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Top 10 Reasons Why Legal Highs Should Stay Legal

Last week’s ban on a few legal highs will cer­tainly do more to harm the public than keeping them legal. Here are 10 ways in which every sens­ible legal highs user has just been shafted:

#1 - Don't associate with dodgy people

Drug DealerSelling legal highs can be done by a legit­imate busi­ness. Since these busi­nesses aren’t breaking the law, enga­ging in any other kind of illegal beha­viour (guns, viol­ence, money laun­dering, etc) is a massive risk. People that deal illegal drugs are already breaking the law — if they get caught, they’re going to prison for a long time. Breaking the law a second time is no longer such a big deal, espe­cially if the price is right. Not only do you get the safety of dealing with an organ­isa­tion that doesn’t want to break the law, but you’re also not seen with any dodgy char­ac­ters, whether that’s meeting up on a street corner, vis­iting their house or them turning up at your place at a sus­pi­cious frequency.

#2 - Comparison Shopping

We all live in hope that one day we could type in RateMy​Weed​Dealer​.com, find the best prices in town and arrange for a delivery. For­tu­nately, as cus­tomers of legit­imate products, legal highs fans can shop around to their heart’s content. Selling some­thing for more than you should be? Then no one will buy it! It’s as simple as that, so, not only can cus­tomers get a better deal by shop­ping around, this beha­viour also encour­ages healthy com­pet­i­tion between legal highs vendors. Another plus for the customer!

#3 - Buyer Protection

Perhaps RateMy​Weed​Dealer​.com is a long way off, but what about just ringing your dealer to com­plain about some­thing? Inad­equate pack­aging? Does the product weigh half as much as you were prom­ised? Unfor­tu­nately, I doubt your dealer gives a shit. Luckily, for legal highs con­sumers, most sites out there have some form of cus­tomer service, and if they can’t resolve things, facil­ities for refunds or chargebacks exist to protect the customer.

#4 - A Strength For Everyone

The sheer number of similar products avail­able mean there is usually a strength for every occa­sion. Want a bit of an energy boost for work? Caf­feine! Want to go to a rave all night? Syn­thetics! Want to go to a rave but it’s not going to be a “big one” because you’ve got work in the morning, and, let’s face it, your joints and muscles aren’t what they used to be? Some­thing herbal!

I think asking an illegal drug dealer for some­thing cheaper and less effective would be a world first.

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#5 - Diversity

Not only is there a range in price and strength, there’s also an incred­ible range of effects avail­able. Clear headed stim­u­la­tion, total euphoria, intense rushes, powerful relax­ants, shit that makes you laugh — whatever you want, there’s prob­ably some­thing avail­able some­where that will do the trick. In the world of illegal drugs, that kind of product diversity could only be main­tained via a data­base of epic pro­por­tions con­taining your mil­lions of “hookups” and your own data entry guy.

#6 - Passing A Drug Test

Drug TestingSome people might thing it’s unfair that their co-​​workers can party all night on a litre of vodka, sleep for a few hours in a bathtub along­side their own sick and even­tu­ally drive to work still pissed, while they get fired for smoking a bit of weed after work. Sure, people should get fired if they let their abuse of any sub­stance inter­fere with their work, but some people may feel that what they get up to in their own time is their own busi­ness. These people may feel drug tests are massive breach of their privacy, so it’s a good job that they have a legal altern­ative to turn to, since they shouldn’t show up on drug tests.

#7 - Friends More Likely To Do The Right Thing

People that over­dose on illegal drugs will some­times go without the treat­ment they need to avoid any legal trouble for them­selves or their friends. Perhaps a friend might not tell the doctor what someone else has taken for fear of getting their mate into trouble. With legal highs, there’s no risk of pro­sec­u­tion so a) people can fully dis­close what they’ve taken and could even present the doc with the ori­ginal pack­aging and b) the quantity of chem­icals in pills or powders will be con­sistent between batches…

#8 - Batch Consistency

Not only can doctors share notes on spe­cific products, but users can too. It’s no good trying to compare ecstasy pills from dif­ferent ends of the country, since the con­tents are likely to vary wildly, even if they share the same stamp. With legal highs, that’s a dif­ferent story. Con­sist­ency between brands and batches facil­it­ates a great deal of dis­cus­sion not only on how good they are, but also harm reduc­tion. Occa­sion­ally man­u­fac­turers do change their ingredi­ents, but it only takes a short while for the changes to reach the entire country.

#9 - The Government Could Learn A Thing Or Two

Straight away, the fact that the legal highs industry even exists tells us that people want to get high and that people think the current drug laws are stupid. There’s one massive lesson that could be learned from it though — why not use it as a model for even­tu­ally leg­al­ising can­nabis and the rest? Instead of trying to ban every new sub­stance before anyone has died, why not look at reg­u­lating their sales with similar legis­la­tion to alcohol and tobacco? If we as a country could get this right with legal highs, we could see if it works or not and them maybe think of abol­ishing our current bull­shit excuse for a drugs law.

#10 - Taxes

PoundHere’s a list of taxes that illegal drug dealers don’t pay:

  • Per­sonal Income Tax
  • National Insur­ance
  • Cor­por­a­tion Tax
  • VAT

If legal highs remained legal and were taxed like alcohol and tobacco, the gov­ern­ment would even more money on top of the taxes above that they already receive. These products are rel­at­ively harm­less com­pared with alcohol, for example, which hos­pit­al­ises 1200 people a day and costs the NHS at least £2 billion to deal with, so a tax on them wouldn’t be paying for the damage they’d cause to society — they’d be making the gov­ern­ment a massive profit to spend on more doctors, nurses, medical research and fucking moats!

Nice one, G’ Brown!

Posted in Legislation | Tagged drug testing, government, harm reduction, legal highs, taxes |

Merry Christmas!

Posted in Synchronium | Tagged christmas, dubstep |

Mephedrone Update

Apart from the expo­nen­tially expanding list of slang names for mephed­rone, there have been a couple of inter­esting new devel­op­ments everyone should be aware of.

#1 - Gabrielle Price Died From Bronchopneumonia

Gabi has fea­tured in pretty much every mephedrone-​​related news story these past few weeks, since she died at a party after con­suming mephed­rone and ket­amine (and prob­ably alcohol as well, although alcohol is so ingrained into our society it wouldn’t occur to anyone to report it). It turns out that Gabi actu­ally died from bron­chopneu­monia fol­lowing a group A strep­to­coccal infec­tion. Don’t get me wrong, this is nothing to be cheery about — a teen­ager still died. I’m just reporting this here because nowhere else will report it, since it’s no longer a story. Actu­ally, if you read about another mephed­rone article that men­tions this girl, do everyone a favour and leave a link to this blog post in their comments.

