UK paperback

Sends the wrong message

Drug-addled politics

The British “government” has a colourful record of commissioning independent scientific advice and then blithely trashing it when it does not conform to ministers’ prejudices, particularly on the subject of the WAD (War Against Drugs).1 Over the weekend, news emerged that Professor David Nutt, chair of the Home Office’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, had written in a journal that, on a strict comparison of immediate deaths and injuries that result, taking Ecstasy is no more dangerous than horse-riding.2 On the statistics he cites of annual death and disability, this is simply a fact. It is not an opinion, dangerous or otherwise: Nutt has simply counted some things up and told us the answer.

Happily, facts are rarely allowed to get in the way of the cretinous moralizing of pro-WADdists. And so came a more-than-usually moronic session in Parliament yesterday, wherein home secretary “Jacqui” Smith screeched:

I spoke to Professor Nutt about his comments this morning. I told him that I was surprised and profoundly disappointed by the article. I am sure that most people would simply not accept the link that he makes up in his article between horse riding and illegal drug-taking.

The “link that he makes up”? IANAL, but I think this manages to be both a falsehood about what Nutt says, and a slander of him for fabricating evidence (or at least it would be a slander if it weren’t for Parliamentary privilege). As far as I can tell from press coverage,3 Nutt did not assert — still less invent — any “link” between the two activities. He did not propose that horse-riding was a gateway pastime to Ecstasy use. He merely compared them in their harms. Is to compare two things now inevitably to “make up” a “link” between them? Of course it isn’t, and of course “Jacqui” Smith is either a numbskull or a liar.

That makes light of a serious problem, trivialises the dangers of drugs, shows insensitivity to the families of victims of ecstasy, and sends the wrong message to young people about the dangers of drugs.

I see. So noting some facts about harms attributable to a particular drug “sends the wrong message” about the dangers of drugs. We are obliged to conclude, I think, that the right message would be a lie. This goes one thrilling step further than when last year’s plan to “upgrade” cannabis (which didn’t mean distributing better-quality shit) was said to “send a message” that drugs were eevull. The policy now is that facts about drug use are the wrong message to be sending about drug use. You can’t handle the truth!

Not to be outdone in the competition to see who could honk more crassly, Conservative MP Laurence Robertson took the chortlesome opportunity to make fun of Professor Nutt’s surname:

Will she go a little further than she did in her statement just now and perhaps suggest to Professor Nutt that although he might be appropriately named, he is in the wrong job?

“Jacqui” Smith responded:

I made completely clear my view that there is absolutely no equivalence between the legal activity of horse riding and the illegal activity of drug taking, and that will always be the basis on which I make decisions about drugs policy.

That is rather a specific basis on which to base one’s entire drugs policy, isn’t it? Still, we look forward to all future statements on the WAD by “Jacqui” Smith containing a disclaimer that taking drugs is not the same thing as riding horses, despite what some insane so-called “scientists” might babble.

What “message” does this farce send to you, readers?

  1. Or, more properly, the WADETLOFWTGRIANP — the War Against Drugs, Except The Legal Ones From Which The Government Rakes In A Nice Profit.
  2. Cutely, he even offered a new term for the proposed “addiction” to riding horses, viz. Equasy.
  3. I don’t have access to the journal article: if anyone does, feel free to cite interesting bits in comments.
33 comments
  1. 1  shadowfirebird  February 10, 2009, 12:20 pm 

    Clearly the “message” that the government is “sending” is that thinking about these things is Wrong. We the government have done all the thinking for you.

    Why is it okay for the goverment to use the law in order to “send a message” at all? What does that mean? Are they saying that they want to discourage use of ecstasy, not because it is dangerous, but just because they disaprove of it?

    (I’m rather impressed that the Telegraph actually seem to have reported the story fairly impartially. I tend to assume Daily Mail – like aspirations on their part.)

  2. 2  Matt McGrattan  February 10, 2009, 1:01 pm 

    The government does a lot of ‘sending of messages’. The legal system as semiotic device seems to be something they favour.

  3. 3  NomadUK  February 10, 2009, 1:14 pm 

    “Jacqui” Smith is either a numbskull or a liar.

