Giving them drugs, taking their lives away…

I should be writing my dissertation, but this requires comment. Finally, in peer reviewed journals, sensible discussion on the risks of drugs is coming to the fore.

This is something that the late Nicholas Saunders commented on nearly 20 years ago, though his statistical assessment put the risk as similar to that of fly-fishing. Whilst it is true that there is ‘no safe dose’ of ecstacy, as it can kill unpredictably this is also, as the Cheif Constable of North Wales suggested a year ago, the same for many over the counter pharmaceuticals, or other drugs consumed everyday.

Caffeine, a drug with an LD50  estimated at between 3-10g orally (a single packet of the US brand pep-pill No-Doze is reported to be possibly fatal)  is a key component of many peoples’ “morning stimulant” and present in many energy drinks and in pills such as Pro-Plus or the aforementioned No-Doze. Nicotine, a drug which provokes similar withdrawal effects to Opiates and Benzodiazepines is a major consumer product, yet still smokers may be refused coronary treatment. The list goes on; the argument about the criminogenic effects of alcohol consumption is well known.

Incidentally the risk of an unpredictable reaction from pure and unadulterated MDMA, taken safely, is very very low.

What is perhaps most problematic about this affair is the National Drug Prevention Alliance calling for Professor Nutt’s resignation. For what? presenting accurate statistics. If he did indeed present his ‘opinion’ as the NDPA suggest, I would agree that he should resign, as there is little room for opinion in the dissemination of medical fact. But it was statistical analysis he presented, and it is encouraging that this has been presented in an academic setting.

And now, Home Secretary Jaqui Smith has demanded and received an apology. This is perhaps most concerning.

Whatever one’s personal opinion on the morality or safety of drug use, Prof. Nutt has published an article, based upon statistical analysis of the dangers, in a respected peer review journal.

It is often argued that hiding debate around drugs serves a contrary purpose to the management of the drugs ‘problem’. Furthermore, to demand an apology for publishing a valid scientific argument is tantamount to censorship of scientific knowledge. Jaqui Smith has done both these things.

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