This also doesn’t mean mephed­rone is safer than we thought. Being on any drug isn’t a good idea if you also have a poten­tially fatal illness, never mind a cock­tail of drugs in a party environment.

#2 - No One Ripped Their Balls Off

This is another piece of bull­shit whipped out by the media at every oppor­tunity: appar­ently, some young gen­tleman thought he saw centi­pedes crawling about his person and tore his balls off in (a totally pro­por­tionate) response. Turns out, this prob­ably didn’t happen, since the “facts” were obtained from unsub­stan­ti­ated reports on poor quality forums and chat rooms. Well done, the media!

#3 - West Yorkshire Police Have No Idea What The Fuck They're Talking About

Here’s what they had to say fol­lowing a poster launch designed to raise awareness.

MCAT is a sub­stance which is cur­rently legal, however; it is pre­dom­in­ately used for plants and can have quite an adverse effect if con­sumed by a human.

“We know that this sub­stance is often used by young people, par­tic­u­larly between the ages of 14 to 25. These posters are there­fore designed to reach this par­tic­ular gen­er­a­tion and help them to make an informed decision.

“Police and part­ners in Kirklees will be placing them in various loc­a­tions fre­quented by young people and hope­fully they will take in the message.

MCAT is often referred to as a ‘legal high’ and gives the impres­sion that because it’s legal, it is safe. There are number of sub­stances, which are not con­trolled drugs or illegal which can be abused. We would always advise against ingesting any­thing into your body which is not for a bone fide medical reason. MCAT in par­tic­ular has the poten­tial to damage both mental and phys­ical health.

Their first mistake might be hard to spot, but MCAT means “meth­cath­inone” which is NOT mephed­rone (4-​​MMCAT). Their second mistake needs no more explain­a­tion or emphasis than a simple emboldening of their own words.

Unbe­liev­able.

Posted in Drugs | Tagged bullshit, media, mephedrone |

We're On The News!

ITV’s Central News decided to do an “invest­ig­a­tion” into legal highs, and after reading about us in The Observer, they thought they should prob­ably talk to us. While you do get to see an excel­lent close-​​up of my untrimmed beard, Jo (the misses) is the star of the show:

Other than Jo’s point, the rest is pretty rubbish, including the ter­rible audio quality — sorry about that! We totally expected it would be a neg­ative piece overall, but someone has to stick up for the industry though, right?

This is also one more thing for the CV — our own Mellow Yellow has been on telly!

Posted in Drugs | Tagged interviews, journalism, legal highs, media, mellow yellow, news |

Mephedrone: The Facts

I don’t know how much people outside “the industry” have heard about mephed­rone, but by all accounts, it’s exploded in pop­ularity over the past few months. In the last three months, there’s been at least 50 news stories reposted to Drugs-​​Forum on the topic, and prob­ably quite a few more that haven’t been picked up. We’ve got reports of teens dying, 11 year olds taking the stuff and a guy ripping his balls off — all the classic examples of the media whip­ping up an unne­ces­sary (and untrue) shit storm. I’ve also read lots of anec­dotes about the drug’s pre­val­ence among stu­dents, friend­ship groups and even dealers of illegal drugs (points for diver­si­fic­a­tion!). Since my art­icles on JWH-​​018 have been reas­on­ably popular and stim­u­lated some inter­esting dis­cus­sion, I felt it was about time we gave mephed­rone the same treatment.

The Basics

Mephed­rone is not only cheap and legal, but it’s also incred­ibly effective. It’s a short-​​acting stim­u­lant that feels some­thing like a mixture of cocaine and ecstasy. If that wasn’t enough to explain its pop­ularity, then the icing on the cake is the almost com­plete lack of a comedown the next day when used in mod­er­a­tion. Pur­ities of over 99% make another great selling point when com­pared with similar illegal drugs.

Mephed­rone is a white, crys­tal­line powder with little to no smell. The term “Mephed­rone” comes from methyl–ephed­rone, describing the chem­ical struc­ture.  Other names for it include:Mephedrone Powder

  • 4-​​MethylMethCathinone (meth­cath­inone is another name for ephedrone)
  • 4-​​MMC
  • 4-​​MMCAT
  • MCAT (This is incor­rect, but people use it anyway)
  • Meow
  • Bubbles (seems to be a brand name for cap­sules con­taining it and methylone, another research chemical)

Effects include an initial euphoria, which tapers off to a milder stim­u­la­tion. Mephed­rone does seem to oil social situ­ations rather well and get everyone talking, laughing and having a good time, espe­cially during the initial euphoria. Several users have com­pared it to cocaine, but some how less jittery and “arrogant”, while others will compare it to a more rushy ecstasy (which has to be a good thing, given the current state of the MDMA market). Actu­ally, the effects seem to depend very much on dose and your chosen route of administration.

The most common ways to get this stuff into your blood are snorting it and eating it. As you can prob­ably imagine, eating it will give a longer, less intense exper­i­ence, while doing lines of it will give a much shorter, more intense buzz and make you want to keep taking it, but we’ll get to that later. Oh, I should prob­ably mention that snorting it feels not too dis­sim­ilar from being raped in the sinuses by a Por­tuguese Man o’ War, par­tic­u­larly for your first line.

Other reported methods of admin­is­tra­tion include shoving it up your arse, requiring less than an oral dose and peaking some­where between an oral or insuf­flated dose, and intra­ven­ously injecting it, which appar­ently isn’t that great, having a similar effect profile to being snorted with a million times the risk.

Dosage

A single oral dose would typ­ic­ally be between 150 mg and 300 mg, while lines can range from 50 mg to a monster 150 mg rail.

Pharmacology

MephedroneIf only we knew! Unfor­tu­nately, no one knows any­thing for certain, so we’re forced to do a bit of guess­work. If it feels like a cross between MDMA and cocaine, then we can assume that there’s some sero­tonin and dopamine involve­ment. The apparent addict­ive­ness of mephed­rone (more on that later, srsly), along with talk­at­ive­ness also points to dopamine path­ways, while the sim­il­arity of some side effects com­pared with sero­tonin deple­tion (taking too much MDMA or abruptly dis­con­tinuing selective sero­tonin reup­take inhib­itors [SSRIs]) points to the sero­tonin pathways.

