Alcohol worse than ecstasy - drugs chief

By Terrapinzflyer · Oct 29, 2009 · ·
  1. Terrapinzflyer
    Alcohol worse than ecstasy - drugs chief

    Alcohol and tobacco are more harmful than many illegal drugs, including LSD, ecstasy and cannabis, according to a paper from a drugs expert.

    Professor David Nutt, chairman of the government's advisory committee on the misuse of drugs, criticised politicians for "distorting" and "devaluing" the research evidence in the debate over illicit drugs.

    But he also said some "top" scientific journals had published "horrific examples" of poor quality research on the alleged harm caused by some illicit drugs.

    The Imperial College professor argued for a new way of classifying the harm caused by both legal and illegal drugs.

    "Alcohol ranks as the fifth most harmful drug after heroin, cocaine, barbiturates and methadone. Tobacco is ranked ninth.

    "Cannabis, LSD and ecstasy, while harmful, are ranked lower at 11, 14 and 18 respectively," said Nutt in the paper from the centre for crime and justice studies at King's College, London published tomorrow .

    Nutt clashed with Jacqui Smith when she was home secretary after he compared the 100 deaths a year from horseriding with the 30 deaths a year linked to ecstasy. Smith also ignored the recommendation of Nutt's advisory committee that cannabis should not be reclassified from class C back to class B, leading to heavier penalties.

    He criticised Smith's use of the "precautionary principle" to justify her decision to reclassify cannabis and said that by erring on the side of caution politicians "distort" and "devalue" the research evidence.

    "This leads us to a position where people really don't know what the evidence is," he said adding that the initial decision to downgrade the classification of cannabis led to a fall in the use of the drug.

    Nutt acknowledged there was a "relatively small risk" of psychotic illness linked to cannabis use. But he argued that to prevent one episode of schizophrenia it would be necessary to "stop 5,000 men aged 20 to 25 from ever using" cannabis.

    Nutt also renewed his support for reclassifying ecstasy from a class A drug to class B, saying the advisory committee "won the intellectual argument" over the issue but obviously didn't win the decision after the home secretary vetoed the move.

    He said the quality of some research papers about cannabis and ecstasy was so poor the articles had to be retracted. Richard Garside, director of the centre for crime and justice, said Nutt's briefing paper gave an insight into what drugs policy might look like if it was based on the research evidence rather than political or moral positioning.

    Alan Travis, home affairs editor
    The Guardian, Thursday 29 October 2009


    sorry- don't have time to search for the actual paper at the moment...

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  1. One Eyed
    I just read a similar article from a different site. Good for Prof. Nutt! I know I'm not the only one to have said it but that cannabis is criminalised while alcohol and tobacco continue to wreak havoc in the Public Health sector boggles the mind... it's classic governmental hypocrasy.

    At least now someone with a bit of clout has said it but what will this bring about? Nothing :-( Unless Prof. Nutt and his associates continue to provide evidence and logical debate; I suppose it's a case of "watch this space."
  2. Doublefields
    Proffesor Nutt seems to do a lot of good work on trying to create a sensible restructuring of drug laws.
    A while back some research of his on ecstasy was posted in an article on the daily mail website, and i remember the majority of the comments being along the lines of, 'Nutt by name, Nutt by nature' etc... which unfortunately seems to be the mindset of a large number of the population here.
  3. Terrapinzflyer
  4. chillinwill
    'Alcohol more dangerous than LSD'

    The Government's chief drug adviser has sparked controversy by claiming ecstasy, LSD and cannabis are less dangerous than both alcohol and cigarettes.

    Professor David Nutt, chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, attacked the decision to make cannabis a class B drug.

    He accused former home secretary Jacqui Smith, who reclassified the drug, of "distorting and devaluing" scientific research.

    Prof Nutt said smoking cannabis created only a "relatively small risk" of psychotic illness. And he claimed advocates of moving ecstasy into class B from class A had "won the intellectual argument".
    All drugs, including alcohol and tobacco, should be ranked by a "harm" index, he said, with alcohol coming fifth behind cocaine, heroin, barbiturates, and methadone.

    Tobacco should rank ninth, ahead of cannabis, LSD and ecstasy.

    Prof Nutt said: "No one is suggesting that drugs are not harmful. The critical question is one of scale and degree. We need a full and open discussion of the evidence and a mature debate about what the drug laws are for - and whether they are doing their job."

    In a lecture and briefing paper for the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies at King's College, London, Prof Nutt attacked what he called the "artificial" separation of alcohol and tobacco from other, illegal, drugs.

    He also repeated his claim that the risks of taking ecstasy are no worse than riding a horse.
    A Home Office spokesman said: "Prof Nutt's views are his own and do not reflect the views of Government. The Government is clear - we are determined to crack down on all illegal substances and minimise their harm to health and society as a whole."

    October 29, 2009
  5. Zentaurus41
    The problem is people are stupid very stupid, I guess you can say most of us who visit forums like these are some kind of
    elite bunch unlike the rest of the world.

    Most people are totally clueless about drugs, they believe the most absurd stupid things and these people are in the majority.

