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jonathan7
10-30-2009, 04:02 PM
Alan Johnson sacked the Government’s chief drug adviser tonight over his remarks that drugs were less dangerous than alcohol and cigarettes.

The Home Secretary wrote to David Nutt, chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, asking him to resign after he had attacked Jacqui Smith, Mr Johnson’s predecessor, over the decision to make cannabis a Class B drug.

Mr Johnson finally lost patience with Professor Nutt after a string of controversial statements. According to informed sources Mr Johnson believed that Mr Nutt had gone too far and feared that he would do so again and again. “He does not seem to be able to stop himself from straying into politics,” a source said.

Professor Nutt had accused Ms Smith of “distorting and devaluing” scientific research. He claimed that Ecstasy, LSD and cannabis were less dangerous than alcohol and cigarettes. The classification system was being used in a political way, he said.

Sources said Mr Johnson was sacking Professor Nutt more in sorrow than anger but that he felt he had no alternative. “Anything that appears to downgrade the dangers of drugs is just not acceptable and it should not have been said.”

In the letter, the Home Secretary wrote: "I cannot have public confusion between scientific advice and policy and have therefore lost confidence in your ability to advise me as Chair of the ACMD.

"I would therefore ask you to step down from the Council with immediate effect."

In his reply, Professor Nutt said he was "disappointed" by the sentiments expressed by Mr Johnson.

He added: "Whilst I accept that there is a distinction between scientific advice and government policy there is clearly a degree of overlap.

"If scientists are not allowed to engage in the debate at this interface then you devalue their contribution to policy making and undermine a major source of carefully considered and evidence-based advice."

Mr Nutt said later: “Politics is politics. Science is science. “

Earlier in the year Professor caused alarm at the Home Office after suggesting the risks of taking Ecstasy were no greater than those of frequent horse riding.

It comes after Professor Nutt used a lecture at King's College in London and briefing paper to attack what he called the "artificial" separation of alcohol and tobacco from illegal drugs.

A spokesman for the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs said Professor Nutt spoke as an academic, and not for the council.

The professor said smoking cannabis created only a "relatively small risk" of psychotic illness, and claimed those who advocated moving Ecstasy into Class B from Class A had "won the intellectual argument".

Public concern over the links between high-strength cannabis, known as skunk, and mental illness led the government to reclassify cannabis to Class B from C last year.

In 2004, then Home Secretary David Blunkett had approved the reclassification of cannabis from Class B - which it had been since 1971 - to Class C.

But in 2008, Jacqui Smith announced that she would reverse the 2004 decision and put cannabis back into category B.

The decision was taken despite official advisers recommending against the change.

Source; Click Me (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article6897209.ece)

Ok, I'm going to admit, I'm considerably cheesed at this, because the British government wastes British taxpayers money on hiring experts, and when ever they say anything which involves the government having to change policy they ignore them. What is the point in having experts if you don't listen to them?

I love the fact that the advisor was apparently "getting involved in politics" - which seemed to translate as; he can't say anything which doesn't agree with current government policy...

Totenkopf
11-01-2009, 03:19 PM
Begs the question of vetting. Does anyone in govt these days check to see who they're bringing on board? I suspect that Mr. Nutt's attitudes about drugs are not some recent late night epiphany.

Jae Onasi
11-01-2009, 04:36 PM
Dr. Nutt is a nut, to be honest. Ecstasy is highly addictive and should not be considered in the same safety profile as horse-riding. That's a guy who's clearly ignoring science to make his own personal political views about drug use public.

jonathan7
11-01-2009, 05:37 PM
Dr. Nutt is a nut, to be honest. Ecstasy is highly addictive and should not be considered in the same safety profile as horse-riding. That's a guy who's clearly ignoring science to make his own personal political views about drug use public.

No offence Jae, but the statistics, say otherwise.

Number of deaths in the UK due to Ecstasy every year; 40
Number of deaths in the UK due to horse riding every year; 100

Number of horse-riders in the UK; 600,000
Estimates are that every single week 1,000,000 Ecstasy tables are consumed.

Ecstasy in of itself is not addictive - or at least none of my friends who take it are addicted to it (the same friends are however addicted to other drugs). Though I am unaware of general studies into addiction and Ecstasy.

