Saturday, August 16, 2008

Nothing Beats Booze

Annual survey ranks alcohol as #1 problem.

Drugs may make headlines, but alcohol is the elephant sitting in the corner of the room, according to Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA), a non-profit organization that conducts an annual survey of community anti-drug service groups. CADCA, sponsored in part by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, found that 68 percent of community anti-drug coalitions ranked alcohol as “the number one problem facing their community.”

The group said that marijuana was in second place, listed by 60 percent of communities as one of the major problems in their areas. Tobacco was a close third.

“It’s no surprise that our members are seeing big problems with youth alcohol use in their communities,” said Arthur T. Dean, CADCA chairman and CEO. 700 community anti-drug coalitions took part in the 2007 survey. Community anti-drug coalitions rely on strategies including media outreach, advertisements, educational events and community forums.

Asked to name the major partners helping them tackle community drug problems, 88 percent of survey respondents listed “law enforcement.” That was slightly ahead of the number of respondents listing “parents” (86 percent).

While the results cannot be considered a surprise, it is disheartening to discover that an earlier CADCA survey found that the “alcohol stigma” is alive and well: 63 percent of Americans still believe alcoholism is a moral weakness. Only 34 percent of respondents labelled it a disease. The earlier survey also reported that two out of every five Americans reported that they have encouraged a loved one to seek help for an alcohol problem.

Moreover, a group of Britain’s most prominent drug researchers published a report in the Lancet last year calling for the U.K. to scrap its current drug classification scheme in favor of one that “more honestly reflects the harm caused by alcohol and tobacco,” according to an article in the U.K Guardian by science correspondent James Randerson.

The study team “asked 29 consultant psychiatrists who specialise in addiction to rate [20 drugs of abuse] in nine categories. Three of these related to physical harm, three to the likelihood of addiction and three to social harms such as healthcare costs,” writes Randerson. In the final rankings, heroin and cocaine were ranked as the most dangerous. Alcohol placed 5th, well ahead of marijuana (11th), LSD (14th), and Ecstasy (18th).

Predictably, howls of outrage and shock were heard from dozens of U.K. politicians and anti-drug crusaders after the report was published.

Photo Credit: LiveJournal

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