I would love some more inform­a­tion on this, so if you ever come across any­thing in the future, please report back!

Misconceptions

There are a number of mis­con­cep­tions sur­rounding mephed­rone, which we should clear up:

Legal does not mean safe

While it seems that users can take vast quant­ities of the stuff and still func­tion,  we don’t know what the long term effects of mephed­rone use will entail. A handful of people have died from taking it too. While the number is tiny com­pared with alcohol, it’s still always a good thing to remember.

Purity isn’t neces­sarily accurate

Mephed­rone bought online will cer­tainly be purer than illegal drugs bought on the street, but claims of 99.9% purity may not be true. Since it’s not sold for human con­sump­tion (like everything legal and fun), I’m not sure an accurate purity measure is required. Also, that 0.01% could be some deadly poison. It prob­ably won’t be, but it might!

“Plant Food” might not be mephedrone

Lots of those news stories I’ve men­tioned above have listed a million dif­ferent “street names” for this drug, including “Plant Food”. No one is actu­ally calling it plant food, it’s just how it, and lots of other com­pounds like it, are sold. If you’ve obtained any­thing psy­cho­active pack­aged as plant food, make sure you know what the hell it is you’re taking!

Side Effects

Side effects can be many and varied, some serious and some not. Mephed­rone shares a number of the typical side effects you’d expect to find with any stim­u­lant, such as:

  • Increased heart rate (tachycardia)
  • Raised blood pres­sure (hypertension)
  • Not wanting to sleep (insomnia)
  • Not wanting to eat (anorexia)
  • Chewing/​grinding teeth (bruxism)
  • Moving your eyes loads (nystagmus)

More mephedrone-​​specific, and so perhaps more serious side effects include

  • Turning blue at the extremities & feeling cold (vasoconstriction)
  • Pains in the chest, throat and nose
  • Nosebleeds when snorted, espe­cially with pro­longed or fre­quent use

The more you use, the more the side effects become apparent and the initial pleasant effects diminish. Also, sig­ni­ficant evid­ence is coming forward sug­gesting cir­cu­la­tion issues are not just vaso­con­stric­tion, but some­thing more serious — autoim­mune vas­cu­litis, where the immune system attacks your own body. This would seem to account for some of the odd and infre­quent side effects, such as bruising or turning blue at the joints. Current reports suggest that this isn’t an issue of a dodgy supply for some people com­pared with the rest, but rather a small per­centage of the pop­u­la­tion are at risk, prob­ably because of some genetic dif­fer­ences. If you’ve noticed this, stop taking mephed­rone! This con­di­tion will only get worse the more you consume. Add to that the usual stimulant-​​induced vaso­con­stric­tion, and you could find your­self with some serious problems.

Warning

Mephed­rone can be addictive!

  • It’s easy to have several large ses­sions per week because of the cheapness and lack of comedown. Several people have reported taking over 20g per month.
  • It’s easy to keep taking it, espe­cially when snorted, so a single line can turn into 5g session easily if you lack self control. There have been a few reports of people taking 5-​​7g over a 48 hour long single session.
  • Tol­er­ance can also develop, so more is required for the same effect.

Safe Usage Tips

Mephed­rone is not 100% safe, but then again, nothing is. To make sure you’re as safe as pos­sible, here are a few tips:

  • Don’t buy it in bulk — 80% of people won’t be able to resist the charms of a massive bag of the stuff. Sure, you may save a few quid on the gram, but if your con­sump­tion sky-​​rockets, you’re not saving anything.
  • If you do buy in bulk, limit your­self — it’s all too easy to “just have one more line”, so perhaps let your friend look after your supply for you, or if you’re going out, take a pre­de­ter­mined quantity out with you and stick to it.
  • Don’t snort it if you think there’s any chance you will become addicted to it — this route of admin­is­tra­tion makes you want to keep on taking it much more than an oral dose, despite the snotty nose and watering eyes.
  • Eat healthily before and after — your body needs a good supply of nutri­ents, vit­amins, etc to stay healthy and replenish your neur­o­trans­mit­ters. Forcing your­self to eat, espe­cially during long binges, is essen­tial. At least munch some vitamin tablets or something.
  • Take some mag­nesium sup­ple­ments — this helps relax your muscles and stop all the jaw clenching and chewing that goes with most stimulants.
  • If you’re going to snort it, blow your nose soon after to clear out any powder — drugs aren’t  absorbed from your nos­trils, so you want to get rid of it. I’d also suggest giving your nose a wash with either a spray bottle and some water, or by cram­ming some wet tissue up there with your head tilted back.
Posted in Drugs | Tagged harm reduction, legal highs, mephedrone, Pharmacology, research chemicals, side effects, SSRIs, toxicity |

Nutt Sacked Episode III - Revenge Of The Schizoids

Cannabis Plant

I just listened to the worst thing I’ve heard so far about the Nutt Sack scandal — BBC Radio 4’s “The Report”, that aired on Thursday. Not only is this as bal­anced as a lone fat guy on a see-​​saw, but their argu­ments compel you to shout at the com­puter as you listen along. This program was more dam­aging to my mental health than any kind of “skunk” might be. My favourite bits are when the reporter asks if he can get high by smelling some can­nabis and when this woman’s son has a “schizoid episode” because he robbed his mum’s jew­ellery. Unbe-​​fucking-​​lievable! A BBC Radio pro­ducer actu­ally got in touch, and encour­aged me to pass the link around (excel­lent mar­keting there by the BBC, and for once I’m not being sar­castic) so here goes: you can listen to it here.

So, let’s have some fun! I’ll be giving away a 5g bag of Mellow Yellow to the best comment on this post decon­structing this program. You can pick your favourite bits or you can pick apart the entire thing bit by excru­ci­at­ingly painful bit. Points will be awarded for thor­ough­ness, any ref­er­ences to rel­evant facts and the cut of one’s jib. I’ll pick the best one by Dec 14th.

Posted in Legislation | Tagged ACMD, bbc, cannabis, competition, David Nutt, mellow yellow, skunk |

Mellow Yellow!

Mellow Yellow IncenseI’m very excited! Coffeesh0p has just brought out its own brand of deli­cious incense — Mellow Yellow!

