English professor David Nutt was sacked last week (get it? Nutt sacked??) from his role as chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs. Research by Nutt and his colleagues, published in the medical journal the Lancet in 2007, rates the following as the most dangerous drugs:
Class A drug. Originally used as a painkiller and derived from the opium poppy. There were 897 deaths recorded from heroin and morphine use in 2008 in England and Wales, according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS). There were around 13,000 seizures, amounting to 1.6m tonnes of heroin.
Class A. Stimulant produced from the South American coca leaf. Accounted for 235 deaths – a sharp rise on the previous year’s fatalities. Nearly 25,000 seizures were made, amounting to 2.9 tonnes of the drug.
Class B. Synthetic sedatives used for anaesthetic purposes. Blamed for 13 deaths.
4. Street methadone
Class A. A synthetic opioid, commonly used as a substitute for treating heroin patients. Accounted for 378 deaths and there were more than 1,000 seizures of the drug.
Subject to increasing concern from the medical profession about its damage to health. According to the ONS, there were 8,724 alcohol deaths in the UK in 2007. Other sources claim the true figure is far higher.
Class C. A hallucinogenic dance drug for clubbers. There were 23 ketamine-related deaths in the UK between 1993 and 2006. Last year there were 1,266 seizures.
Class C. A hypnotic relaxant used to treat anxiety and insomnia. Includes drugs such as diazepam, temazepam and nitrazepam. Caused 230 deaths and 1.8m doses were confiscated in more than 4,000 seizure operations.
Class B. A psychostimulant that combats fatigue and suppresses hunger. Associated with 99 deaths, although this tally includes some ecstasy deaths. Nearly 8,000 seizures, adding up to almost three tonnes.
A stimulant that is highly addictive due to its nicotine content. More than 100,000 people a year die from smoking and tobacco-related diseases, including cancer, respiratory diseases and heart disease.
An opiate used for pain control, and sometimes as a substitute to wean addicts off heroin. Said to have caused 43 deaths in the UK between 1980 and 2002.
Class B. A psychoactive drug recently appearing in stronger forms such as “skunk”. The subject of intense controversy over its long-term effects and capacity for inducing schizophrenia. Caused 19 deaths and there were 186,000 seizures, netting 65 tonnes of the drug and 640,000 cannabis plants.
Fumes inhaled to produce a sense of intoxication. Usually abused by teenagers. Derived from commonly available products such as glue and aerosol sprays. Causes around 50 deaths a year.
Class A. Originally designed for laboratory research. Releases serotonin in the body. Only four deaths reported in the UK between 1997 and 2004.
Class A. Hallucinogenic drug originally synthesised by a German chemist in 1938. Very few deaths recorded.
Class B drug. Brand name of Ritalin. A psychostimulant sometimes used in the treatment of attention deficit disorders.
16. Anabolic steroids
Class C. Used to develop muscles, notably in competitive sports. Also alleged to induce aggression. Have been blamed for causing deaths among bodybuilders. More than 800 seizures.
Class C drug. A clear liquid dance drug said to induce euphoria, also described as a date rape drug. Can trigger comas and suppress breathing. Caused 20 deaths and 47 seizures were recorded.
Class A. Psychoactive dance drug. Caused 44 deaths, with around 5,000 seizures made.
19. Alykl nitrites
Known as “poppers”. Inhaled for their role as a muscle relaxant and supposed sexual stimulant. Reduce blood pressure, which can cause fainting and in some cases death.
A psychoactive plant, the leaves of which are chewed in east Africa and Yemen. Also known as qat. Produces mild psychological dependence. Its derivatives, cathinone and cathine, are Class C drugs in the UK.