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back to article Sacked drugs advisor pledges new expert body

Professor David Nutt, sacked last week by Home Secretary Alan Johnson for disagreeing with government policy, is considering setting up a new drugs advisory body. Quite how this would work, when the government seems unwilling to listen to the independent advice it is already being given, is not clear. Nutt said the current …

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Anonymous Coward

I agree with Nutt

You know, I actually agree with him. Alcohol has got out of control and we, as a society, don't seem to be able to get it under control. No government has the guts to actually do something about it; Tories included when it will come to the crunch.

The problem is ... what would it be replaced with? Don't tell me .. weed?

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Right - but wrong

Speaking as one who has battled with both drug and alcohol addiction, I actually agree with most of what Prof Nutt (oh! the tempatation for a gag about nutty professors...) has said about the classification of drugs and about alcohol being the UK's real problem.

However I think he has missed an important point. The body he resigned from was the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs. The key word there is "Advisory". In any walk of life where you are the "expert" then you can offer your opinion/advice but the person to whom you give it doesn't have to take it. That's life - get over it. Throwing your toys out of the pram and walking away achieves nothing - except that your replacement will be carefully chosen to be more in tune with their political masters.

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Anonymous Coward

I know what's coming next:

I sense a law change coming up. Listening to advice? The government? They've heard of it.

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Megaphone

Tax

While HM.Gov are getting in tax from booze and fag addicts and also happy to have the beer and fag loobyists around (some of these MP's need the work after they've finished at Westminster) there's no chance of any sensible dialogue about drugs.

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Grenade

Hmmm

"About the only people to have publicly supported Johnson's stance are the Tory Party."

Probably because they have a better understanding of real-world life!

Quoff Quoff!

Down the Reds, Bring on the (Greeny)Blues!

Huzzah!!

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I'm going to set up my own drugs advisory body

With blackjack. And hookers.

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nutsack

@Michelle Knight

Alcohol is not out of control, certain people have behavioural issues that are amplified by alcohol. The drug in itself is not evil. Even so, as the majority of people know how to drink responsibly, or even irresponsibly without bothering anyone else, it remains legal. People die of peanut allergy, yet there is no blanket ban on the Devil's legume. It even comes mixed with that other Satanic ingredient, salt.

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Boffin

Job opertunity

Good news, there is are some job opportunities out there and all you have to do is ignore all the medical and scientific evidence and tell the government what it wants to hear.

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Anonymous Coward

History repeating itself

When tobacco first arrived on our shores all the medical professionals said it would be the cure for all illnesses. Reality says it gives you lung cancer and kills you.

Dope comes to our shores and it's users/promoters says it cures all ills. Er,no. It actually makes you lathargic and whatever was bothering you can then go on it kill you unchecked because you're living in cookoo land. Doesn't sound like paradise anymore does it ?

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Anonymous Coward

@qwertyuiop

I haven't followed this very closely so I might be wrong, but I think he resigned not because they wouldn't follow advice (though I'm sure that was a factor), but because the government constantly misrepresented and lied regarding the boards work and conclusions. The ludicrous "Leathal" Skunk weed being one of the worst examples.

Personally I think government has no place enforcing individual morality on anyone, If someone wants to wreck their life with uncontrolled use of whatever their preferred poison is its up to them, just don't whine about the consequences afterward.

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@qwertyuiop

At which point did he 'throw his toys out of the pram' as you put it? He was asked to resign, he did not storm off in a huff. Professor Nutt gave a lecture for CCJD in his capacity as Head of Neuropharmacology at Imperial college, London. CCJD then reproduced this lecture in a pamphlet which is when the press pounced on it. Home office advisors attended this lecture in July and had no problems with it then. So why do they have problems with it now?

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No alternative?

Perhaps the reason that alcohol use is so out of hand is that society has criminalised the alternatives?

The name of the body is also somewhat pre-loaded - Misuse of Drugs

No, I think most of us who indulge are using them correctly, just as nature intended.

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Boffin

@qwertyuiop

What's the point the government requiring to have an advisory board if they completely ignore it? How about reworking the Act and making the advice of the board mandatory.

It's a novel approach but following the advice of experts may be better than having a personal decision made by some career politician with very little life experience*.

* Admittedly, Alan Johnson actually worked for 20 years, was then a full time union official for 10 years before becoming a politician. Unlike a large amount of the wasters in the government.

Actually, I'd like to see a requirement of previous experience for cabinet ministers. If you want to be the Minister of Defence, you have to have served in the armed forces. Being a teacher is necessary to be Minister of Eduction, etc.