    Its kinda sad in away that there is anything to discuss, i see it like arguing about evolution via creationism. The Science
    says evolution is real but the creationists put it down and keep on harping on about some book that was written by man
    thousands of years ago.

    In other words science says mdma is reasonable safe and is a lot safer than Alcohol. The creationists crazy says mdma
    causes mental health problems and then proceed to bitch about how evil mdma is by using their own personal moral beliefs
    without any real scientific evidence. The only real evidence they do use usually relates to their cats uncles sister who killed them self's
    after having one mdma tablet.

    Though they fail to mention that living a life of none drug use their relative had already attempted suicide 5 times.
  6. Jasim
    I would like to see this classification system. Is the paper publicly available anywhere?
  7. Doublefields
    I used to worry about coming across like an elitist when discussing this kind of thing with people but i got past that haha.

    The point about religion is very relevant. They both work in a similiar way of ingraining the 'drugs are bad/god is good' message into people at such a young age it becomes hard to shake off.
  8. ThirdEyeFloond
    LSD less dangerous than alcohol, says government's drug adviser
    The Government’s chief drug adviser has suggested that Ecstasy, LSD and cannabis are less dangerous than both alcohol and cigarettes.

    David Nutt, chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, attacked the decision to make cannabis a Class B drug. He accused the former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, who reclassified the drug, of “distorting and devaluing” scientific research.

    Professor Nutt said smoking cannabis created only a “relatively small risk” of psychotic illness, adding that all drugs, including alcohol and tobacco, should be ranked by a “harm” index.

    He said that alcohol came fifth behind cocaine, heroin, barbiturates and methadone, while tobacco should rank ninth, ahead of cannabis, LSD and Ecstasy. His views are published today as a briefing paper for the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies at King’s College London.
    Related Links
    Adviser turns on Smith in ecstasy row
    Classification comes down to judgment
    How safe are the new ‘legal high’ clubbing drugs?

    It is not the first time that Professor Nutt has courted controversy. He first recommended the introduction of a drugs’ harm scale in a paper in The Lancet in 2007, when he also suggested that alcohol would rate higher than substances such as LSD. Earlier this year he suggested that the dangers of taking Ecstasy were no greater than those of frequent horse riding, which he repeats in the latest paper.

    Professor Nutt attacks the “artificial” separation of alcohol and tobacco from illegal drugs. “No one is suggesting that drugs are not harmful. The critical question is one of scale and degree.

    “We need a full and open discussion of the evidence and a mature debate about what the drug laws are for — and whether they are doing their job.”

    The paper — Estimating Drug Harms: A Risky Business? — criticises the decision to increase penalties for supplying Class C drugs. The move to double the maximum prison sentence from seven to 14 years was taken as a “tit-for-tat” move when cannabis was downgraded, Professor Nutt said.

    In recent years drug classification policy has become “quite complex and highly politicised”, he said. The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs’ (ACMD) review of cannabis classification, ordered in 2007, was the result of a “skunk scare”, he claimed.

    Overall, cannabis users faced a “relatively small” risk of getting a psychotic illness compared with the risks of smokers contracting lung cancer. Ms Smith’s decision to reclassify it as a “precautionary step” sent mixed messages and undermined public faith in government science, he said.

    He added: “I think we have to accept young people like to experiment — with drugs and other potentially harmful activities — and what we should be doing in all of this is to protect them from harm at this stage of their lives.

    We therefore have to provide more accurate and credible information. If you think that scaring kids will stop them using, you are probably wrong.”

    James Brokenshire, the Conservative home affairs spokesman, said that Professor Nutt’s comments only added to the confusion over drug classification.

    “Giving simple labels of levels of harm risk gives a false impression of the dangers,” he said. “Drugs like GBL [a ‘party’ drug] can be lethal if taken in combination with alcohol.

    “Rather than providing clearer evidence on the harms linked to illicit drugs, Professor Nutt is making an overtly political pitch and that isn’t helpful.”

    Sam Lister, Health Editor for the Times.
    October 29, 2009
  9. ThirdEyeFloond
    Not much that hasn't been covered already in the above article, I just liked the headline better :)
  10. Zentaurus41
    Yeah it can sound elitist but swim has heard crazy stuff thats simply not true. Swim only speaks from experience but some of the stuff he has heard is just dumb.

    To clarify, Swim is not saying people are stupid, but he is saying there education and view on drugs are. Swim cant believe some of the stuff people actual say. Swim just thinks that us forum users are the minority of people who have educated our self's properly to the positives and negatives of drug use.
  11. Triple7