    That’s not an exclusive OR, of course.

  4. 4  Hey Zeus  February 10, 2009, 1:59 pm 

    Is that the same Jacqui Smith i heard on GMTV today?

    “It might not be total transparency into politicians’ expenses but it’s twice as transparent as it was before- so we’re doing the right thing.”

    i think she really wanted to talk about spousal abuse, mind.
    She had a pamphlet.

  5. 5  Ben Foster  February 10, 2009, 2:12 pm 

    I saw a bunch of teenagers horseriding in a club over the weekend. What are we coming to?

  6. 6  Steven  February 10, 2009, 2:46 pm 

    Is that what young people call “doing horse”?

  7. 7  Jon Elliott  February 10, 2009, 3:52 pm 

    “Jacqui” Smith is either a numbskull or a liar.

    … that defines her manner of claiming expenses equally well. Then again she does claim within the rules…

  8. 8  Steven  February 10, 2009, 4:04 pm 

    Well, on the matter of expenses, the whole damn shop is corrupt, isn’t it? I really don’t see why I should buy George Osborne a house while he busies himself taking delocution lessons.

  9. 9  Gregor  February 10, 2009, 6:23 pm 

    What “message” does this farce send to you, readers?

    We need a war against horses naturally. We especially need to crank this war up in Afghanistan. I know it would only be logical to try and get the Afghans on our side, but who cares about winning hearts and minds when those four legged bastards are clopping around? Kill ’em all!

  10. 10  Jon Elliott  February 10, 2009, 7:10 pm 

    “Jacqui” Smith is either a numbskull or a liar.

    We [the tax payers] are buying stuff for the priviledged and the rich, with “bail-outs”, expenses and other stuff… I, almost despair – this blog offers some sanity. Most of the humans I am obliged to meet on a daily basis, simply don’t understand that “… words are weapons …” Sadly, history demonstrates, we of the one race – the human race – are fatally flawed.

    Next thing you know, I might even get religion, then I really am doomed.

    Then again, I do have Global Warming consequences to look forward to? Given the “government” seems keen to keep commissioning even more research to convince us that are in “denial”.

    Can you get broad-band in a cave?

  11. 11  judith weingarten  February 10, 2009, 9:09 pm 

    Oh Gregor, how can you say: “We need a war against horses naturally.”

    In order to win hearts and minds, we need to give horses to the Afghans.

    They love horses; hence we win hearts. Then, the guys take a tumble on some distant crag and die; at least more die than those who take horse intravenously.

    Oh, forget it, this is too silly, even for the British government.

  12. 12  Steven  February 10, 2009, 9:51 pm 

    I see it now, a fleet of battle helicopters rising from the gorge, backlit by an Afghan sunset, Wagner blaring over the loudspeakers — but they’re not firing guns, they’re littering the terrain with horses, shoved out of the doors at 500 feet.

  13. 13  Alex Higgins  February 10, 2009, 9:57 pm 

    I think the fact that we have laws regarding any subject at all apart from drugs sends dangerous mixed messages to our young people that maybe taking drugs is OK and the police don’t care any more.

    I don’t just mean the obvious ommissions from legislation on the fishing industry that not even mention that possession of cannibis is illegal, but things like the Children’s Act. Is that not effectively saying that children can smoke pot because it’s “cool”?

    Furthermore, much of our television programming from The Ascent of Man to Changing Rooms does not begin and end by saying you should never never ever take drugs because they are worse than anything anyone can possibly experience and if you even think about them for more than a few seconds bad things happen to people you care about.

    Is it any wonder Britain’s teenagers are so confused? Does that rhetorical question not answer itself?

    To compare taking ecstasy to the dangers of riding horses is a disgusting insult to all victims of suffering everywhere.

    Even to compare taking ecstasy to the German invasion of Russia would be to trivialise the mass death and misery caused by even joking about it.

  14. 14  Steven  February 10, 2009, 10:01 pm 

    Is it any wonder Britain’s teenagers are so confused? Does that rhetorical question not answer itself?

