THE Government failed to act on warnings six years ago about deadly legal high meow meow, a leading drugs expert claimed last night. Professor David Nutt, a former Government narcotics adviser, warned Labour in 2004 that new types of man-made substances would soon be available and sold over the internet. Last week meow meow was blamed for the deaths of Louis Wainwright, 18, and Nicholas Smith, 19. Here Prof Nutt, now chairman of the Independent Scientific Committee On Drugs, explains how the Government ignored all the warnings.
IN 2004 we predicted a revolution in the nature and type of drugs available to the public. We have reached that point now.
When I was on the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), we predicted the arrival of drugs such as mephedrone - synthetic, man-made substances available on the internet.
Our findings were published in a major Government report on the future of drug taking.
We predicted that new synthetic "recreational" substances, including mephedrone (also known as meow meow), would become available.
We also thought the backstreet dealer would be supplanted by internet suppliers for these "legal highs".
Last summer, when I was chair of the ACMD, we urged the Government to overhaul the classification system to take account of this new breed of drug.
We suggested they introduce a Category D, in which new substances can be placed until we know more about them. The Home Office rejected this idea.
But if we used this new category we could judge how widely any substance was being used and also how dangerous it was - and ultimately whether it should be banned.
New Zealand operates such a system very effectively and it has also been adopted in Ireland.
Category D is a "waiting room" where drugs can be put before they are well understood - sales are limited to over-18s, the product is quality-controlled so users know what they are getting, at doses limited as far as possible to safe levels. And it comes with health education messages. Society can limit sales and collect data on use. Manufacturers and shops which disobey these regulations are punished, and the young are protected, but not criminalised.
A game of cat and mouse between legislators and young people may now be under way.
The science is too uncertain and the Government's own advisers on the ACMD do not have the necessary expertise.
It is important to remember that ANY drug in sufficient quantities is dangerous. This should not be a debate about whether drugs should be legal or illegal. It should be about how we can best protect our young people from the harms caused by drugs.
The Home Office's decision was disappointing for us. If this new category of drugs had been adopted we would at least now have a system in place for dealing with mephedrone.
We never received a satisfactory answer as to why our suggestions in the report were rejected. I believe the Government didn't want to embark on something so different - they preferred to go down the old route and continue to do things as they'd be done before. But this was wrong.
Click here to find out more!
As we are seeing now, the situation required a new approach.
But their decision didn't surprise us.
The Government had rejected previous advice from the ACMD.
The scientific credibility of the current ACMD is limited.
Many of the country's leading experts are now on the Independent Scientific Committee On Drugs, which I chair. We are soon to launch an extensive survey to investigate the use and effects of mephedrone.
A spokesman from the Home Office said: "So far the three most common legal highs identified have been banned, and advice on mephedrone will be given to the Home Secretary on March 29.
"The Government want to introduce durable laws for long-term control which, in the case of legal highs, will also allow for related substances to be controlled.
"When the Home Office receives the advice of the ACMD it will act immediately."
March 23, 2010
Dear Drugs-Forum readers: We are a small non-profit that runs one of the most read drug information & addiction help websites in the world. We serve over 4 million readers per month, and have costs like all popular websites: servers, hosting, licenses and software. To protect our independence we do not run ads. We take no government funds. We run on donations which average $25. If everyone reading this would donate $5 then this fund raiser would be done in an hour. If Drugs-Forum is useful to you, take one minute to keep it online another year by donating whatever you can today. Donations are currently not sufficient to pay our bills and keep the site up. Your help is most welcome. Thank you.
If Labour Had Listened To Me, Drugs Like Mephedrone Might Already Be Banned