    This is quite interesting point. He says men, but I guess it also includes women. To stop 5000 persons it can be only done in a few ways. The most efficient is to put them all into jail, a jail without drugs. Isolation is a good example. What is the cost to put 5000 persons into jail? Inside the jail, they cannot be productive and the society has absolute no use of them. Then they need to be fed and taken care of, which also costs. The jail also takes a lot of space, that space could be used for something better. Then they also need staff to watch them. That the staff watches them is not productive for anyone. All this money for useless costs we could use for something better. How about educating thousands of people in the 3rd world to teach them to help themselves to survive better which in turn is better for us as well and we get a win-win situation? Or how about invest the money into ecology project? The cheapest way to prevent people I guess is propaganda without throwing people into jail. But as shown, propaganda is useless, it has some small effect, but the drugs use is not really lower in strict countries compared to less strict countries. The money for propaganda could simply be used for true information and research. Besides, in a place where money matters since people work their ass off, some sort of so called "abuse" help these people to keep up with their daily hectic life. Some of those religious people, if they don't get high enough effect from placebo made out of their imagination, they tend to abuse prescription drugs just like others. There are lot of research that shows that prescription drugs are lot more addictive and harmful than certain drugs. A former big manager to one of the very large pharmaceutical companies told by himself to me that they sell ineffective drugs and also manipulate the data of side-effects. Who is the crook?
  12. Curiouscat22
    100 years ago any normal person could walk in to a chemist in the uk and buy hashish paste, cocaine lozenges and heroine linctus. Since prohibition there have been an enormous amount of fuck ups on the classification of drugs. Humans have been using drugs to change their state of mind since evolution, and this has only become illegal in the past 100 years! since then we have more addiction than before, more crime than before, more money spent on the war against drugs than before and more people using drugs than before. Alcohol is worse than ecstacy. MDMA (xtc) is not addictive, alcohol is. You can die from od of alcohol, your more likely to die from complications from using mdma not oding on it. You can die from quitting using alcoho when dependant on this drug, you can not die from stopping useong mdma. Alcohol causes thousands of £$ through, alcohol related violence, injuries, hospital admissions. mdma does not. Alcohol kills approx 8000 people in the uk each year when all illegal substances put together only cause approx 2000 deaths each year in the uk. Alcohol is addictive, you can die from an over dose of alcohol, you can die from going cold turkey from an alcohol addiction, the effects of alcohol on humans causes more problems socialy and within families than any other substance used in the uk......what are the government doing about this? They have suddenly realised how dangerous this drug is and are beging to start with the younger generation. The under 18s who are drinking unhealthy amounts on a weekly basis, causing anti social behaviour, teen pregnancy, violence and aggression, putting themselves at risk from the level of intoxication they are reaching and the impact all this is having n the family environment....................The new phenomenon of under age drinkers will be in their late 20s early 30s when they start with unhealthy liver problems, addictions, criminal record, unprotected sex and sti's, rape ect ect ect....and why? Because getting out of your head on alcohol is normal! everyone does it every weekend, parents drink every day, it is NORMAL to drink over 10 units of alcohol, have sex with someone you just met without protection. Its normal to get drunk and have a fight because someone bumped in to you. Its normal to use the toilet at the side of the road, shop door way ect. Its normal to throw up before you fall asleep, its normal to wake up with such a headache because your brain has shrunk. and the excuse always is....i didnt mean to do it I was pissed! In the uk we have no controls on this drug, use as much as you want, when you want, 24 hour serving times in pubs and bars, 24 hours of brain dead alcohol users drinking irrisponsibaly, injuring themselves someone else, violence, aggression, unproteted sex with strangers and the beat goes on and on and on...... Give my friend a gram of mdma anyday!
  13. Curiouscat22
    please excuse my spelling on the previous post however i have had a few glasses of wine lol...............................
  14. Terrapinzflyer
  15. One Eyed
    You forgot to mention lives that are ruined by drink drivers... :crazy
  16. Routemaster Flash
    Fair point about the drugs, but only a minority of people in the UK today are brought up being indoctrinated about God - people whose familt follows a specific faith, like Catholics/Muslims/observant Jews, for sure, but the general white majority is largely post-religion these days.

    Back on topic, it's ridiculous but sadly predictable that he's been given the shove, and heartening that two of his colleagues have walked out in protest.
  17. Doublefields
    Yeah i definately think that we are leaning towards a post-religion phase but i know most primary schools around here still sing songs about god and even pray in assemblys. I think that still plants enough of a seed in a lot of peoples minds.
    Anyway, sorry for taking it off topic.

    Also i'm sure it's been said elsewhere but in my opinion drugs education is the main reason cannabis has become a gateway drug. As a kid you essentially learn that there are legal drugs and illegal drugs. Illegal drugs are the bad, dangerous ones that should be avoided. Once people start experimenting and find out that weed is not the monster it's made out to be it throws everything else they've ben taught about drugs into question.
  18. kimotag
    I agree with the Prof's view that the distinction between legal and illegal drugs is an artificial one. Its all chemicals to the body! Every society, even Taliban era Afghanistan, accepts certain drugs and criminalises others and the reasons are often irrational! All drugs have risks attached to them, even caffeine in excess. The Prof would no doubt agree with N. Saunders (R.I.P) who stated that drug taking should be viewed as a recreational activity with risks, just like horse riding, rugby, american football, rock climbing ect. Of course there are added problems associated with some drug use ie. people stealing to fund a habit but on balance I feel that drugs should be legalised and carefully liscensed or at very least decriminalised for users! The drugs war is clearly not achieving its aims!
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