I’ve never done any­thing like this before, so working out how to “release a product” was an inter­esting exper­i­ence. My first problem was finding some decent bags to put it in. I spent about a million hours searching Google and emailing people trying to find the perfect pack­aging, but everything I came across was unac­cept­able for one reason or another. I even­tu­ally settled for some 3×5″ reseal­able anti­static bags, which do look pretty cool, but are perhaps a little bit big. They’ve also got some nasty printing on the one side, but that’s ingeni­ously covered up by the labels we had printed. To a “pro­fes­sional incense mer­chant”, they may look a little tacky, but most people should be pleased. I’m sure cus­tomers would rather I save a little bit of money on pack­aging and pass the saving along to them.

The incense itself is really light and fluffy, so you do get quite a large volume of it. It’s mainly yellow, hence the name, but with flecks of orange wild dagga flowers, blue lotus petals and purple lav­ender. It burns very evenly and its relaxing effects can last for several hours. This is def­in­itely my favourite incense on the market at the moment — that might sound like bol­locks, but I’m not going to put our name to some­thing ter­rible am I?

I prob­ably won’t give away any on here, but we’ll include a free 1g sample with all orders over £30, while stocks last. :D

Posted in Drugs | Tagged coffeesh0p, incense, legal highs, mellow yellow |

Nutt Sacked Episode II - Attack Of The MPs

It turns out that not all MPs are useless! If you remember, I wrote to my MP about this whole Dave Nutt busi­ness, and she got back to me in this post. She’s since been in touch again, for­warding me a copy of the letter she’s sent to Alan Johnson:

Further to our recent email cor­res­pond­ence about the sacking of Prof. David Nutt, below is a copy of the letter I have sent to Alan Johnson today.  I will send you a copy of the reply I receive.

Next week I am co-​​sponsoring a cross-​​party event with Evan Harris (Lib Dem) and Peter Bot­tomley (Con) at which Prof. Nutt will be speaking to MPs.

Regards, Lynne Jones

And here is that letter:

Dear Alan

Pro­fessor David Nutt

As I was unable to be in the House to hear your State­ment on Monday regarding the removal of Pro­fessor Nutt as Chair of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), I wanted to write to you to express my concerns.

I have seen a copy of your letter sacking Pro­fessor Nutt on the BBC website and I have read the Hansard of Monday’s debate.

During the debate on your State­ment you infer that Prof. Nutt was removed for not being clear when speaking per­son­ally at a lecture to Kings College (London) that he was not speaking for the ACMD and for pub­lishing doc­u­ments relating to the Gov­ern­ment frame­work without giving the Home Office first sight of them. You also say it was unac­cept­able for him to cri­ti­cise Gov­ern­ment Min­is­ters and Gov­ern­ment policy.

On the issue of speaking per­son­ally or on behalf of the ACMD, I note from a report in the 3 November edition of the Fin­an­cial Times that Richard Garside, dir­ector of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies at King’s College, who invited Prof. Nutt to give his lecture, stressed that:

“at no point did he make ref­er­ence to his role as chair of the ACMD, nor did he give the impres­sion that he was speaking on behalf of the ACMD

Given this, on what basis are you arguing that it wasn’t ‘clear’ that he was speaking per­son­ally?  Surely it would be a matter for the members of the ACMD to com­plain if they felt this was the case (when in fact members of that Com­mittee have resigned in protest at your action against Prof. Nutt).

On the ques­tion of pub­lishing doc­u­ments, unless you want to stop advisers expressing their views pub­licly, what are the reasons for the Gov­ern­ment insisting on first sight of material pub­lished on the subject areas advisers give advice on?  Can you clarify what the doc­u­ments were that Prof. Nutt pub­lished without first showing them to the Home Office and what action your Depart­ment would have taken had you had first sight of the doc­u­ments?  Spe­cific­ally would the Home Office have taken any action to change the content of the doc­u­ments in question?

In the House on 2 November you said that whilst Prof. Nutt had the right to ‘express his views’ he did not have the right to cri­ti­cise the Gov­ern­ment and its drugs policy frame­work.  Isn’t this putting restric­tions on his right to express himself inde­pend­ently in his role as an aca­demic with expertise in this area?  It seems to me that this is dif­ferent from cam­paigning against Gov­ern­ment policy as you have accused him of doing.  If the Gov­ern­ment wants inde­pendent evidence-​​based sci­entific advice doesn’t it have to face the con­sequences if it ignores the advice given?  Why didn’t you just defend your policy if you have con­fid­ence in it?

I should also be grateful for your response to the wide­spread cri­ti­cism that your decision has received from the sci­entific com­munity and the concern that you have jeop­ard­ised the rela­tion­ship between inde­pendent sci­entific advisers and Gov­ern­ment.  In par­tic­ular, I noted the letter in the 2 November edition of the Times from Ian Stol­erman, Emer­itus Pro­fessor of Beha­vi­oural Phar­ma­co­logy from the Insti­tute of Psy­chi­atry, King’s College London:

“All sci­ent­ists who work without pay to advise the Gov­ern­ment must surely be con­sid­ering their positions.”

And no doubt you will have heard Pro­fessor Colin Blakemore, former head of the Medical Research Council, on the Today pro­gramme and his comment that:

“This is not just an issue about drugs: the Gov­ern­ment depends very widely on advice from experts who give their time freely.”

Critics of your decision are backed up by the recent Gov­ern­ment response to the Innov­a­tion, Science and Skills Committee’s Eighth Report of Session 2008-​​09, pub­lished only a matter of days before the sacking of Prof Nutt, which states:

“The Gov­ern­ment agrees that the inde­pend­ence of science advisers is crit­ical. It was pre­cisely for this reason that the GCSA wrote to then-​​Home Sec­retary Jacqui Smith to express concern over her cri­ti­cism, in Par­lia­ment, of Pro­fessor Nutt (Chairman of ACMD) with regard to an article he pub­lished in a peer-​​reviewed journal“

I note that despite this offi­cial Gov­ern­ment declar­a­tion of concern over cri­ti­cism by your pre­de­cessor of the ACMD Chair, on Monday, you referred to Jacqui’s cri­ti­cism of Prof. Nutt as if this somehow jus­ti­fied your own action against him.  Do you accept that your dis­missal of Prof. Nutt con­tra­dicts the Government’s pos­i­tion as out­lined in this recent Response to the ISS Com­mittee Report?

Turning to the issue of the clas­si­fic­a­tion of can­nabis itself, in 2007, before the announce­ment in 2008 that can­nabis was to be reclas­si­fied back to class B, I tabled an Early Day Motion about the dangers of can­nabis use that I would like to bring to your atten­tion (text printed on the back of this letter).  From this you will see that, whilst I accept that there are hazards asso­ci­ated with can­nabis use, as does Prof. Nutt, this would not of itself justify the reclas­si­fic­a­tion to class B, as clas­si­fic­a­tion is about rel­ative hazard – the very point of Prof. Nutt’s comments.