    *claps*

  15. 15  sw  February 11, 2009, 4:30 am 

    I read the article; it initially comes across as one of those annoying pieces that isn’t bad enough to be really fun, and isn’t clever enough to be mindblowing, but makes a fairly interesting comparison with enough smug self-satisfaction to really rankle the people who get rankled by rankling academics. But, spending a moment or two with the paper, I began to have some sympathy for some of what his critics appear to be saying. His paper does focus on

    on a strict comparison of immediate deaths and injuries that result

    from ecstasy and horse-riding, but Nutt’s “strict comparison” is, at best, potentially misleading, and might be characterised as epidemiologically crass. There is always a substantial risk of confounding and misinterpretation when comparing any sorts of rates between different populations, and Nutt in no way makes any effort to argue that horse-riders and ecstasy-users are a similar population for comparison purposes. If one were to construct a venn diagram of ecstasy-users and horse-riders, there would probably be a fairly large overlap, but there would also probably be fairly large numbers of people exclusive to each bubble; if one were to construct a venn diagram of regular ecstasy-users and regular horse-riders, there would probably be an even smaller overlap: one cannot rule out that different populations might account for some of the differences in rates of injury and death, such as the risk of injury conferred upon inexperienced young riders, and older riders who are more vulnerable to injury, compared to the relatively healthy adolescents and young adults who make up much of the raving yoof. It is entirely possible that comparing these two populations would be constructive and instructive, just as comparing different ethnic groups and rates of death can be constructive and instructive, but you have to be very clear on how and why the groups are comparable, and that there is not some other factor influencing the outcome of interest. Just to be concrete about this problem: if ecstasy were as legal as horse-riding and so obtainable for a population that is currently unable to obtain it because of age, class, location, or whatever other possible differences exist between that horse-riding population and the ecstasy-using population, would ecstasy still have a safer risk profile than horse-riding? Maybe, maybe not – in Nutt’s paper, we have no way of knowing.

    And just looking at his paper, it is hard to make too much sense of his statistical comparison. He writes that “It has been estimated that there is a serious adverse event every 350 exposures [to horse-riding]” and compares this in his chart to one serious adverse event every 10,000 episodes of ecstasy – but there is no direct citation for either number, no clarification of what he means by “episode”, and no way of determining if the “serious adverse events” ascribed to the two categories are themselves comparable. Again, just to be concrete about it: who is counting “serious adverse events” and what do they mean by it? Being brought to Casualty? I would suspect that people who are brought to Casualty for ecstasy use would likely be very, very sick (because otherwise, his or her friends would have tried to avoid the public exposure) whereas someone might be brought to Casualty for a sprain or broken ankle from horse-riding – both might be classified as “serious adverse events”, but we can see how the latter would be more epidemiologically visible, and might include less serious “serious adverse events”: does this inflate the estimate of injuries from horse-riding and mask the injuries of ecstasy? Perhaps; perhaps not. Can’t tell from Nutt’s piece. And one would think it somewhat important, no?

    There are a few other matters, none of which is necessarily damning, but which are nevertheless concerning. He elsewhere resorts to what appear to be anecdotal, unsubstantiated reports, for which he offers no direct citation –

    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.

    “Well recognised”? In “some shire counties”, presumably the ones inhabited by hobbits? “Estimated”? How are they estimated, and by whom? Plenty of wiggle-room there. He certainly leaves out any similar anecdotal reports about the damage caused by ecstasy. Similarly, while citing several studies related to horse-riding, he resolutely ignores studies that detail the adverse effects of ecstasy, which are easy to find on any medical search engine; given his cheerful insistence that there is a risk of “chronic harm” to people with horse-riding and his shoulder-shrugging question mark appended to the possibility of chronic harm with ecstasy use, it is a bit disconcerting that he resolutely ignores a paper published in the very same journal that he is now writing in, from the middle of last year – de Sola et al “Cognitive performance in recreational ecstasy polydrug users: a two-year follow-up study.” Journal of Psychopharmacology. July, 2008; 22(5):498-510 – in which the authors cautiously, but carefully, conclude that ecstasy may be related to long-term cognitive impairment. If you look at the article, you will notice how careful they are in describing their populations, in discussing the possibility of confounders, such as premorbid differences (that is, differences that may have meant that ecstasy-users were already more likely to have cognitive deficits), and in crafting a typically cautious scientific conclusion that focuses on “polydrug users”, rather than immediately generalising.

