Comparing drugs

A number of people have been talking about this article: How scientists rank drugs from most to least dangerous — and why the rankings are flawed.

I understand the concerns about rankings. Certainly, there are a lot of different ways to make comparisons, and broad charts of relative dangers are not scientifically exhaustive in their detail.

I would, however, argue for more use of rankings and broad comparisons, for the purpose of helping consumers put things in proper perspective.

Too often, government officials and other prohibition-enablers have avoided comparisons in order to mislead the public about the dangers of specific drugs.

For example, every thing that the government has ever said about marijuana and driving would sound completely different if they were required to put it in perspective as a comparison with alcohol.

We know full well that if you really want to, you can make anything sound dangerous. (See Dihydrogen Monoxide.) Especially with the push of such agencies as NIDA, you can find a study about any specific drug that will say something “scary.”

Our government bombards the public with all sorts of scary stuff about specific drugs, and consumers don’t know what to believe. Context is essential.

Let’s have more comparisons, even though they may be imperfect, not fewer.

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33 Responses to Comparing drugs

  1. claygooding says:

    There is one study reporting marijuana is 114 times safer than alcohol,,no response form SAM on that one so far.

    Here we go,,House Reform Committee threatens DC mayor with arrest if she enacts legalization.

    This is knee slapping hilarious and points out the hypocrisy of government drug policy because of the lobby money involved,,the Reform Committee was paneled because the public has demanded reform,,instead of reform we get threats of more incarceration.

    The mayor should challenge the House on this,,she is enacting the will of the people and doing his job,,they are not and they have to get jurors from DC to convict her.

    PS: I learned that the mayor was a woman,,which begs the question did the politicians involved,all male TMK.,decide to take this tack because of her gender?

  2. primus says:

    Just read most of it. Couldn’t finish it. What a malodorous pile of crap. Black is white, white is black.

  3. Will says:

    Well, there’s one “drug” that isn’t on the list that would top them all regardless of the criteria used;


  4. Will says:

    “I would, however, argue for more use of rankings and broad comparisons, for the purpose of helping consumers put things in proper perspective.” [Pete]

    I agree. And here’s what the results would likely be (I’d put good money on it) that rabid proponents of waging the War On (some) Drugs would find terribly inconvenient;

    Alcohol and tobacco, exempt from the CSA (in the US), would still rank high on any number of lists culled from using a wide range of variables. It’s like defenders of the CSA playing with the old Magic 8 Ball,

    “Is there any way I can fudge the variables such that alcohol and tobacco drop far down the list?”

    Magic 8 Ball, “No”.

    “Damn, I need to shake this Magic 8 Ball differently and try again. Okay, now what’s the answer?”

    Magic 8 Ball, “No”.

    “Alright, I’ll ask this question a different way: Is there any way I can manipulate the comparisons to move cannabis above alcohol and tobacco on the dangers list?”

    Magic 8 Ball, “You’re kidding, right?”

  5. NorCalNative says:

    If we’re talking about the danger of using any particular drug, the first thing I like to know is the LD-50. What’s the lethal dose?

    Dead is the ultimate harm in my opinion and based on that criteria my drug-of-choice, cannabis, shouldn’t even be on the list.

  6. darkcycle says:

    One of the tactics that the prohibs excel at is the conflation of the harms of prohibition with the harms of drug use. They use crime as a partial measure of a drug’s harms. The fact is that the crimes of aquisition associated with opioids and the crimes of possession associated with most illegal drugs disappear in a legal landscape, while the violent crime associated with alcohol remains regardless of it’s legal status. In the former instance, the crimes are due to prohibition, while the crime in the latter example is a direct result of CONSUMPTION.

    • Will says:

      “The fact is that the crimes of aquisition associated with opioids and the crimes of possession associated with most illegal drugs disappear in a legal landscape, while the violent crime associated with alcohol remains regardless of it’s legal status. In the former instance, the crimes are due to prohibition, while the crime in the latter example is a direct result of CONSUMPTION.”

      I doubt the hypocrisy of those who defend alcohol’s legal status while simultaneously demanding the illegality of other substances can be any better described. Well done.

    • darkcycle says:

      My point, of course is that it is fallacious to use crime as a measure of a drug’s harm. Kieth Harrumphries does exactly that.

      • Duncan20903 says:


        I find morbidly amusing.the part of addictionology that says that anyone who breaks a law to get high is an addict. I can’t believe that they get away with that nonsense. So let’s see, I’m an addict in Merryland but not in Uruguay. I’m the same person, with the same rather minimal pattern of cannabis consumption and that darn lady at the 12 step meeting swore there was no such thing as a geographical cure for “addiction.”

