Weighing the benefits and harms of psychotropic and analgesic substances – A perspective of German addiction medicine experts
Fortschr Neurol Psychiatr. 2021 Feb 25. doi: 10.1055/a-1363-0223. Online ahead of print.
BACKGROUND: In Europe, there have been several addiction-expert rankings of harms related to the use of psychotropic substances in the last 15 years. Among them, only one expert ranking took into account the potential benefits of these drugs. Non-Opioidergic Analgesics (NOAs), such as gabapentinoids and NSAIDs, which have been increasingly the subject of abuse / misuse reports, have not been considered in such expert rankings. Likewise, there is currently no multi-substance comparison as to whether the valuation rank of the harmfulness of an illegal drug may change along with an imagined change in legal status in Germany.
OBJECTIVES AND METHODS: Using a questionnaire, 101 experienced addiction physicians (first cohort) evaluated 33 psychoactive substances including analgesics with regard to their health and social harms as well as potential usefulness for the consumer and their environment / society (‘others’). In addition, this cohort investigated whether the harmfulness assessment of an illegal substance changes if it would be legalized. In order to obtain the average overall harmfulness (overall risk) of a substance, the percentage contribution of each dimension to the overall harmfulness was determined in a second survey (second cohort, 36 experienced addiction medicine experts). Finally, the average benefit and overall risk ratings of each substance were related to each other.
RESULTS: Prescription psychoactive substances such as analgesics, NOAs (including gabapentinoids) and opioidergic maintenance medications to treat opiate dependence were judged to have a favorable benefit-harm profile. Cannabis and ketamine were placed in the midfield of both, the harm and benefit rankings. Together with most illicit narcotic drugs, alcohol and nicotine, have been ranked among the most harmful and least useful substances, whereby alcohol was judged on average to be more harmful but also more useful than nicotine. In the event of potential legalization, the overall harm of the traditional illegal drugs methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine and cannabis was estimated to be reduced. This was mainly due to a more favorable valuation of the harm to others under these virtual conditions.
CONCLUSION: Prescription substances including opioidergic and non-opioidergic analgesics as well as opioid maintenance therapy medications (methadone and buprenorphine) were assigned a favorable benefit-harm profile. Alcohol, nicotine and traditional illicit drugs (with the exception of cannabis and ketamine) were determined to have an unfavorable profile. The overall harm of traditional illicit drugs was assessed to decrease along with legalization, mainly by decreasing the harm to others in this virtual event.
Source: ncbi 2
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