Downgrade ecstasy to class B drug, say ministerial advisers

By robin_himself · Jan 4, 2009 · Updated Jan 4, 2009 · ·
  1. robin_himself
    Advisory Council has 'pro-drug' agenda, say critics, raising questions over its fitness to advise ministers

    By Brian Brady and Jonathan Owen
    Sunday, 4 January 2009

    An independent committee that advises ministers on drug classification is poised to recommend the controversial downgrading of ecstasy to a class B drug. The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) is expected to call for ecstasy, a drug blamed for the deaths of at least 30 people a year, to be changed from its top-rated class A category when it reports later this month.

    The proposal will bring the council into direct conflict with the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith (below), who is expected to veto any such move, and propel the Government into a row over its treatment of expert bodies charged with advising ministers on key issues. The controversy comes just months after the Home Office ignored ACMD opposition to the decision to move cannabis from class C to class B.

    Senior Home Office sources said they "fully expected" the ACMD to call for the relaxation of ecstasy's classification. Professor David Nutt, chairman of the committee, which is reviewing ecstasy at the request of MPs, has suggested it is less dangerous than alcohol or tobacco, and stated that it is "probably too highly classified".

    Downgrading the drug, which is popular with clubbers, to class B would reduce the maximum prison sentence for possession from seven years to five, while the maximum prison sentence for dealers would fall from life in prison to 14 years. It shares its current classification with drugs such as heroin and crack cocaine.

    Anti-drug campaigners have attacked any move to downgrade ecstasy. The shadow Home Secretary, Dominic Grieve, said: "Drugs wreck lives and destroy communities. Ecstasy is a drug that is very damaging."

    Critics have also called into question the ACMD's fitness to advise ministers. David Raynes, a member of the National Drug Prevention Alliance, said the ACMD should be "an impartial centre of expertise carefully weighing evidence and public good". He added: "Recent behaviour leads me to believe it is being controlled by a few ideologues, pursuing a broadly liberal and pro-drug, legalisation agenda."

    Mary Brett, spokesperson for Europe Against Drugs, said: "The present ACMD includes few members who take a definite drug-prevention stance. It is imperative that a committee of this importance needs to be properly balanced."

    Professor Andy Parrott, an experton ecstasy, said he was concerned that there were insufficient scientists on the committee. "It is quite an odd committee. It is not very scientific. This issue should not just be about opinions – it should be about the actual effects this drug has on people's brains and bodies. I have conducted years of research into ecstasy and I can tell them that it is not possible to take this drug without being damaged by it."

    In a critical report on drugs policy in 2006, MPs on the Science and Technology Select Committee accused the ACMD of a "dereliction of duty" over its failure to alert the Home Office to serious doubts about the system's effectiveness. The MPs also expressed "surprise and disappointment" that the ACMD had never reviewed the evidence for ecstasy's class A status.

    A Home Office spokeswoman said the ecstasy review was "hugely unwelcome". She added: "Ecstasy can and does kill unpredictably; there is no such thing as a 'safe dose'. The Government firmly believes that ecstasy should remain a class A drug."


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  1. Sippin40oz
    The government ignores another recommendation by its own advisory organization?! How arrogant do you have to be to think you know better then independent experts! No one wonder our country is in such a bad state after a decade of labours polices...
  2. Stu Bai
    Says it all, really.
  3. Rehab Quitter
    they shud legalise the 1s round swims area there tht shit got more of a buzz of paracetamol
  4. honourableone

    You've hit the nail on the head there. The advisory council must be pulling their hair out, they never get taken seriously. It goes to show that drug legislation as completely based on politics and appealing to the close minded that get all their opinion from the media, and that any scientific, economical or statistical sense that people try and bring to it gets ignored.
  5. cannabis-sam
    Downgrade ecstacy say UK ministerial advisors

    As to the economic arguments, I suppose abandoning the equally futile war on child porn would also save money. Those who want to legalise it certainly appear to think so.

    The benefits of legalisation, they argue, is that the children would be monitered and registered, way and that the taxation raised could go towards child abuse charities. It would also take out the criminal elements like rape and kidnapping and provide the child with protection. Anything that did not involve consent would be criminalised.