        • Will says:

          “…that darn lady at the 12 step meeting swore there was no such thing as a geographical cure for “addiction.”

          Yeah, this reminds me of another geographical anomaly, that according to the federal government cannabis currently has no accepted medical use in treatment “in the United States”. Right, as if consuming cannabis to mitigate nausea from chemotherapy works remarkably well in Canada (or anywhere else on earth) but step over the US border and — what? — it suddenly doesn’t work anymore?

          Yet there are “holes” in the US, miraculously some states have found it does have medicinal value in the confines of their borders. This fungible geography thingy makes prohibitionist’s heads hurt…

    Confusion; convulsions; disturbed coordination; dizziness; drowsiness; euphoria; excitation; faintness; fatigue; headache; hysteria; insomnia; irritability; nervousness; neuritis; paresthesias; restlessness; sedation; tremor; vertigo
    – Children:
    Overdosage may cause hallucinations, convulsions, and death. May diminish mental alertness. In young children, they may produce paradoxical excitation.
    – Elderly:
    Greater frequency of decreased hepatic, renal, or cardiac function.
    The adverse effects include drowsiness, dizziness, confusion, constipation, anxiety, nausea, blurred vision, restlessness, decreased coordination, dry mouth, shallow breathing, hallucinations, irritability, problems with memory or concentration, tinnitus and trouble urinating. A large study linked it to the development of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

    Should we ban this dangerous drug?

    Its a common over the counter allergy medicine ingredient.

    Pot has been compared in dangerousness to driving risk with OTC allergy medications. I say its much safer. You can’t know how valuable a dollar is until you walk into a store to purchase something. Without comparison there is no way to sanely judge the safety of anything. The entire pharmaceutical industry bases its safety regimen on comparisons.

    Marijuana would not be illegal anywhere if sane comparisons were able to be made. Decision making that is based on reality, not the delusional “what if” type fear mongering from those promoting prohibition will win in the end.

    Context is enormously important. Pete you are so right.

    • DdC says:

      Drug Worriers preferred methods of treatment…
      Partial list of Side Effects

      Ambien, delusions,dementia,lack of feeling or emotion,thoughts of killing oneself,confusion,shakiness…

      Celexa, lack of emotion,loss of memory,Behavior change similar to drunkenness,convulsions, (seizures)….

      Adderall, Blistering,peeling,loosening of the skin-difficulty breathing,speaking,swallowing-dizziness….

      Xanax, changes in patterns and rhythms of speech,clumsiness or unsteadiness,difficulty with coordination,shakiness and unsteady walk,feeling sad or empty,trouble performing routine tasks,burning, crawling, itching, numbness, prickling, “pins and needles, or tingling feelings,confusion about identity, place, and time

      Prozac, inability to sit still,difficulty with concentration,drowsiness,mood or behavior changes,purple or red spots on the skin,continuing vomiting

      Zoloft, very stiff (rigid) muscles, high fever, sweating, confusion, fast or uneven heartbeats, feeling like you might pass out; agitation, hallucinations, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, feeling unsteady, loss of coordination; or headache, trouble concentrating, memory problems, weakness, fainting, seizure, shallow breathing or breathing that stops. decreased sex drive, impotence, or difficulty having an orgasm…

      Paxil, unusual bone pain or tenderness, swelling or bruising; easy bruising, unusual bleeding (nose, mouth, vagina, or rectum), coughing up blood;agitation, hallucinations, fever, fast heart rate, overactive reflexes, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of coordination, fainting; slurred speech, severe nervous system reaction, uneven heartbeats, tremors…

      3 million children taking stimulant drugs for ADHD

  8. claygooding says:

    -Now I would go for this kind of decriminalization.

    Jamaica Decriminalizes Marijuana

    Jamaica has passed a law that decriminalizes the possession of small amounts of marijuana and also approves use of the drug for religious, medicinal and therapeutic purposes.

    The new law allows possession of up to 2 oz. of marijuana, which will be considered a petty offense. The law also allows Jamaicans to cultivate up to five marijuana plants on a single premises without facing arrest.

    That is about as close to legalized as you can get without calling it legalization.

  9. Debunking the Latest Smear Campaign Against Marijuana

  10. Servetus says:

    Relative comparisons are certainly useful. There are problems based on personal agendas. Also, the only people truly qualified to quantify the drug rankings are likely to be experienced drug users, and qualified researchers such as Dr. Carl Hart, or Dr. Nutt in England. Sasha Shulgin’s group of experimenters would have qualified, but not the government dorks at NIDA who believe weeds and food are demons.

