Lancet medical journal: cars worse than heroin?

Breaking news dept:

The Toronto Star and Car Advertiser today reported on a new study out of Great Britain. Originally published in the Lancet medical journal (free registration required), the study analyzes a variety of drugs (legal and illegal) and suggests:

…a new system for assessing the potential harms of individual drugs on the basis of fact and scientific knowledge. This system is able to respond to evolving evidence about the potential harm of current drugs and to rank the threat presented by any new street drug.

There are three main factors that together determine the harm associated with any drug of potential abuse: the physical harm to the individual user caused by the drug; the tendency of the drug to induce dependence; and the effect of drug use on families, communities, and society.

Based on these three factors, the study suggests a reassessment of commonly-held beliefs about the dangers posed by different drugs, including alcohol, tobacco, heroin, ecstacy and LSD. In particular, whereas the latter three drugs are usually lumped together at the top of any list of “most dangerous substances” by enforcement officials, this study says when all is considered, yes, heroin is the most damaging. But given “the physical harm to the individual user caused by the drug; the tendency of the drug to induce dependence; and the effect of drug use on families, communities, and society,” booze is far more dangerous than LSD, and tobacco far more dangerous than marijuana. Ecstasy barely makes the cut, coming in just ahead of the drug khat.

Immediately, a critical question arises. No, not about peyote, although it’s not on the list. And no, not magic mushrooms, which are legal in many parts of the world. Coffee? Please don’t talk to us about coffee.

No, dear reader, there is one substance that should be analyzed with this new lens, a substance so common in “polite society” it often goes unnoticed and unconsidered. A substance upon which a significant minority of “upstanding citizens” of most industrial countries are completely dependent and which kills and hospitalizes hundreds of thousands around the world every year. A substance which has torn apart countless families and destroyed communities throughout both the developed and the developing world (in the name of the “Modern Project“): a substance, moreover, which is allowed free play in our media through advertising (much of it aimed at children) to earn money for its manufacturers and “pushers.”

The question is, where does the automobile fit in? Where does the automobile fall on the chart of dangerous substances?

We know where we would place it. In reality, it forms the fabric upon which all the other dangerous substances play their hand. The chart itself is “auto-space.” Heroin, sit down.

The Lancet chart: we take it the “white area” represents the danger presented by the automobile?

click image for full view

2 Responses to “Lancet medical journal: cars worse than heroin?”

  1.  

    Our intrepid and always-verbose Urban Design Expert lobbed one at the Star and Car Advertiser:

    To the Editor,

    From this study at the prestigious Lancet medical journal, we learn
    once again that booze and tobacco are worse for us than many illegal
    drugs. According to the study, "there are three main factors that
    together determine the harm associated with any drug of potential
    abuse: the physical harm to the individual user caused by the drug;
    the tendency of the drug to induce dependence; and the effect of drug
    use on families, communities, and society."

    Let's examine the automobile through this lens. Let's see: dependence?
    Check--many adults would be "stranded" without their daily "car."
    Physical harm? Check--cars kill and maim far more than firearms do.
    Harm to families, communities and society? Check again--everyone knows
    this.

    Despite this obvious comparison between dangerous drugs and the
    effects of the automobile, car manufacturers and dealers are given
    nearly free reign in advertising and selling their "product." Much
    advertising is clearly directed at children. Your newspaper is no
    exception, with its weekly "Wheels" (that is, "Motors," because no
    wheels will ever be seen on those pages without one) section.

    Forget about booze and tobacco: when will society strike back at the automobile?

    Jacob Allderdice

  2.  

    As a follow-up to the above letter, it must be said that our constant lobs at the Star and Car Advertiser are having an effect... see our most recent post: Toronto Star and Car Advertiser “Wheels” section: it’s not just for “motors” anymore

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