If the Government wanted policy on moral grounds, fair enough, but the statistics doesn't back the Governments policy up. Especially when you consider both alchol and tobacco kill more people than all the illegal drugs combined.

Astor
11-01-2009, 05:46 PM
I love the fact that the advisor was apparently "getting involved in politics" - which seemed to translate as; he can't say anything which doesn't agree with current government policy...

Of course he can't speak out - they gave him his job, after all. :p

To be honest, I haven't really paid all that much attention to this story over the past few days, but now it seems to be sparking a series of resignations in protest of Professor Nutt's dismissal.

I don't believe the Home Secretary's line about 'crossing into politics', and it does seem that he was sacked for giving advice that the Government didn't want to hear, which is silly when they could have simply dismissed the advice without dismissing the man.

Ecstasy is highly addictive and should not be considered in the same safety profile as horse-riding.

Horse riding is not without risks - the statistics jon provides prove that (although, i'd be interested to know how many of those killed were using the appropriate safety equipment, seeing as a BP and Helmet are not legally required when riding).

Although, that said, the vast majority of those riders come to relatively little harm (i've only fallen off once in three years, with no injury apart from a bruised bottom) - and I confess I know incredibly little about the mental and physical effects of ecstasy, so I think that the analogy may be ill-chosen.

Darth Avlectus
11-01-2009, 05:52 PM
Source; Click Me (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article6897209.ece)

Ok, I'm going to admit, I'm considerably cheesed at this, because the British government wastes British taxpayers money on hiring experts, and when ever they say anything which involves the government having to change policy they ignore them. What is the point in having experts if you don't listen to them?

I love the fact that the advisor was apparently "getting involved in politics" - which seemed to translate as; he can't say anything which doesn't agree with current government policy...

So far as that goes, it is precisely why I am against government ousting privately owned independent information and media sources, regardless of merit or non-merit to the information; correct or incorrect. Yeah I understand one media company twists things one way, but when there's 4 or 5 other companies twisting news the other way at the same time, all it comes accross as is silencing naysay and disagreement.

Now having said that...

@ subject: to be honest though, research is inherently biased because it takes a point of view. Sure the Prof. has research to back his position but so did the advisor.

Also, there is much more merit than intellectual. Like street smarts and common sense.

I should think that a rational man of science would take more heed to the reality that when you introduce substances which make people irrational, that things can and WILL go wrong. And that such risk ought to be handled carefully as possible. Bringing such drugs down into a level of recreation on par with horseback riding, to me, is just asking for something to go wrong.

I.E. you legalize hallucinogens, but it is illegal to operate a vehicle under the influence of this like any other. This still fails to address the fact that when you make something legal, you inevitably increase the incidence/occurence of accidents involving the hallucinogenic substances. That's just common sense. As more people commonly use it, the chances increase regardless of the law.

jonathan7
11-01-2009, 10:36 PM
Several of the Governments drugs advisor's have resigned in protest over David Nutt's sacking, with more resignations expected. Further discussion from a Times Columnist here (The Times/Sunday Times is a centre to centre right UK Newspaper).

This Government is fond of promoting its decisions as “evidence-based policy”, grounded in the findings of research. Civil servants and scientists, however, like to joke that what it really values is something rather different: policy-based evidence that justifies a course of action that has been decided on for political reasons.

Ministers, of course, are perfectly entitled to do this. They are democratically elected; expert advisers are not. While scientists might prefer politicians to do as they are told, their view is often just one of many factors to consider.

Few scientists who advise the Government are naive enough to expect that their opinions will never be overruled, but if this is to happen they rightly expect certain behaviour in return. They should be consulted in good faith before a decision has been made. Their advice should be clearly communicated to the public, along with an explanation of why it has not been taken. And they should not be admonished or silenced if their views are not politically convenient.

In the David Nutt affair, the Government has failed on all counts. The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs was asked to review cannabis after the Prime Minister had made his intention to toughen its classification clear. Its findings were then released through the Home Office press office, which briefed journalists negatively. Professor Nutt’s dismissal has now provided the final insult.

This saga could certainly deter experts from advising the Government, not only in science but in other areas of public policy. We are not talking about ministers that are bound by collective responsibility, or Civil Service employees, but independent academics with a day job who often give their time and knowledge for free. They have a right to speak plainly, without being spun against or sacked. There is no point in having expert advisers if they can say only what the Government wants to hear.

