medical, scientific and legal experts to rate 20 different drugs on three factors:

  1. Physical harm (damage to organs; potential to cause injury and death; how a drug is taken)
  2. Potential for dependence (ability to cause addiction; ability to cause pleasurable effects)
  3. Impact on society (effect of intoxication; effect on families; costs to health care, social system and legal system)

The experts' opinions were collected and an overall ranking for each drug was calculated.


It might not surprise you that heroin was ranked as the most dangerous drug and that cocaine followed as the second most dangerous drug. Two legal drugs, alcohol and tobacco, were ranked in the top ten of the most dangerous drugs. Alcohol received high scores for dependence and social harm while tobacco received high scores for dependence, but low scores for social harm because it does not cause much intoxication.

The authors of the study suggest that these results point to a new way that drugs should be classified. This new system of ranking drugs may change how drugs are regulated by governments.

References and more information:

  1. Nutt, D., King, L.A., Saulsbury, W. and Blakemore, C., Development of a rational scale to assess the harm of drugs of potential misuse, Lancet, 369:1047-1053, 2007.
  2. Effects of Drugs on the Nervous System - Neuroscience for Kids

Copyright © 1996-2007, Eric H. Chudler, University of Washington