    So, I would probably disagree with you, Steve, that

    On the statistics he cites of annual death and disability, this is simply a fact. It is not an opinion, dangerous or otherwise: Nutt has simply counted some things up and told us the answer.

    I’m not sure that’s the case; perhaps someone else who can access the paper would care to disagree with me. I think you are quite right that the only “link” offered by Nutt is one of comparison, but I’m not sure that I can join you in heartily disagreeing with Smith that Nutt is making “light of a serious problem” (although I have nothing against making light of serious problems, providing it isn’t somebody else making light of my serious problems), that he is trivialising “the dangers of drugs” (I think he risks doing this in his article), or in fact that he is “sending the wrong message”.

    BTW, these severe problems do not necessarily detract from his point, raising

    the critical question of why society tolerates –indeed encourages – certain forms of potentially harmful behaviour but not others, such as drug use.

    But his fundamental question is how well people – “society” – judge risks, and I was left asking whether his paper helps us judge these risks or obfuscates the matter with quasi-scientific editorialising.

  16. 16  Steven  February 11, 2009, 11:29 am 

    Thanks for sending me the paper, sw!

    one cannot rule out that different populations might account for some of the differences in rates of injury and death, such as the risk of injury conferred upon inexperienced young riders, and older riders who are more vulnerable to injury, compared to the relatively healthy adolescents and young adults who make up much of the raving yoof

    He does say that “serious adverse events” are “more likely in
    experienced users who take more risks with equasy”. But you are of course right to demand to know “who is counting “serious adverse events” and what do they mean by it?”.

    he resolutely ignores a paper published in the very same journal that he is now writing in, from the middle of last year – de Sola et al “Cognitive performance in recreational ecstasy polydrug users: a two-year follow-up study.” Journal of Psychopharmacology. July, 2008; 22(5):498-510 – in which the authors cautiously, but carefully, conclude that ecstasy may be related to long-term cognitive impairment.

    Presumably that is the kind of thing that gives rise to the notation “+?” under “Chronic harm to person” from Ecstasy in his table? It would certainly have been useful if this had been made clear.

    But in general, is he “resolutely ignoring” this stuff and indeed “trivialising” the dangers of Ecstasy? I don’t think so, because the paper is not really about Ecstasy. It’s about Equasy, as the title indicates.

    Nutt was on the radio over the weekend and when the interviewer said, “Aren’t you talking down the dangers of Ecstasy?” he replied: “No, I’m talking up the dangers of horse-riding.” That seems to me a fair characterization.

    I would expect Nutt’s careful, scholarly argument about the actual harms of Ecstasy to occur elsewhere, perhaps in his Council’s report which apparently will recommend, not that it be legalized, but that it be classified as Class B rather than, as it is now, Class A. (Is that the only chemistry between us?)

    So, no, I really do not think he is “making light of a serious problem”, unless it is impermissible ever to talk about risk in a provocative and ironic way.

    Is the paper nonetheless vague and annoying? Yes! I winced particularly at his use of exclamation marks:

    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!

  17. 17  sw  February 11, 2009, 1:03 pm 

    I don’t think so, because the paper is not really about Ecstasy. It’s about Equasy, as the title indicates.

    However shrill and honking his critics are, they are correct to suspect that he is really talking about Ecstasy in this paper.

    Nutt was on the radio over the weekend and when the interviewer said, “Aren’t you talking down the dangers of Ecstasy?” he replied: “No, I’m talking up the dangers of horse-riding.” That seems to me a fair characterization.

    A fair characterization of what he was doing? I didn’t think that a fair characterization of his piece would be that he was “talking up the dangers of horse-riding”; in fact, I think we would ridicule a Tory or Labour hack who argued that. I thought that he was trying to show that “society” does not judge or legislate effectively based on assumed risks, and that if the argument against legalising ecstasy is that it is harmful, then we should have some idea of how harmful it is compared to other pleasurable activities that we do not outlaw. I actually don’t disagree with his point, but I think he illustrated it in a misleading and quasi-scientific way.

