Drug harmfulness

"Soft drug" redirects here. For meanings pertaining to the metabolism of drugs, see Prodrug.
A categorization of hard (red), soft (yellow) and borderline drugs (orange). The diagram shows a comparison of the perceived harm for various psychoactive drugs from a delphic analysis among experts from multiple professions dealing with recreational drugs and their harms.[1]

Drug harmfulness is the degree to which a psychoactive drug is harmful to a user. Drug harmfulness is measured in various ways, such as by addictiveness and the potential for physical harm. More harmful drugs are called hard drugs[2] and less harmful drugs are called soft drugs.[3] The term "soft drug" is considered controversial by its critics as it may imply that soft drugs causes no or insignificant harm.[3]

Drug policy

The distinction between soft drugs and hard drugs is important in the drug policy of the Netherlands, where cannabis production, retail, and use come under official tolerance, subject to certain conditions. The Dutch Opium Law contains two lists of drugs, List I and List II, that are colloquially considered to be lists of hard and soft drugs, respectively. Other countries typically have more than two categories. For example, the US has five schedules in the Controlled Substances Act, ranging from one through five. The UK has three classes in the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971: A, B and C.

Hard and soft drugs

According to the legal system of the Netherlands, selected soft drugs are tolerated legally while other hard drugs are illegal.[4] Soft drugs can be tolerated in various ways whether it be total lack of regulation or some regulation but still legal availability to the public.


See also


  1. Nutt, D; King, LA; Saulsbury, W; Blakemore, C (24 March 2007). "Development of a rational scale to assess the harm of drugs of potential misuse.". Lancet (London, England). 369 (9566): 1047–53. PMID 17382831.
  2. Thomas Nordegren (2002). The A-Z Encyclopedia of Alcohol and Drug Abuse. Parkland, Fla.: Brown Walker Press. p. 327. ISBN 1-58112-404-X.
  3. 1 2 Thomas Nordegren (2002). The A-Z Encyclopedia of Alcohol and Drug Abuse. Parkland, Fla.: Brown Walker Press. p. 597. ISBN 1-58112-404-X.
  4. https://www.government.nl/topics/drugs/contents/how-does-the-law-distinguish-between-soft-and-hard-drugs
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