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Happy

Ban Alcohol, legalise MDMA

Move over alcopops, E-pops in all the stores.

Total prohibition has failed, but if there is an alcohol substitute... say something that makes people happy and amenable... then maybe there may be a chance.

It really not the drugs that is the problem, it people, and their lack of control.

Just glad I don't need decide this.

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@qwertyuiop

The drug classification system was set up in 1971 to explicitly classify drugs by scientific assessment of their risk, NOT according to the whim of government policy.

Professor Nutt was asked to resign because he pointed out that the government were misusing the classification system by ignoring the scientific evidence.

Note : ignoring the EVIDENCE, not the "advice". The classification system is supposed to be independent of politics.

If I want reliable information about drugs, I'd rather listen to a Professor of Pharmacology than an ex-postman.

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@Anonymous Coward 17:02

And just what evidence are you basing your opinion on?

Seems like you've swallowed the government propaganda rather well.

Now run along and go get yourself an ID card, double-quick! It'll protect you from all forms of terrorism, don'tchyaknow?

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@qwertyuiop

As I understand it, he didn't resign, he was essentially sacked by the Home Secretary, from a body which is officially independent from the Home Office. Really, I think If anybody should resign, it should be Bloody Stupid Johnson, for clearly overstepping his authority on this one.

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Unhappy

@By Anonymous Coward Posted Wednesday 4th November 2009 17:07 GMT

Home office advisors attended this lecture in July and had no problems with it then. So why do they have problems with it now?

Thats easy to answer. In July it had not been reported by the tabloid press so the Government had no opinion on it. Once it had been reported then the Government knew what to fink.*

*fink: noun:- following slavishly the editorial line of the Daily Mail and other like minded news papers.

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Whose body is it anyway?

If I choose to spend my money on alcohol, why is that bad? If I chose to spend the tax payers' money on diamorphene, rather than a 40" television, why is that a problem?

Thank you, morons, for voting zookeepers into power -- because we all need people to stop us taking control of our own lives.

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@qwertyuiop

The important thing to remember is that the role of chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, from which David Nutt was sacked (or told to resign) was UNPAID. He was not paid to sit on this advisory council.

On the other hand, the speech that landed him in trouble was given in his official capacity as head of the Psychopharmacology Unit at the University of Bristol, and holder of the Edmond J Safra chair in Neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College, London. These are his real jobs, for which he gets paid.

So Professor Nutt was sacked from a voluntary, unpaid job, for carrying out the duties expected of him from the work he gets paid a salary for. Then he got slagged off for it. No wonder he is a little miffed.

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@AC - History repeating itself

"Dope comes to our shores and it's users/promoters says it cures all ills. Er,no. It actually makes you lathargic and whatever was bothering you can then go on it kill you unchecked because you're living in cookoo land. Doesn't sound like paradise anymore does it ?"

"Dope" as you call it has been around helping people "manage" thier illnesses since we crawled out of the primevil ooze, no-one ever said it cured anything. For example I am bi-polar but "dope" helps me maintain an equilibrium in my life far better than anything mr glaxo can provide me.

And forget the populist "makes you lathargic" nonsense. Do you honestly believe the 4million cannabis smokers live in a cheech and chong movie. I don't know any cannabis smokers that are un-employed. Personally I have a good job that I would lose as a result of a conviction. And all because I choose to self medicate pot instead of state sanctioned prozac or worse.

Run along now and pour yourself a nice glass of wine and ponder how, when you get up tomorrow, you can be a little more judgemental of other peoples life styles. while you sit behind your PC in cloud cookoo land

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i'm on NUtt's side

hes the advisor, he does the research and presentshis findings to the law makers.

the law makers have a duty to base these laws on reasonable facts - not on the basis of tabloid media headlines and out of touch politicians (yes they are out of touch - look at the reaction to the expenses scandle)

what is the point in having an advisory council if you wont listen to them?

alcohol is an offensive drug, when was the last time a stoner started a fight with you in the pub?

how many people end up in hosptial as a result of consuming weed? if weed causes so many mental illnesses then why are our mental health hospitals not filled with stoners?

i'm not saying that weed has no ill effects,no, my flatmate is a complete zombie and only leaves the house to go to work or buy more weed. it is having a dreadful effect on his life but he's happy enough and he does not hurt anyone.

if we can have alcohol and tobacco then why can we not have a far less harmful drug as well? many people would happily pay tax on it if they could pop down to the weed shop and pick up some nice weed on a friday night.

millions of pounds in tax being lost due to this idiotic government.

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bah

"About the only people to have publicly supported Johnson's stance are the Tory Party."