    Essentially the same kind of pseudo intellectual nonsense you are talking about drugs.

    But I am interested to see that economic expedience plays a role in your arguments, it reminds me of the other comment I read elsewhere: "One of the benefits of a free market narcotics industry would be the fact that it would,hopefully ,wipe out 2/3rds of the chav population. It means that the rest of us will be able to get on with our lives without having to worry about them."
  6. CuriousJOE
    Ecstasy "Should be downgraded"

    A new entry has been added to File Archive

    Misues of drugs advisory pannel recommends downgrading ecstasy to a Class B drug, UK.

    The link shows a disscussion on the subject aired on the BBC.

    To check it out, rate it or add comments, visit Ecstasy "Should be downgraded"
    The comments you make there will appear in the posts below.
  7. Waffa
    I feel so sorry for scientist who work so hard to bring out the truth but in the end gov just tells them to f off because "these are not results WE wanted,(now get bask to work and bring us some results we can use!)"

    Just makes me so mad... and most people in world just ... does nothing, sad. arrrh.. .this makes me mad
  8. Sippin40oz
    What annoys me even more annoyed is the fact that we pay for this advisory organization because the government says we need it. So not only are they ignoring sound advice but also wasting our money! :applause:
  9. Nature Boy
    By that sound rationale, you can ignore the ramblings of Mary Brett and David Raynes, two people with a non-expert status and a clear bias against any recreational use of drugs. Andy Parrott's rash response seems a little unusual to me. It appears to be steeped in some form of bitterness. To say that ecstasy is impossible to use without causing damage is also a peculiar statement. What about purity and moderation in dosage? The man is a supposed expert when it comes to drugs and behaviour but behavioral patterns are not grounded in empirical evidence.
  10. Wierd Logic
    So does ECSTACY wreck lives and destroy commmunities? Because Squirrel don't think it does!
  11. Sippin40oz
    Individuals wreck lives and destroy communities. In my opinion everyone should be responsible for our own actions instead of blamming chemicals for poor descision making!! If your an idiot your gonna fuck things up no matter if your sober or not!
  12. Sven99
    They've done it again. When the cannabis reclassification was discussed, the gov't said they were going to upgrade it before the ACMD made a decision. And now, the ACMD haven't returned a verdict annd the home office is already saying it should stay at class A. Why do they even bother with consulting the ACMD if they've already made their decision?
  13. Sippin40oz
    Re: Ecstasy "Should be downgraded"

    Thats a quite interesting video. Its good that the bbc have invited someone along to discuss this story who actually has a reasonable view on drugs! Professor Colin Blakemore should be commended for his obviously open minded opinion based on professional advice and FACTS. Colin Blakemore should run for Prime Minister, how nice would it be to have someone in charge who has an intelligent unbiased view on drugs!? :thumbsup:
  14. Ontherooftops
    Re: Ecstasy "Should be downgraded"

    Swim tries to be open about these things, and he supposes all substances are different for everyone, and most importantly he believes that all people have the right to do with their bodies and minds what they please, everything should be legal etc. and anyone in any sort of government position pushing for any sort of legalization is always a good sign.

    But damn if he doesn't understand drug law in the UK. MDMA, ok, but ecstacy? A bunch of psuedoephedrine and dextromethorphan and whatever the hell else.
    Right after psilocybes are made illegal?

    Yeah ok, a dumb and content populace is easy to control, so MDMA can pass; but the explication of truth or higher knowledge via psychedelics is strictly forbidden (don't need no sheep learning that the fences have gaps).
  15. Chalky
    For sure! I never, ever thought that me and my family would be among the (admittedly) relatively small (but rapidly growing) minority of people that fall into this category, but after over 15 years of practising denial, it was this drug that finally destroyed my delusions that it was all just a bit of harmless fun...

    Two and a half years ago my younger brother died as a direct consequence of taking ecstasy, and I have therefore experienced at first-hand just exactly how it can not only destroy the life of a true diamond in their prime (27yo) in an instant, but also the hugely devastating effect that it has had on a large number of other people, most of whom have never touched illegal 'street' drugs in their lives!

