Which of the following is most destructive - cocaine, heroin, meth, alcohol?
The correct answer is alcohol - which, incidentally, is the only legal substance.
The aforementioned substances were examined by a group of British researchers and ranked based on how destructive they are. Destructive was defined as the effect on the individual user combined with the overall effect on society.
Researches evaluated: addiction, harm to human organs, family breakups and economic costs linked to health care, social services and incarceration.
Based strictly on lethal capacity, the illegal drugs ranked highest. But when all criteria were combined, alcohol ranked most destructive.
Contributing to alcohol's high score, researchers concede, is its widespread use and the negative consequences for both drinkers and people around them.
What, if anything, is to be done?
We suggest nothing be done regarding the legal inequity among substances.
Prohibition demonstrated the folly of attempting to outlaw alcohol.
Similarly ludicrous would be legalizing illicit drugs, which deliver their own dangerous, and deadly, consequences.
We advocate treatment and recovery as the method to curb the individual and collective costs of alcohol.
We understand that treatment isn't a universal remedy and recovery isn't embraced by every substance abuser.
Legislation - proposed and rejected in past sessions - has been designed to address the problem by raising state fees on the wholesale delivery of alcoholic beverages.
Missouri's per-gallon fees - 6 cents for beer, 42 cents for wine and $2 for liquor - are significantly below the national averages, respectively 28 cents, 84 cents and $3.91 as of Oct. 1, 2009.
Opposing an increase are breweries, including Anheuser-Busch in St. Louis, and moderate drinkers, who resist subsidizing alcohol abusers.
Outgoing state Rep. Bill Deeken of Jefferson City repeatedly championed raising alcohol fees to finance recovery programs and offset the costs of alcohol abuse.
Voters on Tuesday elected a number of newcomers to the Missouri Legislature, including area representatives and a senator.
Will any among them adopt the cause once championed by Deeken?