Fur­ther­more, in the EDM, I also pointed out that the down­grading of can­nabis to class C from class B in 2004 was actu­ally asso­ci­ated with reduced can­nabis use by young people, as evid­enced by the fol­lowing table pro­duced by your own Depart­ment with inform­a­tion from British Crime Survey respondents:

Cannabis use statistics

As you of course know, can­nabis was reclas­si­fied from B to C with effect from January 2004 and reclas­si­fied back to B in December 2008 with effect from January 2009.  As you will note from the above stat­istics for this period, the pro­por­tion of 16 – 24 year-​​old respond­ents declaring can­nabis use in the pre­vious year fell from 25.3% in 200304 to 18% in 200708.  I was there­fore very dis­ap­pointed by your response to the ques­tion put to you during the debate on your 2 November State­ment by George Howarth:

Mr. George Howarth (Know­sley, North and Sefton, East) (Lab): If my right hon. Friend had taken Pro­fessor Nutt’s advice and lowered the cat­egor­isa­tion of can­nabis, and if as a result more young people had started to use it, would not that have been irresponsible?

Alan Johnson: Yes, I think it would have been. That is why my pre­de­cessor decided not to take that advice and why that decision has been endorsed by this Parliament.

I would be inter­ested to know why you did not base your answer on the stat­ist­ical evid­ence on can­nabis usage rates amongst young people during the period when cat­egor­isa­tion was lowered.  Were you unaware of the above data or were you aware but mis­leading the House in your reply by your sug­ges­tion that it was because more young people started using can­nabis when it was clas­si­fied down­wards to class C that Jacqui reclas­si­fied the drug upwards?

Either way, your failure to refer to your own pub­lished data on this par­tic­ular ques­tion serves to rein­force the point that Gov­ern­ment is ignoring evid­ence on issues relating to drug classification.

LYNNE JONES MP

Bril­liant! When I first got in touch, I had no idea she’d even respond, let alone write a letter to Alan Johnson! She’ll copy me in on his reply too, should he ever write back. Somehow I don’t think he will…

If you haven’t written to your MP yet, please do so. Details on how to get in touch with them can be found here.

Posted in Legislation | Tagged ACMD, Alan Johnson, cannabis, David Nutt, Lynne Jones |

Nutt Sacked

This week has been a massive middle finger not only to every single sci­entist, but also to legal highs users all across the UK. Today, I’m going to be moaning about both.

Malcolm Tucker: The angriest man on telly

Malcolm Tucker: The angriest man on telly

Firstly, as everyone will know Prof. David Nutt was sacked as head of the Advisory Council for the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD). Ever since this news broke, I’ve not been able to shake the image of Prof. Nutt getting a bol­locking from Malcolm out of The Thick Of It. On its own, this isn’t big news; people get sacked all the time. But the reason why he got sacked is gobsmacking.

The Situation

It all started in 2008 when the gov­ern­ment decided can­nabis was far more deadly than ever before, what with all these new “skunk” strains appearing, and reclas­si­fied it back up to Class B. Of course, because the can­nabis was “much stronger” than in pre­vious years (for more on why that’s total horse shit, read Bad Science), everyone who smokes it will get schizo­phrenia, or so Gordon “Golden” Brown would have us believe. Actu­ally, he just pulled that straight out of his arse. Prof. Nutt, et al., wise to this bull­shit­tery, recom­mended against the reclas­si­fic­a­tion and was ignored. More recently, Dave (I’m sure I can call him Dave) pub­lished a paper com­paring the dangers of ecstasy with the dangers of horse riding, finding that horse riding was actu­ally more dan­gerous — “Equasy — An over­looked addic­tion with implic­a­tions for the current debate on drug harms”. This wasn’t a piece of pro­pa­ganda pub­lished by some idgit with an agenda; it was a paper in a peer-​​reviewed journal, along­side other fac­tu­ally accurate and inter­esting pub­lic­a­tions — all Dave did was let the evid­ence speak for itself. Dave’s final piss-​​take of current policy came when he delivered a lecture on entitled “Estim­ating drug harms: a risky busi­ness?” [pdf; 366 kb], basic­ally saying the same thing that this episode of Horizon says — heroin, cocaine, bar­bit­ur­ates and meth­adone are the only drugs more harmful than alcohol, while LSD, ecstasy and can­nabis are all less harmful that both alcohol and tobacco. As a result, Alan Johnson, our beloved home sec­retary and ex-​​postman, has lost con­fid­ence in the advice given by Dave, with over 40 years of rel­evant sci­entific back­ground in the subject. Here are my top quotes (and inter­pret­a­tions) from Alan “I’m a fucking moron” Johnson:

This was not about Prof Nutt’s views, which I respect though I don’t agree with them.

This means “I don’t under­stand the import­ance of evid­ence” or “I dis­agree with the evid­ence because it doesn’t support my conclusion”

You cannot have a chief adviser… cam­paigning against government

This means “We’re not willing to accept advice that goes against the polit­ical message we’re trying to send”

There are not many kids in my con­stitu­ency in danger of falling off a horse – there are thou­sands at risk of being sucked into a world of hope­less despair through drug addiction.

This means “What goes on in my con­stitu­ency is applic­able to the entire country.”

More Dangerous Than Ecstasy

More Dan­gerous Than Ecstasy

This last (and most recent quote) is my favourite. Not only does it show an unbe­liev­able arrog­ance, it also shows a deep mis­un­der­standing of either the research or his con­stitu­ency. Horse riding kills more people than ecstasy — that’s a fact. Is he arguing that thou­sands of people are at risk from a hitherto-​​unheard-​​of ecstasy addic­tion? Bol­locks!  Or is he perhaps saying that all drugs are a problem? In that case, the com­par­ison to horse riding isn’t fair, since that only applies to ecstasy, not all drugs. Who’d have thought that one single sen­tence could make someone look so stupid? Oh, and one final point — what about cheap, legal alcohol? I wonder how many people in his con­stitu­ency have been sucked into hope­less despair though alcohol addiction?

Why Dave Is In The Right

Firstly, the Code o’ Prac­tice for Sci­entific Advisory Com­mit­tees states:

Rules of conduct need not affect a member’s freedom to rep­resent his or her field of expertise in a per­sonal capa­city. The committee’s rules however should gen­er­ally oblige members to make clear when they are not speaking in their capa­city as com­mittee members.