    So, no, I really do not think he is “making light of a serious problem”, unless it is impermissible ever to talk about risk in a provocative and ironic way.

    That is a transition from an “is” to an “ought”; he is talking about a serious problem in a provocative, ironic – and, as you yourself observe – “cute” way, which together constitute a type of making-lightness, and which I think contribute to the content and tone of a piece that is “nonetheless vague and annoying”. (Those exclamation points tend to come at the end of what he clearly thinks are witty little jabs). In terms of whether it is permissible or not, that is another matter – a serious (aesthetic-ethical) problem that I made light of in my own comment above.

  18. 18  Steven  February 11, 2009, 1:18 pm 

    However shrill and honking his critics are, they are correct to suspect that he is really talking about Ecstasy in this paper.

    I didn’t deny that he talks about Ecstasy: what I said, and what I continue to propose, is that the paper is not really about Ecstasy. It does not purport to be a thorough survey of the harms of Ecstasy. (Typing Ecstasy so often is making me feel rather Dionysiac; how about you?)

    I didn’t think that a fair characterization of his piece would be that he was “talking up the dangers of horse-riding”; in fact, I think we would ridicule a Tory or Labour hack who argued that. I thought that he was trying to show that “society” does not judge or legislate effectively based on assumed risks, and that if the argument against legalising ecstasy is that it is harmful, then we should have some idea of how harmful it is compared to other pleasurable activities that we do not outlaw.

    He’s doing both: indeed, he’s doing the first in order to do the second.

    I will point out again that the paper is not about “legalising ecstasy”: it asks whether wider consideration of risky activities could inform a decision about where illegal drugs ought to be placed in the hierarchy of harms described by Class A, Class B (is that the only chemistry?), etc.

    he is talking about a serious problem in a provocative, ironic – and, as you yourself observe – “cute” way, which together constitute a type of making-lightness

    You imply, interestingly, that there are various types of making-lightness. It seems to me that normally there is a tenor of disapprobation in “making light” which allies it to a sense of trivialization, and I don’t think Nutt is doing that. (To the contrary, he is making-heavy the problem of horse-riding.) Is it possible that one can “make light of” something without trivializing it? Is there a positive sense of “making light” (apart from in Genesis)?

    Those exclamation points tend to come at the end of what he clearly thinks are witty little jabs

    Quite: the only place where one must never use an exclamation mark.

  19. 19  richard  February 11, 2009, 2:02 pm 

    he resolutely ignores a paper published in the very same journal that he is now writing in

    for the first time I’m starting to feel some sympathy for him: who knows how many journals he’s touted this thing around? It’s careless but understandable, given the workings of the academic paper-mill. From personal experience I can say that the best thing to do on receiving a rejection letter is to get straight back in circulation.

    Re dropping horses from 500 feet: people keep saying how medieval the Afghans are: perhaps this can be spun as an attempt to communicate on their terms?

  20. 20  sw  February 11, 2009, 2:11 pm 

    (Typing Ecstasy so often is making me feel rather Dionysiac; how about you?)

    Giddy as gelding! But I’m not going to argue further whether this paper is about horses or drugs.

    I will point out again that the paper is not about “legalising ecstasy”: it asks whether wider consideration of risky activities could inform a decision about where illegal drugs ought to be placed in the hierarchy of harms described by Class A, Class B (is that the only chemistry?),

    His comparison to a legal activity and his insistent reference to its legality cannot preclude a more diffuse argument towards “legalising ecstasy”, but, basically, you’re right, I agree. My points still stand. My problem is with the science (the statistics, the epidemiology) he presents in the paper. Not other papers; this one. Early on, in a sentence punctuated by one of his erect exclamation points, Nutt attacks the “quasi-religious” nature of so much of the debate around drugs (opening up some strange possibilities: don’t religions, or people informed by their religion, have some stake in the debates about what a soceity ought or ought not do, and how a society determines what risks are permissible, and so on? Or does he only object to quasi-religious conceits, ones that are not properly or fully religious?); I object, and have objected in every blomment, to the quasi-scientific nature of his argument. Given that the classification system is quasi-scientific itself, one might say that his entire piece is an ironic reflection.

