Drug users are well informed about the harms associated with the drugs they use and perceive alcohol and tobacco to be amongst the most dangerous substances, according to a survey by UCL (University College London) and Imperial College London researchers. The findings, published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, suggest that the current system of classifying psychoactive drugs in the UK may need to be revisited.
The study surveyed 1,500 UK drug users via a website. Users were asked to rate twenty psychoactive substances on a 'rational' scale previously developed by Professor David Nutt, Imperial College London, who collaborated on this study.
The survey found no relationship between the drug's legal status, based on the current classification system, and users' ratings of harm. In the UK, the Misuse of Drugs Act (1971) currently classifies psychoactive drugs as A, B or C, though alcohol and tobacco remain unclassified.
Dr Celia Morgan, UCL Clinical Psychopharmacology Unit, says: "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 that drug users rated legal substances such as alcohol and tobacco as more harmful than Class A substances like LSD and ecstasy. 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.
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