Guess what — the lecture was given as the Pro­fessor of Neuro­psy­cho­phar­ma­co­logy at Imperial College, London, not as chairman of the ACMD. This was made per­fectly clear. BAM! Next, the Misuse of Drugs act includes the fol­lowing within the ACMD’s remit:

edu­cating the public (and in par­tic­ular the young) in the dangers of mis­using such drugs and for giving pub­li­city to those dangers

BOOM! If that includes setting the current drugs policy straight in order to better com­mu­nicate the rel­ative harms of illegal drugs, then well done Dave for doing the job you were hired to do!

The Resignations

So far, other than Dave, Dr Les King and Marrion Walker have resigned. Les is part-​​time advisor to the Depart­ment of Health, and was a senior chemist on the ACMD, who’s respons­ible for drafting the legis­la­tion I’ll talk about shortly. Marrion is the clin­ical dir­ector of Berkshire Health­care NHS Found­a­tion Trust’s sub­stance misuse service and was the Royal Phar­ma­ceut­ical Society’s rep­res­ent­ative on the ACMD. As you can imagine, the resig­na­tion of these key figures has been a massive blow to the ACMD’s future credibility.

With any luck, the rest of them will resign next Monday, and no other respect­able sci­entist will take their place.

What YOU Can Do About It

Face­book has been the primary theatre of action in this con­flict between reason and the idiot brigade in power. If you use Face­book, you might like to join the “Support and Rein­state Pro­fessor David Nutt: We want an evid­ence based drugs policy.” group, which has been set up by the Stu­dents for Sens­ible Drug Policy UK. There are tonnes of com­ments, dis­cus­sion, links ‘n’ all that, and it’s cur­rently just over 8600 members strong. Alan Johnson’s Face­book page was public until very recently. Last time I went on there, it was covered in com­ments informing him of his own stupidity.

There are also a couple of worth­while peti­tions UK res­id­ents can sign:

And finally, I’d suggest writing to your local MP. Obvi­ously, an actual letter would carry more weight than an email, but if you’ve got 10 mins to spare, you can use the website WriteToThem to find your local MP and fire off an email. I sent one off yes­terday and got an encour­aging reply this morning. I copied one someone else wrote from that Face­book group above and edited a few bits here ‘n’ there, and if you do the same, please edit my letter before you send it — that website won’t send identical mes­sages. Here’s what I wrote:

Dear Lynne Jones,

I am writing to express my dis­ap­point­ment at the recent sacking of Pro­fessor David Nutt, Chair of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs by the current Home Sec­retary, Alan Johnson.

It is the role and duty of a sci­entist to object­ively determine truth and fact about the way in which the world works, and to present the evid­ence demon­strating those facts. Whether such facts are con­venient, incon­venient, com­fort­able or uncom­fort­able or happen to con­tra­dict gov­ern­ment policy is irrel­evant. A sci­entist influ­enced by polit­ical expedi­ency is not a scientist.

I fully under­stand that advisers advise and that min­is­ters are respons­ible for decisions on policy, but the terms of ref­er­ence of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, as laid down in the Misuse of Drugs Act, 1971 include the following:

“edu­cating the public (and in par­tic­ular the young) in the dangers of mis­using such drugs and for giving pub­li­city to those dangers; ”

Pro­fessor Nutt has made public remarks about the rel­ative risks of the use of sub­stances cur­rently illegal in the UK, com­paring them to other legal sub­stances and other common leisure pur­suits. This fulfils the remit, quoted above, of ‘edu­cating the public’, espe­cially since the current drugs clas­si­fic­a­tion system does nothing to high­light the rel­ative harms of illegal drugs.

In this case, the facts, as determ­ined by the sci­entific method, may well cause many members of the public to ques­tion current Gov­ern­ment policy. This is only right and proper in a democracy.

By asking Pro­fessor Nutt to stand down, the Home Sec­retary has sent a message that he finds it accept­able to disrupt the edu­ca­tion of the public and that he is willing to sup­press those who have a clear remit to present the public with facts in order to do this.

It is also worth noting that the doc­u­ment: “Putting Science and Engin­eering at the Heart of Gov­ern­ment Policy: Gov­ern­ment Response to the Innov­a­tion, Uni­ver­sities, Science and Skills Committee’s Eighth Report of Session 2008-​​09 — Science and Tech­no­logy Com­mittee ” states the fol­lowing in Appendix One:

SAC members should not be cri­ti­cised for pub­lishing sci­entific papers or making state­ments as pro­fes­sionals, inde­pendent of their role as Gov­ern­ment advisers. (Para­graph 64)

“The Gov­ern­ment agrees that the inde­pend­ence of science advisers is crit­ical. It was pre­cisely for this reason that the GCSA wrote to then-​​Home Sec­retary Jacqui Smith to express concern over her cri­ti­cism, in Par­lia­ment, of Pro­fessor Nutt (Chairman of ACMD) with regard to an article he pub­lished in a peer-​​reviewed journal. ”

To my mind, the actions of the Home Sec­retary are undemo­cratic, dis­honest, an attempted sup­pres­sion of freedom of speech and a middle finger to anyone who under­stands and appre­ci­ates the sci­entific method.

Should not the Home Sec­retary now be con­sid­ering his position?

I would be grateful for your thoughts.

Yours sin­cerely,
John Clarke

Here’s her reply:

I agree with you. When the issue if reclas­si­fying can­nabis back to class B in 2007, I tabled the fol­lowing par­lia­mentary motion:

EDM 209

RESPONDING TO THE DANGERS OF CAN­NABIS USE

That this House sup­ports the mental health charity Rethink in its call for a public edu­ca­tion cam­paign to convey the dangers of can­nabis use; offers this support in light of the recent review of research pub­lished in the Lancet, which con­cludes that fre­quency of can­nabis use increases the risk of psychotic illness such as schizo­phrenia by up to 40 per cent.; calls for clarity on the can­nabis debate, par­tic­u­larly regarding the strength of skunk vari­eties of the drug; believes that reclas­si­fying can­nabis will not in itself lead to a decrease in the number of people who use it; notes that the pro­por­tion of young people using can­nabis has actu­ally fallen since it was reclas­si­fied in January 2004 from 25.3 per cent. of 16 to 24 year olds in 2003-​​04 to 20.9 per cent. in 2006-​​07; and urges the Gov­ern­ment to commit to the devel­op­ment of a long-​​term aware­ness and inform­a­tion cam­paign with health pro­mo­tion rather than a change in the law as the main lever to reduce use, in addi­tion to funding research into the link between can­nabis use and mental ill health.