    Neither of us were 'novices' at 'the game' by any stretch of the imagination, and believe me...many raucous nights were had...but if you asked me now what I'd prefer...I'd give them all back if I could....

    I ain't gonna say 'dont do it' cos that would be futile and hypocritical...I fully understand how we all need to escape the mundane reality of life in this dump of a country, but what I will say is ...'as long as your doing it, you are taking a chance with not only your own life...but with that of everyone who cares about you....think on.' ...but then you already know this! And some of you seem pretty confident that it will never 'happen' to you...again...think on!

    It never 'happened' to me....but it did to the person I cared about most in the world, and i won't even begin to describe the effect that has had, not just on me, but family, friends, etc... (ie: a community!)

    I reckon this makes me more of a (begrudging) 'expert' on the subject than most...

    Anyway, onto the subject of Re-classification:

    a) a tool used by governments to control 'low-society' through fear and uncertainty


    b) a tool used by governments to generate statistics over the medium term which can then be used to maximise potential future revenue streams once they have manipulated themselves sufficiently far away from any previous stand-point they may have had on teh subject, and slapped a kite-mark on it!

    Let's face it the brewing industry is on its knees, just about every man and his dog is growing weed in his own home, and partaking in other 'recreational activities' that the govt can't be actively seen to be taxing (as this would effectively be condoning these 'activities') so it's all just, basically, a market-testing system...

    Cheers all, thanks for the rant, i feel much better for it :)
  16. Sven99
    Chalky - good first post.

    I do have to ask though (and I apologise in advance if its a painful subject) do you think that either impurities or lack of information contributed to your brother's death? Because if so, he surely would have been safer if ecstacy were legal.
  17. Chalky
    Hey Sven99,

    You are quite correct in assuming that it is still a very painful, confusing subject. I have so many unanswered, and quite honestly unanswerable questions which continue to torment me on a daily basis regarding this.:s If I knew the answers to them it might be easier to deal with...

    I would have to say 'no' to the latter, and 'very probably' to the former.
    He knew the score; he knew how to look after himself and was aware of the potential pitfalls.

    I cannot accurately comment on the issue of actual purity. I was not with him when he died. I hadn't seen him for almost a week.

    I do know, however, that he was not himself emotionally at the time, and was struggling to deal with a lot of big changes going on in his life.
    This combination of external factors, and a dodgy batch of pills, had led to him making what was obviously a grave error of judgement.

    OK it's easy to say: "Shouldn't have been doing pills if this was the case" and I would agree, and so would he, I'm sure...with the benefit of hindsight. Unfortunately, he doesn't have this privilege...

    "One mistake is all it takes...there's NO second chances!!"

    This is my point, and my warning to all. It's something that is often said, either by those with the confidence and belief that it won't happen to them, or the people who don't live on the edge - because they are not prepared to take this chance. This is the reality, people!

    I agree that both of the factors that you refer to are real and valid points, and if addressed correctly would definitely lead to a generally safer experience for all, however there will always be those really unlucky few for whom a certain 'good night out' will be their last...regulated or not.

    But then you could get run over by a bus...or stabbed up in the kebab shop...
  18. honourableone
    Ecstacy @should be class B drug@

    The body that advises the government on illegal drugs has recommended ecstasy be downgraded to a Class B drug.
    Ecstasy is currently grouped with heroin, cocaine, crack and LSD in Class A. Suppliers of such drugs can face a life sentence in prison.
    But the Home Office has rejected the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs' recommendation.
    The council's head, Prof David Nutt, accused ministers of being swayed by "politics" and not scientific evidence.
    He said: "Our job is not to give messages to the public. Our job is to tell the home secretary and drugs minister about the relative harms of drugs.
    "I think they have accepted our evidence but I think they have made a political decision."
    A row broke out earlier this month after Prof Nutt likened the dangers of ecstasy use and horse-riding.
    Home Secretary Jacqui Smith responded by accusing him of trivialising the dangers of the drug. He later apologised for any offence and said the views were not those of his colleagues on the council.
    Latest evidence
    The advisory council reviewed the latest evidence on ecstasy last year and held a secret ballot of its 31 members on the issue of re-classification.
    It is understood the result was not unanimous, but a majority voted to recommend moving the drug to Class B.