    The government won’t listen to people who don’t have problems consuming certain drugs. Bureaucrats are only interested in the drug mishaps for future disinformation purposes. One person’s poison is another person’s tea. Naturally, all illicit drug consumers are heretics, and according to the powers at their worst, heretics are to be censored:

    Heresy is the set of all opinions at variance with established or generally received principles. In this sense, heresy is the price of all originality and innovation. – Walter Kaufmann, Faith of a Heretic, (1978).

  11. allan says:


    so tomorrow Wash DC has legal cannabis. We know the sky didn’t fall on CO when they legalized… but, if cannabis legalization does cause the sky to fall, where better for it to fall than on Wash DC? Good question eh? 🙂 c’mon Chicken Little, be right for once!

    now that would be a Thud.

  12. DdC says:

    DC Mayor Vows To Move Forward With MJ Legalization
    In the final hours before marijuana possession is scheduled to become legal in the nation’s capital, House Republicans have warned District of Columbia officials that they could go to jail if the measure to legalize goes into effect, but D.C.’s mayor has not backed down.

    “You can go to prison for this,” said Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) in a Wednesday interview with The Washington Post about the marijuana law that is supposed to go into effect Thursday. “We’re not playing a little game here.”

    Republicans Warn D.C. Mayor Not to Legalize Pot

    “I hope DC ignores this request as it’s a plainly offensive intimidation of our leaders.”

    House Republican calls on Holder to halt D.C. marijuana legalization

    Poll: Colorado residents still back legal marijuana 2/24/15 @POLITICO

    Do you think marijuana should be legalized in all states?

    Yes 24,507(92%)

    No 2,007(7%)

    • jean valjean says:

      Jason Caffetz. Another example of Mormons trying to impose their bizarre views and lifestyle on the rest of us. It’s to America’s shame that people like this are taken seriously for 5 minutes, let alone elected to Congress.

    • Tony Aroma says:

      Meadows said… “We’ll continue to support the will of Congress in this particular endeavor.”

      I think that one statement says it all. It’s the will of Congress, NOT the will of the voters, that matters.

    • Servetus says:

      The Washington Post is on the scene, quoting DeForest (God’s prophet of doom) Rathbone:

      “This opens the door across the country,” said DeForest Rathbone, chairman of the National Institute of Citizen Anti-Drug Policy, a Maryland-based group that favors existing drug laws. “Congress is afraid of acting because everybody thinks marijuana is harmless these days. People are going to regret this.”

      Rathbone is a drug testing lobbyist and is infamous for conspiring with Rep. Mark Souder to introduce a block grant provision into an education bill to pay for drug testing school kids; quoted here in 2005:

      “It was months before anybody in the drug reform movement noticed it was there. We snuck it by those druggie liberals!” gloats Rathbone.”

      Yes, it wasn’t until years later that DeForest Rathbone noticed that crazed liberal hippie druggies were occupying the White House Oval Office. It is only fitting that Washington D.C. should follow the examples of their hippie leaders, contrary to Rathbone’s expectations, who needs to find a new political cause to milk.

  13. Duncan20903 says:


    I’ve heard that DHMO is a gateway drug that gets people strung out jenkem!

  14. CJ says:

    oh REALLY?! I’ll never forget when this study came out years ago. I tried to show it to anybody who’d listen. I swear it. I talked about it all the time, I was on a real mission in those days posting any and everywhere I could find discussion, intelligent discussion I mean, on drug reform. What was particularly interesting to me then and now was, well, nevermind the obvious alcohol is number 1 but so many opiate based things being so low on the list and then heroin is right up there at number 2. Now how in the world could heroin be number 2 but painkillers, methadone etc be so low? I’m no biochemist/scientist but to me it could only be the street production of the subtance which is only because of prohibition so to me it was clear that under proper circumstances and in the right perspective, it’s really not dangerous at all (though I knew that well before this list came out.) The thing about this list is I had always assumed the mainstream would hate hate HATE this list. I was often surprised at how little traction it got. Now I’m shocked to see it come up now a few years later. I knew the detractors couldn’t let it sit, no way. Well, to me the list makes alot of though not perfect (for stated reasons) sense.

  15. joe minella says:

    “We’re not playing a little game here.” The HELL you’re not, asshole.

    • John says:

      They’re not playing a little game. They are playing an enormous game that has destroyed too many lives already.

  16. NorCalNative says:


    I missed out on the tobacco versus cannabis smoke discussion a few days ago.