    You imply, interestingly, that there are various types of making-lightness. It seems to me that normally there is a tenor of disapprobation in “making light” which allies it to a sense of trivialization, and I don’t think Nutt is doing that.

    An excrutiatingly important point; thank you for raising it. In Limited Inc, my second-favourite book by Derrida, where he dons the spandex and Ram Jams Searle, Derrida says, “Let’s be serious.” He is being sardonic when he says that, but simultaneously acknowledges how he has been making light of Searle and offers something in the way of a retraction or disavowal; this dual capacity, this ambiguity or ambivalence, is precisely captured in your use of “normally”, which at once dismisses and accepts the existence of “abnormal” usages, and the way in which we “trivialise” or disregard the abnormal and the making-light.

    (To the contrary, he is making-heavy the problem of horse-riding.) Is it possible that one can “make light of” something without trivializing it? Is there a positive sense of “making light” (apart from in Genesis)?

    Yes, it is possible; yes, there are positive senses. Because, to the contrary, he is not “to the contrary” merely “making-heavy the problem of horse-riding”; your making-light of his argument in this matter, without making light of it, is a good example. All the better because it lacks an exclamation point.

  21. 21  Steven  February 11, 2009, 2:24 pm 

    this ambiguity or ambivalence, is precisely captured in your use of “normally”, which at once dismisses and accepts the existence of “abnormal” usages

    I do cherish the fact that you, by contrast, always use every single word in all its possible senses and valences simultaneously, in contrast to my tedious pedantic insistence on trying to nail down what meaning we might be arguing about at any one time, which is why your blomments are so poetically dense.

    It’s a bit like Bones v Spock: the tragedy is that we don’t have a Kirk at the chariot’s reins.

    yes, there are positive senses

    I suspect you are right, but could you explain further what they are?

    And might I also ask to you clarify whether it your contention that you think “Jacqui” Smith was appealing to one of these positive senses when she accused Nutt of “making light of a serious problem”?

  22. 22  sw  February 11, 2009, 3:41 pm 

    And might I also ask to you clarify whether it your contention that you think “Jacqui” Smith was appealing to one of these positive senses when she accused Nutt of “making light of a serious problem”?

    You might. I don’t.

  23. 23  Steven  February 11, 2009, 4:03 pm 

    So do you agree with Smith, or is the “type of making-lightness” you said you see in Nutt’s treatment of drugs the good type?

  24. 24  ukliberty  February 11, 2009, 5:28 pm 

    This episode provides support for the view that our beloved leaders are rather more interested in what is politically expedient than in reducing harm from substance abuse. Home Surveillance Secretary Jacqui Smith is essentially saying, “I am tough on all illegal drugs regardless of the facts.”

    This has consistently been the Government’s position.

    The public tends to be rubbish at evaluating risk and I applaud Professor Nutt for attempting to make us think about it (notwithstanding any flaws in his paper, which I haven’t read) and how we think about substance abuse.

  25. [...] stuff from Anne Perkins in the Guardian and Steven Poole at Unspeak. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)DrugsEcstasy risks the same as horse-riding says [...]

  26. 26  fmackay  February 11, 2009, 8:20 pm 

    “addiction” to riding horses

    There’s a “monkey on my back” joke in here somewhere.

  27. 27  Lobby Ludd  February 11, 2009, 8:32 pm 

    “Is to compare two things now inevitably to “make up” a “link” between them? Of course it isn’t, and of course “Jacqui” Smith is either a numbskull or a liar.”

    Not sure what meaning of the word ‘or’ you are using here, Steven, inclusive or exclusive. I personally go for the inclusive, where it is true that Ms Smith is both a numbskull and a liar.

    (Incidentally, did Ms Smith demand, and get an apology from the professor to those who had lost family members owing to factors apparently related to use of Ecstasy? Call me lazy, but I tend to go for displacement activity where Ms Smith is involved – drink, drugs, self harm, that kind of thing. Statistically far less risky than serious taking of Ms Smith.)