If search under can­nabis on my website, link below, you will find further inform­a­tion on my views and a report of a meeting of the All-​​Party Group on Mental Health on can­nabis and schizophrenia.

I will pass on your com­ments to the Home Sec­retary to get his response.

Per­son­ally, as a former sci­entist myself, I despair at the selective use of science by col­leagues from all parties and this latest example will no doubt give me further oppor­tun­ities to raise my con­cerns. [My emphasis]

Regards

LYNNE JONES MP

House of Commons
London
SW1A 0AA

http://​www​.lyn​nejones​.org​.uk

That’s cer­tainly much better than I’d have hoped!

Legal Highs ban

Next up is the BZP/​GBL/​Spice ban — here’s the pro­posal [pdf; 46 kb]. It looks like it goes into effect on December 23rd. I can’t give much more detail yet, since I’m not really a chemist, but it looks like all the decent smoking mixes will be gone by then. Better stock up before Christmas. :(

Posted in Legislation | Tagged ACMD, Alan Johnson, alcohol, cannabis, David Nutt, drug harms, ecstasy, horse riding, legal highs, petition |

Equasy – An Overlooked Addiction

The fol­lowing post is the full text of David Nutt’s paper on “Equasy”.
Have a look at my Nutt Sacked post for details on what happened when Nutt left the ACMD.

Equasy – An overlooked addiction with implications for the current debate on drug harms

DJ Nutt Psy­cho­phar­ma­co­logy Unit, Uni­ver­sity of Bristol, Bristol, UK.
Journal of Psy­cho­phar­ma­co­logy 23(1) (2009) 3 – 5

The reg­u­la­tion of illicit drugs in the UK is via the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act [MDAct]. That of legal drugs is via the Medi­cines Act if they have clin­ical utility or via trade reg­u­la­tions in the case of tobacco, alcohol, food sup­ple­ments and vit­amins. When a new drug comes along and con­cerns are expressed about poten­tial harm, its status is reviewed in the UK by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs [ACMD] which has a stat­utory duty to advise the UK gov­ern­ment on the harms and risks so that appro­priate policy can be gen­er­ated. Typ­ic­ally this leads to a decision to clas­sify it or not under the MDAct.

In recent years, fol­lowing a sys­tem­atic review by the ACMD, ket­amine (Nutt and Wil­liams, 2004) has been brought under the act into class C whilst khat (Wil­liams and Nutt, 2005) was con­sidered not to require reg­u­la­tion. Recently ben­zylpiperazine and related stim­u­lant drugs have been reviewed and recom­mended for a class C status in agree­ment with the EMCDDA risk ana­lysis (EMCDDA, 2007). Sim­il­arly can­nabis clas­si­fic­a­tion was reviewed in 2002 (ACMD, 2002) and down­graded to class C, a decision sub­sequently endorsed by two further reviews (Rawlins, et al., 2005, 2008). Ecstasy is cur­rently in class A, a pos­i­tion chal­lenged by the House of Commons Select Com­mittee on Science and Tech­no­logy (2006) which has lead to an ongoing review of its status.

The UK MDAct clas­si­fies drugs into three classes, A, B, C on the basis of their harm­ful­ness: Class A (the most harmful) includes cocaine, dia­morphine (heroin), 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, ecstasy) lys­ergic acid diethyl­amide (LSD) and methamphet­amine. Class B (an inter­me­diate cat­egory) includes amphet­amine, bar­bit­ur­ates, codeine and methyl­phen­idate. Class C (less harmful) includes ben­zo­diazepines, ana­bolic ster­oids, gamma-​​hydroxybutyrate (GHB) and can­nabis. This system of clas­si­fic­a­tion serves to determine the pen­al­ties for the pos­ses­sion and supply of con­trolled sub­stances. The current maximum pen­al­ties are as follows: Class A drugs: for pos­ses­sion – 7-​​year impris­on­ment and/​or an unlim­ited fine; for supply – life impris­on­ment and/​or fine; Class B drugs: for pos­ses­sion – 5-​​year impris­on­ment and/​or an unlim­ited fine; for supply – 14-​​year impris­on­ment and/​or fine; Class C drugs: For pos­ses­sion – 2-​​year impris­on­ment and/​or an unlim­ited fine; For supply – 14-​​year impris­on­ment and/​or fine.

How best to assess the clas­si­fic­a­tion of a drug is an issue that is and has always been prob­lem­atic. A poten­tial method for exploring harms has been developed that assesses harms across nine domains; three relate to the per­sonal harms of the drug [acute harms e.g., from over­dose, chronic harms and harms due to intra­venous use], three relate to its propensity to cause depend­ence [liking, phys­ical depend­ence and psy­cho­lo­gical depend­ence] and three cover social harms [harms from intox­ic­a­tion, (including anti-​​social beha­viour), harms from supply/​dealing, asso­ci­ated acquis­itive crime and health care costs]. Each can be scored on a 0 – 3 scale and a value for each drug derived from which a rank order of harm may be pro­duced (Nutt, et al., 2007). In this study, we also assessed alcohol, tobacco and some other misused sub­stances to provide anchor points that would allow non-​​experts and the general public to better under­stand the harms of drugs with which they might not have famili­arity. This study pro­duced a degree of public debate and con­sid­er­able media cov­erage. This taken together with the sub­sequent cov­erage of the clas­si­fic­a­tion of can­nabis (ACMD, 2008) and the ongoing review of ‘ecstasy’/ MDMA has shown that the argu­ments about rel­ative drug harms are occur­ring in an arcane manner, at times taking a quasi-​​religious char­acter remin­is­cent of medi­eval debates about angels and the heads of pins!

The reasons for this are mul­tiple and complex, but one major element is that the drug debate takes place without ref­er­ence to other causes of harm in society, which tends to give drugs a dif­ferent, more wor­rying, status. In this article, I share exper­i­ence of another harmful addic­tion I have called equasy to illus­trate an approach that might lead to a more rational and broad-​​based assess­ment of rel­ative drug harms.