In highlighting so clearly how ministers ought not to behave, Alan Johnson may yet have performed a service to colleagues who value scientific advice more highly than he does. His spectacular own goal with the scientific community presents an opportunity to strengthen its voice in Whitehall.

Lord Drayson, the Science Minister, would do well to use it to press for two sensible proposals made recently by the Commons Science and Technology Select Committee that would help to prevent a repeat of this fiasco.

An independent media office serving all of the Government’s advisory panels would remedy the ridiculous situation where the Home Office was tasked with communicating scientific advice it was keen to undermine.

Departmental chief scientists, too, should be required to report and explain all instances where expert advice has been sought but not followed. Both measures would make ministers think twice before commissioning opinions they have no intention of heeding and then shooting the messenger.

Source (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/science/politics/article6898720.ece)

To further address several of you, smoking is a far more harmful activity than taking ecstasy; while I would advise anyone to do neither, it is entirely bizarre that smoking is legal, which has far more health related issues, kills more people than taking ecstasy. Indeed, most death's from ecstasy, are actually things added to the drug by drug dealers so they can sell more of the things - so if ecstasy was legalised and therefore under quality control, the number of deaths would go down.

This is by no means to say ecstasy does not have long term health implications, however both the social and health implications of ecstasy are less than both alcohol and tobacco. Taking an overdose of ecstasy can cause death or brain damage, long term effects of its continued use, include reduce concentration spam, and general decreases in cognitive ability as well as paranoia. That said, as a drug, it also causes a sense of peace in those who use it, so it does not cause the violent outbursts that alchol can cause; and smoking is frankly in health terms one of the worst drugs out there...

Qui-Gon Glenn
11-02-2009, 12:36 AM
Well Jae, you are right and you are wrong, concerning Ecstasy. That is because the recipe for Ecstasy changes per manufacturer. Depending on the mixture, it can be incredibly addictive or not so much. Generally, the underlying cause of addiction in Ecstasy is heroin or methamphetamine addiction, which can be components of Ecstasy. That this is ignored by Dr. Nutt is a poor oversight on his part, yet I still agree with his conclusions.

Alcohol and cigarettes remain the most dangerous drugs in our time, because they are incredibly addictive and simultaneously considered benign enough to be allowable. Seems a little arbitrary to choose some drugs as ok and others as not... unless there is some BIG BUSINESS involved.........................

Let them do as they please, and they will die or not. Prohibit them from doing as they please, and they will die or not. Legalize and tax, and at least we're making money and can then help the addicted fools that result.

For the record, I support NORML.

El Sitherino
11-02-2009, 01:50 AM
Dr. Nutt is a nut, to be honest. Ecstasy is highly addictive and should not be considered in the same safety profile as horse-riding. That's a guy who's clearly ignoring science to make his own personal political views about drug use public.

Actually ecstacy is in no way more addictive than sugar products. It is however highly destructive of braincells, but no more so than alcohol.

This has me slightly cheesed as well, apparently they don't like people telling the truth, then again seems to be that way many places.

I.E. you legalize hallucinogens, but it is illegal to operate a vehicle under the influence of this like any other. This still fails to address the fact that when you make something legal, you inevitably increase the incidence/occurence of accidents involving the hallucinogenic substances. That's just common sense. As more people commonly use it, the chances increase regardless of the law.
They said that repealing prohibition would increase alcoholism and alcohol related death 10 fold, in actuality it went down some 80%. There is currently no study which conclusively proves that legalization will effectively increase use and therefore misuse of substances, going by common standards over the last millenia it's more likely that with better regulation will come better care for those who suffer from less than favorable ideas when it comes to recreational use of mind altering substances, a category of which alcohol and tobacco actually belong.

Generally, the underlying cause of addiction in Ecstasy is heroin or methamphetamine addiction, which can be components of Ecstasy

This is true, however these forms came into existence to take advantage of the illegality of the drug and give dealers an edge on making easy money from one of the most trendy drugs. Should regulation make its way into our culture we'd be unlikely to see any form like this, that is unless of course we let soulless corporations get ahold of contracts to be the sole creators.
Hopefully it wouldn't be someone like DuPont, since we already know what they're capable of to make easy money. And in all honesty with the ability to creat synthetics that can take the place of the safrole oil we'll be able to provide all those crazy kids in the Netherlands with ecstacy that doesn't cause the death of the Cambodian jungle and it's law enforcement/rural civilians.

jonathan7
11-02-2009, 07:28 AM
Prof David Nutt worded a reply to his sacking, this should also answer those who were accusing him of wanting to legalise the drug, that this was not the case; but Alan Johnson is nothing but an old school labour bullyboy and for all the promises of Gordon Brown's government to "listen and learn" I've seen very little intelligence in his government, let alone listening or learning...