  28. 28  Gregor  February 11, 2009, 8:48 pm 

    ‘In order to win hearts and minds, we need to give horses to the Afghans.’

    As Osama Bin Laden apparently likes horse-riding, then if we gave him horses there would be a statistical chance he would fall off and die. Remote maybe, but it sounds rather more logical than our method of burning opium crops to alienate the people we should be helping and working with.

    ‘I don’t just mean the obvious ommissions from legislation on the fishing industry that not even mention that possession of cannibis is illegal’

    I just hope that cannabis bags contain stickers saying: ‘this product contains cannabis’… you know like ‘this product contains peanuts’ on bags of peanuts and ‘this product contains milk’ on milk chocolate.

  29. 29  Steven  February 12, 2009, 6:51 pm 

    On Radio 4, Evan Davis’s rather brilliant handling of this subject.

  30. 30  Jody Aberdein  February 12, 2009, 8:49 pm 

    At this point might I remind readers of the worst drug of them all:

    Cake.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WwylBRucU7w

    Origin of possibly my favourite quote from recent history, the good Dr Fox:

    ‘Now that is scientific fact – there’s no real evidence for it – but it is scientific fact’

  31. 31  Gregor  February 12, 2009, 9:53 pm 

    I was trying, and trying, not to be the first to mention Brasseye, but I think that quote was actually from the Paedogeddon episode. Noel Edmonds talking about ‘Shatner’s basoon’ was my favourite bit in the cake episode. And of course, Bernard Manning saying ‘One little girl got so sick she vomited up her own pelvis. It’s a fuckin disgrace’.

  32. 32  ukliberty  February 13, 2009, 11:45 am 

    Steven, thanks for the heads-up on that Radio 4 link.
    It seems worth noting that some high-ups at the ACMD (including Rawlins and Nutt), if not the ACMD itself, ranked alcohol on the border of A and B, and tobacco on the border of B and C.

    “What message are we sending to young people” if we don’t make a class A drug illegal?

    It’s enough to make one cry all the water out of one’s body.

  33. 33  David M  February 16, 2009, 8:49 am 

    Professor Nutt may be exaggerating the dangers of Ecstasy. The deaths described apparently relate to misuse of Ecstasy – including over-heating from too much dancing and inappropriate water consumption. The culprit here is the Government who create the conditions for illegal consumption, not the drug itself.

    The Scottish Parliament’s excellent recent report on drug use in Scotland reviews the absurdity of our current drugs classification. We could build on this.

    I suffered childhood sexual abuse. It is soul destroying. Having been through every treatment and therapy imaginable, I consumed a traditional halucogenic “plant medicine” in the Amazon. It has significantly improved my condition.

    A 1971 international convention criminalises even research into psychotropic substances. Nevertheless, the FDA has sanctioned research into MDMA (the ingredient in Ecstasy) as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder in the USA. Similar research is being conducted in Switzerland, Israel and Canada. The Spanish police stopped promising research into the use of MDMA in the treatment of rape victims. In Britain we spend a fortune on Prozac, which manages PTSD, and talking therapies that offer understanding but no resolution.

    It makes no sense to bracket non-addictive psychotropic substances with opiates (or even alcohol or tobacco). The given scientific reason for banning them in 1971 came straight out of a B Movie: they damaged (recently discovered) DNA. The actual reason appears to have been that Richard Nixon had issues with hippies, and that the then Establishment felt threatened by the ’60s counter-culture.

    Today the argument is that psychotropic substances cause psychotic episodes, meaning an event inexplicable by linear logic. Most recent developments in cosmology, mathematics, computer science and biology have also stepped beyond simple reductionist logic, but nobody is suggesting hauling Stephen Hawking before the Inquisition.

    I intend to consume MDMA as a treatment for the sexual abuse I suffered. I am intelligent, have reviewed the literature and am making an informed choice. I don’t smoke, barely drink and my personal drug history is probably less than most members of the Government. I could be imprisoned for this. The police have the name and address of the man who sexually abused me, but cannot prosecute as it is my word against his. A chap who was sexually abused with me has since died. It just seems all wrong.



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