Eh? Cameron said no change should be made to the drug classification system which is exactly the opposite of what the Advisory Council have been advising for years. Like most governments they're too spineless to reform drug policy in this country.

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Anonymous Coward

Brown accused him of sending out mixed messages

Brown backed the sacking, says it gave mixed messages that confused youngsters. Well more exactly the press picked up on his comments, made Brown look stupid and so someone had to be sacked, and it can't be Brown.

As for this: "Dope comes to our shores and it's users/promoters says it cures all ills. Er,no. It actually makes you lathargic and whatever was bothering you can then go on it kill you unchecked because you're living in cookoo land. Doesn't sound like paradise anymore does it ?"

Lathargic is no reason to lock people up. If this serious problem arises (that you hypothesize will happen in future) then perhaps you have justification, until then, pot is already here, been here a long time and the science doesn't support its classification. So we have to lock up people for no good reason and sack scientists for talking science.

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They will never ban my beer

Alcohol is a bigger problem than cannabis but then its more widely used than cannabis so is likely to cause more problems, if the same amount of people smoked weed as drink alcohol currently it may prove to be a bigger problem than alcohol is now.

I drink responsibly so i don't see why i and others who do also should be punished because of a small percentage who don't

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FAIL

Money spending

Why dohttp://www.theregister.co.uk/Design/graphics/icons/comment/fail_32.pngnt they just face the fact that this is little money against all that is spended on the "Drug' Wars".

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Coat

Number 10 E-Petitions

For those that like to help demonstrate how much the government doesn't listen to petitions, there's a petition calling for Professor Nutt to be reinstated: http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/Back-Prof-Nutt/ There are currently over 3500 signatures - it's shooting up!

... shooting up! (Okay, see icon.)

For anyone who might be interested in the petition calling for Gordon Brown to resign, there's now an official response: http://www.number10.gov.uk/Page21213

Looking on the Number 10 e-petitions site at some of the new petitions, there are some others that people might like to consider signing, so as to be more comprehensively ignored on this issue:-

http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/Reform-ACMD/

http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/ScienceFirst/

http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/govtcowardice/

There may be more; I only had a quick browse.

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Not very independant

I don't see how the drugs advisory body can be genuinely independent if the government can sack Nutt.

I love the idea of Nutt setting up a genuinely independent advisory body. Clearly the government don't want scientific advice, but the public sure do; he can advise us.

Which prescription medicines are dangerous when misprescribed? How do we recognise dodgy street drugs from safe(r) ones?* What's the safest way for an addict to give up heroin, say -- given that methodone (often prescribed to them) is itself pretty nasty?

I'm sure we could set up a charity to fund that. I'd pay.

(* should we be inclined to want to do that, which would probably be illegal, of course, so we wouldn't.)

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Pint

@qwertyuiop

" The key word there is "Advisory". In any walk of life where you are the "expert" then you can offer your opinion/advice but the person to whom you give it doesn't have to take it. That's life - get over it."

If the government is not following the science then there should be a clear reason why. And we should be told this reason.

Do you want a government who picks and chooses the advice it gets according to the opinions of those at the top and the Daily Mail/Rupert Murdoch?

I would hazard a guess and say that Alcohol and cigarettes are safe from immediate legal harm because some big scary breweries and tobacco companies are behind them, whereas cannabis is grown by some fella down the road, maybe even you.

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Stop

RE: Brown accused him of sending out mixed messages

For Labour, the charge of ignoring their advisor's advice is the least worst option, and I'll explain why. Before I do so, please also accept that I will not vote for Labour regardless of what they do in this matter.

First, it is key to understand that, regardless of whom uses them (solictors, doctors, even politicians), the majority of illegal drugs come from serious criminal gangs. The amount of weed from home-grown for self use is a tiny percentage. Secondly, politicians like to look tough on crime as it is a proven vote winner. In order to look tough on crime they like to slap drug dealers and smugglers with big sentences, but these need the drugs involved to be classified as highly as possible. The 1971 Act gives scientist the ability to advise on the medical dangers without regard to the impact of crime, and medical advice alone would force classifications down. So the Government needs compliant advisers that will talk up the dangers rather than comment in a purely medical context, which is what Dr Nutt did.

For Labour, there were three choices; leave Nutty alone, ignore him, and be kicked with the 1971 Act or accused of dithering; take Nutty's advice and change the drug classification; or sack Nutty and get a toady scientist in to do the job. The first gives the oppostion too many chances to lambast them and also the prospect of their own adviser taking them to court for breach of the Act. More importantly for Brooon, it makes Labour look bad and would cost a few votes. Option two means Labour look weak on crime, which would cost them a lot more votes. Option three means some bad press but they come out looking tough on crime. Backed up by some painting of Nutty as "living in an educational ivory tower far removed from the grim realities of drug use" and Labour actually come out looking tough on crime and decisive. In that context, is it at all surprising the Dr was fired?