In July this year I gave a lecture on the assessment of drug harms and how these relate to the legislation controlling drugs. According to Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary, some contents of this lecture meant I had crossed the line from science to policy and so he sacked me. I do not know which comments were beyond the line or, indeed, where the line was, but the Government has lost its major expert on drugs and drug harms and may indeed lose the rest of its scientific advisers in the field.

All drugs are potentially harmful and many of the harms can be measured. We can use scientific methods to estimate these and produce a ranking, and compare our scores with their location in the Misuse of Drugs Act. Heroin and cocaine appear to be in the correct place (Class A), whereas Ecstasy (Class A) and cannabis do not (Class B).

The reason for making drugs illegal is to let society reduce harms by punishing their sale and use. The purpose of having the ABC classes is to scale penalties according to relative harms. Possession of a class A drug for personal use can lead to seven years in prison, for class B, it is five years and for class C, two years.

The classes are also important in educating the public about the relative harms of drugs. So it is imperative that the classification of drugs truly reflects their harms, otherwise injustices may occur and the educational message be undermined. Scientific inquiry into drug harms must also be honest and accurate so that the best quality evidence is available to the experts and government. Legal drugs such as alcohol and tobacco are as harmful as many illegal drugs and currently score highly on our ranking list.

What are appropriate penalties for drug use? This question has moral and practical aspects, but the penalties must reflect the real and relative harms of drugs.

My sacking has cast a huge shadow over the relationship of science to policy. Several of the science experts from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) have resigned in protest and it seems likely that many others will follow suit. This means the Home Office no longer has a functioning advisory group, which is very unfortunate given the ever-increasing problems of drugs and the emergence of new ones. Also it seems unlikely that any “true” scientist — one who can only speak the truth — will be able to work for this, or future, Home Secretaries.

Others have suggested a way forward: create a truly independent advisory council. This is the only realistic way out of the current mess.

Prof David Nutt was chairman of ACMD

Jae Onasi
11-02-2009, 10:09 AM
Well, if Nutt had worded it appropriately in the first place, he might have kept his job.

@Sithy--the research I've done and pharm I've studied shows that ecstasy can be very addictive or not at all depending on the person, but there's no way to predict who's going to become addicted.

Since it's so good at destroying brain cells, it can hardly be put in the same health profile as horseback riding. I'm not in danger of killing brain cells every time I ride a horse, for instance. That is where Nutt erred and presented incorrect information. The mortality rates may be similar, but the morbidity rates, especially longer term, are very different. I checked on recent studies, and the consensus is that it's a drug that's pretty destructive of neurons, so much so that the WHO recommended it be illegal. Someone may die about the same rate from either ecstasy or horseback riding in any given year, but someone is far more likely to become a total gomer from ecstasy and have longterm disability with crappy quality of life. In addition, if helmets were encouraged in horseback riding, the death rate would drop.

Also, if someone is going to complain about the policies of one's boss, it's usually wise to work it out in private. Announcing you disagree with your boss publicly is a sure way to get yourself some negative attention from your boss. That was just dumb with a capital 'Duh!'

Det. Bart Lasiter
11-02-2009, 12:02 PM
my research shows that statistical comparisons have a 50% chance of people taking them literally. you could say making a statistical comparison has the same risk of people taking what you say literally as marriage does.

adamqd
11-02-2009, 12:11 PM
I can tell you from experience that ecstacy did more mental damage to me than any amount of Alcohol or Ganja... When I think of my times using ecstasy I just remember the overwhelming Lack of control and anxiety that almost makes your heart beat out of your Chest, the near comatose state that me and friends have woken up from, It is Far far far more dangerous than Horse Riding, regardless of Specific drug/hobby related crimes/accidents and controlled trials. concerning Mr Nutt, I dont watch the News.