London, Nov 2 (ANI): Mental health campaigners have criticised a controversial new study that suggests alcohol is more dangerous to society than heroin and crack cocaine.
They have claimed that the research has downplayed the dangers of illicit drugs to vulnerable people, reports the Daily Mail.
If heroin and cannabis were more widely available, the harms would rapidly escalate, say experts.
The study was led by Professor David Nutt, the former head of the influential British Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs.
Professor Nutt said alcohol was the most harmful to society because it was so widely available.
Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of mental health charity SANE, said: "We are concerned about the way in which this report emphasises alcohol, ranking it above other dangerous substances.
"By doing so, we can lose sight of the very specific and insidious effects of cannabis and in its strongest form, skunk.
"The increasing body of research shows that for the vulnerable significant minority, cannabis can trigger terrifying psychotic breakdowns and for some increase the risk of lifelong mental illness," Wallace said.
Mary Brett, spokesman for Europe Against Drugs, added: "Alcohol is ranked as potentially more harmful because it is so widely available, yet most people drink sensibly.
"If cannabis or heroin were more widely used, it would create many more problems, Mary Brett said.
Gavin Partington, spokesman for the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, said: "Professor Nutt's views are well known.
"Like some in the medical profession, he chooses to campaign on this issue.
"But his views don't tally with the views of millions of ordinary people around the country who enjoy alcohol as part of a regular and enjoyable social drink.
"Clearly alcohol misuse is a problem in the country and our real fear is that, by talking in such extreme terms, Professor Nutt and his colleagues risk switching people off from considering the real issues and the real action that is needed," Partington added.
Defending himself, Nutt said his team's job was to "keep putting the evidence in front of the public and in front of the Government".
"If the Government chooses to ignore it, at some point eventually it will come home to roost.
"I think people are frightened about drugs. They don't want to look at the evidence," he said. (ANI)