As regards Nutty's position on how some drugs are less dangerous than horseriding, I would have to reply that I have never heard of someone being mugged or burgled by a horserider looking to score a new saddle.

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funny all this

got kicked off the radio a few weeks ago for mentioning this little tid bit of info

Was a little annoyed

p.s. ive been a mindless mess since i was in school

one of my school reports stated

If he turned up to the right class on the right day with the right books at the right time he would be a very good student

then i started smoking weed when i was bout 16 and im still dopey

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Boffin

@Matt Bryant

"the majority of illegal drugs come from serious criminal gangs."

And the majority of ursine poop found in arboreal environments comes from...?

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Drugs schmugs

The most toxic thing people regularly put in their bodies is paracetamol. Beats alcohol, weed, E, or just about anything you can name.

Up until recently, the biggest cause of drug-related deaths in the West? Distalgesic. (Co-proxamol to the Septics). I think it's mostly banned everywhere in Europe now, but you can still "roll your own" with the constituent compounds if you are so inclined. If the dextropropoxyphene doesn't result in respiratory paralysis, you can be damned sure the paracetamol will make your liver fall out your arse.

Not being a weed smoker, it still strikes me as strange that a drugs policy could send you to prison for possession of the stuff. Juvenile.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: RE: Brown accused him of sending out mixed messages

Matt Bryant's analysis seems, to me, quite incorrect. There are some crucial facts missing that make a significant difference.

Firstly, and crucially, cannabis used to be Class B. This was until Home Secretary David Blunkett, in line with the advice from ACMD, downgraded it to Class C. That was, I think, in (or around) 2002.

It could have been left at that. Matter settled.

But no. Gordon Brown wanted the reclassification reversed. And so a succession of Home Secretaries, under Gordon Brown, have looked at, pursued, and sought to defend the reversal of the earlier reclassification. Wacqui Spliff did a particularly bad job of this, the fruits of which include the current storm.

Secondly, the ACMD isn't a purely scientific advisory body. While there are scientists on it, there are also police and others as well. According to their terms of reference:-

"It shall be the duty of the Advisory Council to keep under review the situation in the United Kingdom with respect to drugs which are being or appear to them likely to be misused and of which the misuse is having or appears to them capable of having harmful effects sufficient to constitute a social problem, and to give to any one or more of the Ministers, where either Council consider it expedient to do so or they are consulted by the Minister or Ministers in question, advice on measures (whether or not involving alteration of the law) which in the opinion of the Council ought to be taken for preventing the misuse of such drugs or dealing with social problems connected with their misuse, and in particular on measures which in the opinion of the Council, ought to be taken."

(http://drugs.homeoffice.gov.uk/drugs-laws/acmd/about-us/terms-of-reference/)

As for dealing with adverse press, it should be really quite easy for the government to spin things the right way round. Having cannabis at Class B would suggest that Class C drugs were significantly less harmful - is that the message that the tabloids want to send to young people? Likewise, having ecstasy and heroin in the same class, Class A, suggests that heroin isn't that much worse than ecstasy - is that what the papers want the government telling young people?

Instead, the government's spinning it so horrendously badly, it's unbelievable. They argue that to have cannabis in Class C risks sending a message that cannabis is okay, acceptable. But that argument only makes sense as long as Class C is supposed to be the class of acceptable drugs - is that really the message the government wants to send? Likewise, having ecstasy in Class A, along with heroin, says it's nearly as bad as heroin, and therefore (equivalently) heroin isn't much worse than ecstasy - is that really the message the government wants young people to get?

I don't entirely disagree with all of Matt Bryant's kind of analysis, though. To me, it looks like this drugs fiasco is another case of 42 days. With 42 days, Gordon Brown wanted to show that he was tough on terror. Reversing the reclassification of cannabis is much the same, but with drugs instead. It's supposed to show that he's tough on drugs. Trouble is, as with 42 days, he's got the problem that he's fundamentally on the wrong side of the facts and the wrong side of the debate.

From an anti-prohibitionist perspective, this fiasco is quite wonderful. Mainstream prohibitionism is clearly in decline, while a new, broad, post prohibitionist consensus seems to be emerging. Prohibitionists seem to be splitting into two groups: the pragmatists who increasingly accept that prohibition isn't working; and the dogmatists who stubbornly insist on sticking with hard-line prohibition. While the pragmatists are becoming part of the emerging, post prohibitionist consensus, the dogmatists are increasingly seen as some kind of lunatic fringe - government and Tory opposition included. It doesn't help the dogmatists' cause that they keep wanting to do crazy things like deliberately overrate cannabis and ecstasy to "send a message".