    Here’s my two cents.

    For years I smoked cannabis in comfort and confidence based on reading the NIDA-paid studies of U.C.L.A.’s Donald Tashkin. I resisted the move to vaporization because I didn’t see the need.

    Then, a light came on that suggested to me that if in fact cannabis had a protective effect on my lungs (IT DOES) why not switch to using a vaporizer and allow those “cannabinoids” to do their MAGIC in another part of my body that might need it?

    Does combustion rob cannabinoids that could be put to better use somewhere else in the body? I believe the answer to this is yes and that’s why I made the switch from combustion to vaporization.

    Today, I only “smoke” the kief I get from my Mendo Mulcher. Everything else I vaporize.

    This is a personal choice but for those who use cannabis both recreationally and for medical uses I think it’s possible this could be significant.

    • DdC says:

      Cannabinoids have been doing their magic thousands of years before human inventions started cluttering up the place. To each their own, just leave the conclusion drawing bullshit at home. Vapes are vapor, when vapor hits parts of the mechanical device it condenses. Probably not steel so rust isn’t a problem. But bacteria loves nothing more than warm moist places to colonize. And that resin, is it sticking to the lungs more than “hotter” smoke? Also as with bags and vapes, resin will stick to the bag if not cleaned so how are those cannabinoids doin magic? One of the main logical reasons I don’t vape is I don’t like a lot of paraphernalia around. Not that its a problem where I am in Central CA. Others past experiences has shown, cops bust people for pipes and bongs, scrape the resin as evidence they don’t get when I swallow the roach. Vapes can be bulky and require electricity mainly produced by coal or nukes. So much for clean lungs. Besides the pollution caused from mining the ore and making the plastic from crude oil. What kind of oil is ignited in e-cigs? So historically outside of tossing buds onto hot rocks inside tents causing a vapor type atmosphere as in sweat lodges. I’d say old fashioned smoking has done just fine and in spite of anyones theories or even logical hypothesis. No victims. Plenty of cigarette victims, except before they started adding poison adulterants. So there goeth the logic. I’ll stick with history and my own clean lungs. Again to each their own. As long as they don’t try one upping crap or mine is better than yours as if they were selling vapes.

      Even If Marijuana Is Legalized, Vaping Might Not Be
      In its “deeming act,” the FDA cites the discovery of certain toxic chemicals in e-cigarettes, including formaldehyde and acetaldehyde, as one of the reasons more oversight is required. “…FDA believes that its oversight of these products (which would occur if this deeming ruling becomes final) is appropriate for the protection of the public health,” the organization wrote in its proposal.

      How to Clean a Marijuana Vaporizer Bag @theweedblog

      The endocannabinoid system regulates almost every biological process in our bodies and has evolved to not only restore our body’s homeostatic balance when it is ravaged by disease, but to prevent the development of diseased states in the first place.

      Media Ignored Expert’s Shocking Findings That Marijuana Helps Prevent Lung Cancer: Now It’s Med-School Material
      UCLA professor Donald Tashkin will share his research discoveries to medical students this week.
      By Fred Gardner / AlterNet October 24, 2012

      Pot Could Save Your Life: 4 Ways Cannabis is Good for Your Brain
      ☛ Harvard: Marijuana Doesn’t Cause Schizophrenia
      Modern research is showing that cannabis extracts protect and benefit the human brain. Here’s four amazing ways scientists are showing that cannabis actually helps to keep your brain safe from disease, dementia and even death!

      • NorCalNative says:

        DdC, thanks for the awesome reply. I have a lot of the same concerns with vaporizers that you speak to here. I don’t worry so much about the law enforcement part of having a smoking device.

        I’m not trying to convince smokers to quit, just wondering if the cannabinoids needed to protect the lungs might be put to better use, for example fighting cancerous cells.

        For me, I’ve had significant reduction in problematic phlegm and I also had some wheezing in my lungs that went away after I quit smoking. I’m not a tobacco smoker and never have been, so the phlegm and wheezing were from combustion of cannabis.

        I’m too poor to afford a volcano, so bacteria in a bag isn’t an issue for me, although I’m unaware if it might be a problem for my Pax Ploom.

        I thought I was careful to NOT draw conclusions by using the word “possible” in front of significant.

        Calling my “question” bullshit doesn’t piss me off, just confirms your love of this plant that we share. Now, if we could just come up with hemp-manufactured solar-operated anti-bacterial vaporizers.

        How about a link for “VAPOR POO” and what to do with the cannabinoids left over?

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