    The advisers' view is that ecstasy is not as harmful as other Class A drugs and causes far fewer deaths.
    It says ecstasy use has no significant impact on short-term memory loss and finds little evidence to link ecstasy to criminal behaviour.
    But it will call for further research into the effects of taking ecstasy, particularly on younger users.
    The council is made up of medical and pharmaceutical experts, as well as people with experience of social problems caused by drugs, including police and lawyers. Its role is to keep classification under review and advise ministers on any measures it thinks should be taken about drugs misuse.
    Martin Barnes, chief executive of the think tank DrugScope, who sits on the advisory council, said it was crucial that a rigorously independent body was entrusted with this type of research precisely because drug classification was politically charged.
    He did not dismiss the dangers of ecstasy, but said the job of the council was to dispassionately look at the relative harm of ecstasy compared with other drugs, such as cocaine, crack or heroin.
    The council's report found that over the past 10 years, deaths in which ecstasy was implicated averaged between 33 and 50 per year, while deaths where it was considered the sole drug responsible averaged between 10 to 17 per year.
    But the Police Superintendents' Association of England and Wales has expressed opposition to suggestions that ecstasy should be downgraded to a Class B drug.
    Ian Johnston, president of the association, told the BBC: "This is not some academic or scientific exercise, this is dealing with people's lives."
    Mr Barnes said that when no other drug was involved, ecstasy accounted for between 10 and 17 deaths a year.
    Last month, the Home Office restored cannabis from Class C to Class B, against the wishes of the advisory council.
    BBC home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw said this latest recommendation raised real doubts about how long the council could continue in its present form if its experts continued to be ignored.
    'E every weekend'
    Dr Evan Harris, science spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, argued that Prof Nutt was engaging in "rational debate" when he compared the dangers of taking ecstasy and those of horse-riding.
    Speaking to GMTV, Dr Harris said: "The problem with putting ecstasy in Class A... is that if thousands of young people take 'e' every weekend, and they see that it is in the same class as heroin and cocaine and crack cocaine, then it is hard to argue that those are particularly more dangerous than ecstasy."
    Most common club drug
    Comes as pills and as a powder
    Active ingredient is a drug called MDMA
    Home Office surveys show 4.8% of UK 10-25 year olds have tried it at least once and 9% of 18-25 year olds have. (Offending, Crime & Justice Survey 2004)
    Linked to 58 deaths in 2007
    Ecstasy is an illegal class A drug
    Maximum penalty for possession is 14 years in prison. For supply, life in prison. You can get an unlimited fine for both

    Source: Kate Roach, BBC Surgery
    The row erupted following the publication of an article by Prof Nutt in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.
    In it, he wrote: "Drug harm can be equal to harms in other parts of life. There is not much difference between horse-riding and ecstasy."
    He said horse-riding accounted for about 10 deaths a year, and went on: "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."
    Jacqui Smith said she was "surprised" and "disappointed" by his comments and told him he had gone beyond his role as head of the advisory council.
    The professor later said in a statement: "I am sorry to those who may have been offended by my article.
    "I would like to assure those who have read my article that I had no intention of trivialising the dangers of ecstasy." Fatalities from ecstasy are caused by massive organ failure from overheating or the effects of drinking too much water.

    By BBC News, 11th of February 2009
    Original Source: (includes video and sound extract from TV programme)
  19. Sven99
    Thanks for the response.

    There certainly will be those who draw the short straw and die as a result of their actions, and that is a very unfortunate thing, but this is unfortunately the reality of the situation. People will always engage in activity that is potentially harmful to them - that may be using ecstacy, or it may be drinking, or driving a car or going skydiving. As a society we must accept that these things will take place, and try to make them as safe as possible - and the only way we can do that is with legalisation and regulation.
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