Nutt vows to set up new drug body

By Doublefields · Nov 4, 2009 · Updated Nov 7, 2009 · ·
  1. Doublefields
    The drugs adviser controversially sacked by the government says he will establish a new scientific committee if the current advisory body disbands.

    Professor David Nutt was removed from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs last week after saying cannabis was less harmful than tobacco or drink.

    Two other members have resigned, and the rest are to meet the home secretary next week to discuss its future role.

    If talks fail, Professor Nutt says he has backing for an independent body.

    The professor said he had been pledged sufficient funding to cover the costs of a new council. The present Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs costs £150,000 per year to run.

    But he refused to comment on where this money would come from, stressing only that "it was not surprising that there is someone out there who wants to support sensible voices".

    Responding to the suggestion of a new council, a spokesperson for the Home Office said: "The government already has an independent advisory body to give advice on drug related issues."


    There have been no further resignations since Dr Les King and pharmacist Marion Walker left the 31-strong committee over the weekend.

    In principle, without a pharmacist on board, the ACMD is contravening its statutory requirements.

    The remaining members are due to meet Alan Johnson on Tuesday 10 November to discuss how the body will continue to function.

    It is thought likely they will press for written assurances from Mr Johnson as to how government sees their role.

    "They have to make their own minds up," said the professor, asked how many might resign.

    "All I can say is many of them are completely behind me and many of them are minded to resign. If they all get the right kind of concessions, they might not."

    Mr Johnson sacked Professor Nutt last week after a lecture he gave stating his view that illicit drugs should be classified according to the harm they cause, and that alcohol and tobacco caused more harm than LSD, cannabis and ecstasy.

    The sacking, Mr Johnson said, was because he had "crossed a line" into politics with remarks that amounted to "lobbying" against government drugs policy.

    Spice wars

    Speaking at a media briefing on Wednesday, Professor Nutt claimed a number of high profile drugs projects were threatened, regardless of whether the committee stayed or was disbanded as the expertise of the departed Les King was so important.

    He highlighted work into what is known as Spice - an often complex mixture of synthetic cannabinoid drugs easily available on the internet and GBL - a chemical solvent party drug. Mr Johnson said over the summer that these would be banned by the end of the year.

    He also highlighted ongoing work into ketamine, the class C anaesthetic drug, and its effect on the bladder.

    And he raised questions about the drugs policy of a future Conservative Government, which he characterised as "back to get 'em off, lock 'em up and keep 'em clean".

    The Conservatives have already backed Mr Johnson's decision to sack Professor Nutt, saying some of his comments had been "particularly ill-judged".

    But Professor Nutt made clear he was unrepentant, and that it was high time society engaged with the real drug problem - alcohol. If it were developed tomorrow, it would quickly become illegal, he argued.

    "The government has to wake up to this timebomb and the health risks of alcohol," he said.

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  1. Phenoxide
    As much as I respect the stance Prof. Nutt has taken thus far, I can't help but feel that he is moving into the exact territory of politicization that the government presented as their rationale for his sacking. The way he drew attention to the fact that scientific advice is more often than not shunned if it does not fit the preconceived conclusion of party policy was admirable. It has made both major UK parties look extremely foolish, and rightly so.

    My concern is that now Prof. Nutt is frequently talking to the press and bringing up this idea of an independent drugs committee that he is becoming a politician. He says nothing that I'd disagree with, but the manner in which he is presented by the media is largely unhelpful and genuinely does fall outside the scope of scientific advice. The best thing he could do is stay quiet for a while and let the resignations and media coverage continue. He's already given the government enough rope to hang themselves with on this one.

    As for the proposed independent commitee, Nutt will be a pariah when it comes to interaction with any future UK government. Any independent body involving him would be nothing but a deliberately inflammatory and divisive game, and that will likely alienate the policy makers, the scientific community, and the electorate in general. Having this guy champion the scientific evidence would only serve to undermine it in the long term.
  2. Sven99
    I really get the impression that Professor Nutt doesn't have a clue how to talk to journalists. The man could do with some media training. I very much support what he has to say, but he could do with toning it down.
  3. Thor1394
    Well said phenoxide. SWIM thinks Nutt is just so mad for being sacked for speaking the truth he is no longer thinking straight. He did a great job making the goverment look like propaganda spreading idiots rather than logical thinking people but now he is so mad he is going to ruin the pieces he put into place. He just needs to cool down and let things take their course for a little bit. If he continues to push SWIM thinks he will take us back a step rather than moving us foward. If he keeps going the way he is the goverment will just make him out to be a drug loving psychopath and completely discredit him.
  4. Sven99
    I don't think there's anything wrong with what he's suggesting. But saying things like 'oh, all the scientists will quit' and 'i'm going to set up this new body' are setting himself up as a laughing stock should things not play out that way. I sincerely hope that he's right, but he's not leaving himself a good backup plan.

    Or maybe he's a lot cleverer than me, and knows exactly what he's doing. Who can say?
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