Thursday, October 29, 2009

Government Drugs policy criticised by Official Advisor

From the Guardian today:

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.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 criticised (former Home Secretary) Jacquie 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.

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.

...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.

RL: Cannabis was downgraded, then upgraded again, after pressure from my psychiatric colleagues, who see psychosis brought on by cannabis particularly skunk .

Skunk has been artificially developed to have high levels of THC, the part that stimulates the "branching thought" aspect of getting stoned. Natural cannabis has a higher level of CBD, which has a calming effect, and indeed, there is evidence that it has an antipsychotic (=anti-schizophrenia) effect.

By lowering the THC/CBD ratio, skunk may therefore tip more people into schizophrenia.

We should note that the illegality of cannabis drives consumers to grow skunk, since illegality makes imported grass and hashish more difficult to obtain. Homegrown weed is weak, so peeps turn to skunk.

I agree that drug policy should be changed and liberalised, because illegalisation is a failed policy, which arguably drives up drug use, puts consumers in touch with criminals, carries immense costs in terms of police and court effot, and is contributing to prison overcrowding. It is reasonable tosuppose that it contributes to paranoia.

However, moderate as ever, recognising that drugs policy is driven by irrationality, I would like to suggest that if politicians are determined to use the present absurd system, they should modify it, and leave Skunk cannabis into class B along with cough mixture and speed, but put regular cannabis down again into class C along with ketamine (?? wtf??), tranquillisers and some pain killers.

Anyone can tell the difference between skunk and regular dope. The clue is in the name; skunk has a distinctive smell. In court, there has to be forensic evidence, and the evidence can say what the THC/CBD ratio was in the specimen in question.

So we're bending over backwards here to accommodate the conservatives. Will they buy the logic? Don't hold your breath. It might make you dizzy and euphoric, and we wouldn't want that to happen, would we?

Medical Harm reduction note: If, regardless of Lex Asinus, you insist on exercising your right to mess with your state of consciousness regardless of the law, the best way to take it is either to eat or drink it (be careful of the dose, it takes longer to hit this way) or as a Vaporiser.

[update: within hours of my writing this, Government agents defenestrated the Drugs Advisor for giving them advice. That's the trouble with scientists, they only understand evidence, they don't understand politics]


weggis said...

BINGO! Comments!

DocRichard said...

Weggis, thanks for sorting out the comments problem. I wonder hao many people were getting a faceful of html?