The dangers of equasy were revealed to me as a result of a recent clin­ical referral of a woman in her early 30’s who had suffered per­manent brain damage as a result of equasy-​​induced brain damage. She had under­gone severe per­son­ality change that made her more irrit­able and impulsive, with anxiety and  loss of the ability to exper­i­ence pleasure. There was also a degree of hypo­front­ality and beha­vi­oural dis­in­hib­i­tion that had lead to many bad decisions in rela­tion­ships with poor choice of part­ners and an unwanted preg­nancy. She is unable to work and is unlikely ever to do so again, so the social costs of her brain damage are also very high.

So what was her addic­tion – what is equasy? It is an addic­tion that pro­duces the release of adren­aline and endorphins and which is used by many mil­lions of people in the UK including chil­dren and young people. The harmful con­sequences are well estab­lished – about 10 people a year die of it and many more suffer per­manent neur­o­lo­gical damage as had my patient. It has been estim­ated that there is a serious adverse event every 350 expos­ures and these are unpre­dict­able, though more likely in exper­i­enced users who take more risks with equasy. It is also asso­ci­ated with over 100 road traffic acci­dents per year – often with deaths. Equasy leads to gath­er­ings of users that often are asso­ci­ated with these groups enga­ging in violent conduct. Depend­ence, as defined by the need to con­tinue to use, has been accepted by the courts in divorce set­tle­ments. Based on these harms, it seems likely that the ACMD would recom­mend control under the MDAct perhaps as a class A drug given it appears more harmful than ecstasy (See Table 1).

Table 1: A com­par­ison of ecstasy and equasy using the 9-​​point scale.

Para­meter of harmEcstasyEquasy
Acute harm to person+1 per 10000 episodes++1 per 350 episodes
Chronic harm to person+?++
Intra­venous useNot applic­ableNot applic­able
Euphoric effects+++/​++
Phys­ical withdrawal-/​+-
Psy­cho­lo­gical withdrawal-/​++?
Harm to society: RTAs etc.?+ (methane emis­sions also)
Dealing harms+- (as legal)
Soci­etal costs: NHS etc.++

RTA, Road Traffic Acci­dent; NHS, National Health Service.
 – = harm; + = more harm.

Have you worked out what equasy is yet? It stands for Equine Addic­tion Syn­drome, a con­di­tion char­ac­ter­ised by gaining pleasure from horses and being pre­pared to coun­ten­ance the con­sequences espe­cially the harms from falling off/​under the horse. I suspect most people will be sur­prised that riding is such a dan­gerous activity. The data are quite start­ling – people die and are per­man­ently damaged from falling – with neck and spine frac­ture leading to per­manent spinal injury (Silver and Parry, 1991; Silver 2002). Head injury is four times more common though often less obvious and is the usual cause of death. In the USA, approx­im­ately 11,500 cases of trau­matic head injury a year are due to riding (Thomas, et al., 2006), and we can presume a pro­por­tionate number in the UK. Per­son­ality change, reduced motor func­tion and even early onset Parkinson’s disease are well recog­nised espe­cially in rural clin­ical prac­tices where horse riding is very common. In some shire counties, it has been estim­ated that riding causes more head injury than road traffic acci­dents. Viol­ence is his­tor­ic­ally intim­ately asso­ci­ated with equasy – espe­cially those who gather together in hunting groups; ini­tially, this was inter­spe­cies aggres­sion but lat­terly has become spe­cific person to person viol­ence between the pro and anti-​​hunt lobby groups.

Making riding illegal would com­pletely prevent all these harms and would be, in prac­tice, very easy to do – it is hard to use a horse in a clandes­tine manner or in the privacy of one’s own home! I suspect there would be little public or gov­ern­ment support for such an option despite the banning of inter-​​species viol­ence from equasy recently enacted in the Anti-​​Hunting bill. Indeed why should society want to control harmful sports at all? This atti­tude raises the crit­ical ques­tion of why society tol­er­ates –indeed encour­ages – certain forms of poten­tially harmful beha­viour but not others, such as drug use. There are many risky activ­ities such as base jumping, climbing, bungee jumping, hang-​​gliding, motor­cyc­ling which have harms and risks equal to or worse than many illicit drugs. Of course, some people engage in so called ‘extreme’ sports spe­cific­ally because they are dan­gerous. Horse riding is not one of these and most of those who engage in it do it for simple pleasure rather than from thrill seeking, almost cer­tainly in com­plete ignor­ance of the risks involved. Other sim­il­arly dan­gerous yet fun activ­ities are rugby, quad-​​biking and boxing. With the excep­tion of boxing, which is out­lawed in some European coun­tries, sports are not illegal despite their undoubted harms.

So why are harmful sporting activ­ities allowed, whereas rel­at­ively less harmful drugs are not? I believe this reflects a soci­etal approach which does not adequately balance the rel­ative risks of drugs against their harms. It is also a failure to under­stand the motiv­a­tions of, par­tic­u­larly younger people, who take drugs and their assess­ment of the per­ceived risks com­pared with other activ­ities. The general public, espe­cially the younger gen­er­a­tion, are dis­il­lu­sioned with the lack of bal­anced polit­ical debate about drugs. This lack of rational debate can under­mine the trust in gov­ern­ment in rela­tion to drug misuse and thereby under­mining the government’s message in public inform­a­tion cam­paigns. The media in general seem to have an interest in scare stories about illicit drugs, though there are some excep­tions (Horizon, 2008). A telling review of 10-​​year media reporting of drug deaths in Scot­land illus­trates the dis­torted media per­spective very well (Forsyth, 2001). During this decade, the like­li­hood of a news­paper reporting a death from paracetamol was in per 250 deaths, for diazepam it was 1 in 50, whereas for amphet­amine it was 1 in 3 and for ecstasy every asso­ci­ated death was reported.

Is there a lesson from these rel­ative com­par­isons of harms and risk that reg­u­latory author­ities could use to make better drug harm assess­ments and thus better laws? The example of equasy when com­pared to the use of drugs high­lights the diver­gence between the activ­ities in terms of levels of risk and social and moral accept­ab­ility. Perhaps this illus­trates the need to offer a new approach to con­sid­ering what under­lies society’s tol­er­ance of poten­tially harmful activ­ities and how this evolves over time (e.g. fox hunting, cigar­ette smoking). A debate on the wider issues of how harms are tol­er­ated by society and policy makers can only help to gen­erate a broad based and there­fore more rel­evant harm assess­ment process that could cut through the current ill-​​informed debate about the drug harms? The use of rational evid­ence for the assess­ment of the harms of drugs will be one step forward to the devel­op­ment of a cred­ible drugs strategy.

References

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Posted in Essays | Tagged David Nutt, drug harms, ecstasy, equasy, horse riding |