The emerging post prohibitionist consensus appears to stretch from long-standing, ideological anti-prohibitionism, all the way to the kind of post prohibitionist pragmatism that's emerging from mainstream prohibitionism. It's broad, and seems to be increasingly the majority consensus, outside of which Gordon Brown has managed to maroon himself.

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Anonymous Coward

fecking drugs

@Matt Bryant

"As regards Nutty's position on how some drugs are less dangerous than horseriding, I would have to reply that I have never heard of someone being mugged or burgled by a horserider looking to score a new saddle."

Prof. Nutt's list is a rating of how much harm is done to the individual AND society not simply from a medical perspective. His point about ecstasy and horse riding supports his research that cannabis & ecstasy users do not commit crimes to support their habits.

(pure) Heroin is in fact only so high on the list because of the social harms it causes - not because of it's physiological effects which are far less damaging than Alcohol

There appear to be a few daily mail readers in here today.

It's worth remembering in this discussion that Prof. Nutt has never said cannabis does no harm & if you look at the ACMD's recommended classification Cannabis is quite high in category C, this is because more research needs to be done on the potential phsycological effects of cannabis as well as secondary harms from the method of ingestion. His research concludes that you are roughly 2.5 times more likely to suffer some negative phsycological effects from the use of cannabis, this is quite small. Smokers are 20 times more likely to suffer negative health affects from smoking than non-smokers.

What cannot be denied is that some of the positive uses for cannabis have been completely ignored because of this moral hysteria about 'drugs'

sometime in the early 1990's the British Medical Council completed research on the use of synthetic THCs as an alternative to the much prescribed and highly addictive Valium. As a result of this research they recommended synth THCs should be made available as an alternative, since they are completely non-toxic, and form no dependency. Despite the vast amounts of supporting research since, they are still (as far as I am aware) not available under prescription.

The medical benefits for MS and various chronic pain conditions are well known, but successive governments would rather thousands of people live in constant agony and despair than admit cannabis isn't a lethal and immoral danger to society.

Even without doing any concerted, objective research, the harm to society from alcohol is obvious to absolutely anyone.

My own brother is an alcoholic, completely dependent upon alcohol, his life is totally f*****d up. Now here's a scary story. He used to be a London mini cab driver, and I discovered he would drink vodka & orange pre-decanted into orange lucozade bottles throughout his shift. Prior to that he used to be a despatch rider and would drink a whole bottle of wine at 10am BEFORE going to work. It's a fecking miracle he didn't kill anyone!

The point is that when discussing this emmotive subject politicians use terms like "the war on drugs" but fail to recognise that alcohol is a drug, it is in fact a lethally toxic poison. I could kill myself today with two bottles of vodka bought legally, with most of the cost going to the treasury.

“A tough policy on drugs is essential and it is what the public want,” Mr Brown said. “I've seen the damage that drugs can do and people can see it in estates in London. I think I share the public concern about the effect that drugs have.” - Gordon Brown 3rd Nov 2009

What a hypocritical bunch of wankers.

Signed,

Disgusted, criminalised, cannabis user with a chronic pain condition.

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FAIL

Diagio and others won't let it happen

I did some research and found that many well known and influencial MP's (from both parties) are on the boards of big brewing and tobacco groups.

Guess what will happen if someone tries to make a change to licensing laws.

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FAIL

People should be trusted to do what they want

It's not the drugs or alcohol that are a problem. It's the people.

I always think alcohol and drugs show peoples true colours. Like the cannibis causes mental problems arguement, it don't, it just makes it worse for people who already have problems.

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Alert

RE: ACs

No UK Government is going to take the elective suicide of outlawing booze just yet, though cigarettes have now been successfully painted so nasty that the criminalisation of cigarettes is probably going to happen this century. Why else do you think the fag and booze companies are paying rediculous sums to get ex- and current MPs and Lords onto their boards?

As regards legitimising cannabis, the interesting bit is happening in the States. George Soros, who bankrolled the recent Democrat rise, has also spent years funding pro-drug groups. With Obumbler in his pocket, it's more than likely there will be some relaxation towards at least cannabis in the States inside Obumbler's current term. If the US opens up then Europe will probably follow a decade after. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised to find Dr Nutt's sudden financial health hasn't come from a Soros-related source.

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