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back to article Gov decides not to have scientific advice on drugs any more

The coalition government is ditching the requirement to seek scientific advice before setting drugs policy. As part of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 government must take, or at least listen to, advice from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs. That committee needed to have at least six scientists on it. But police reform …

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So where do they get policy from then ?

Bottom end of a beer glass, the Daily Mail, or a church of England mythologist ?

I suspect the second, but the third would just just as bad.

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Sir

Where did they get it from before? 'Coz they sure as hell didn't base it on previous scientific reports*

I think they have at least gone one step in the right direction and basically admitted they're not interested in the facts. That's something to fight against if you disagree. I mean, if you're a subject matter expert and an idiot seeks your opinion and you give it, it's hardly suprising you'll get pissed off if they keep on ignoring it just because it doesn't meet with their ideological propoganda. It would certainly piss me off.

*unless they just do the opposite all the time

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Unhappy

Where do they get policy from

I believe they had a already recruited a new policy advisor, but the psychic octopus died before he could take up the post.

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Joke

Yeah, sod the scientists!

The new committee is made up of actual stoners and Daily Mail readers!

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Marvellous

Now they can continue setting policies based on Daily Mail and Sun readers' "opinions".

Afterall, who cares about scientific evidence on how drugs affect us, when people can just scream about their personal ancedotes and be believed even more?

Time for a scientific strike?

It'll all end in tears.

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Anonymous Coward

@Marvellous

I like the idea of a science strike. Just think: No gravity, Newton's third law, or mass-energy equivalence for a day.

"Sorry I can't come into work today - I'm pinned to the ceiling and my legs don't seem to have the 'push' they usually do".

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Not surprising

They never listened to them anyway.

And since when did the government ever care whether what they were proposing made sense? Nah it's much easier to allow the tabloids to decide what the government should do. At least then the proles will be happy.

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Anonymous Coward

I'm a Prole -

And I'm not happy.

Both with Governments who are, or at least appear according to the meja to be, driven by a populist approach to appeasement when the should have a bit of courage and with 'Scientists' who appear to believe that just because they think that the 'peer reviewed' evidence they have created shows something that they believe is valuable they should be given a preferential hearing.

I like scientists, they're nice people and talk a lot more sense that politicians a lot more of the time but they are one group. If the Government isn't going to take notice of them then they can take their ball home but if it is that important then others will surely join the battle...?

Or maybe the Mandelsons, Campbells and Coulsons have done in intelligent, informed debate?

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Peer reviewed evidence should be given a preferential hearing.

Especially when the other side of the debate is the loud grating shouting of the instinctually hive mind. "Listen to us" they bellow! "We have these words that are an interpretation by our religious leader of some words interpreted by another religious leader and so on down the centuries! According to my personal interpretation of this long chain of previous interpretations, being happy for any reason is bad, evil and wrong! Drugs are bad! Sex is bad! Everything is bad except the worship of my personal flavour of chocorific, candy-coated $deity!"

The difference is between people who are taught to question everything and those who are taught to fear everything. If you question everything you try new things out. You test them, you play with them, take them apart and see how they work. You attempt to and sometimes succeed at understanding new things and how they work.

The other side is nothing more than instinct and emotion. The loudest and most emotive individual gets to represent the hive-mind. There is no evidence…only emotion. “Evidence” presented here is almost always some quote taken out of context, numbers read from raw data without understanding or simply outright lies made up in order to prevent anything new from having to be coped with. It’s fear, more fear, additional fear, being told to be afraid and then some extra fear. To add to the benefit we’ll go to “condition red! Shit your pants it’s terrists BE AFRIAD” to generate some fear.

Peer reviewed evidence is actual EVIDENCE. This is why it should be given a preferential hearing. The key is the falsifiability of scientific evidence. Scientific evidence has been poured over, pondered, tested and the process repeated until a consensus is reached. A scientific experiment can be reproduced if you choose. You can test the results for yourself. The methods are documented, if you contest the results then go perform the same experiment under the same conditions using the same methods and see if you get different results.

What it seems you are trying to imply is that people who shout their uninformed and emotional reaction the loudest should be given exactly the same consideration in the creation of government policy as scientists who take the time to back their advice with evidence derived from reproducible experimentation, studies and statistically relevant surveys.

Frankly, my emotional reaction is “that’s just ****ing nuts.” In fact, I’d go so far as to use that as the basis for a scientific hypothesis. I propose that there is probably an detectable difference in the function of the amygdalae in homo sapiens sapiens who prefer emotive reasoning over deductive reasoning. To test this I propose we take a random sampling of folks, shove them in an MRI and then read them Daily Mail headlines. We pay close attention to how the amygdalae react. We combine this with some very deep surveys on their political viewpoints and see if there is any correlation.

If we find correlation, we can see if there are maybe other parts of the brain that work together to influence political opinion. How much is genetic? How much is socialisation at early stages? How much is modifiable versus hard-coded at an early age?

I should write my MP. I must remember to be loud and emotive, (it's what seems to get results.) It’s science worth funding...

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Part of a pattern?

So, very few health experts to advise on public health, but a large contingent from the food and drink industry and now no scientists on the drug advisory committee. Perhaps they can be replaced with people from the tobacco and booze lobbies?

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Big Brother

Shooting the messenger

Just what we needed - another committee of, so called, experts who are able to confirm the minister's preconceived ideas, without actually having to provide any facts that could actually be challenged.

"All lies and jests 'til a man hears what he wants to hear, and disregards the rest" - Paul Simon (The Boxer)

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Big Brother

Groucho Marx

"Those are my principles. If you don't like them I have others."

Another example of "Government" making policy on vote winning instead of what is in the best interests of the public.

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Unhappy

PR

And you expected anything different from an ex PR man as PM?

Seems like the US ambassador saw through Cameron before the election (as did many people here, but, alas, not enough) as caring only about winning votes, not having princples.

I wonder if there are any embarrassing quotes from Tories/Libs from around the time Johnson fired Nutt? Could be interesting to dig them out...

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FAIL

Getting the wrong answer or just asking the wrong questions?

Science again abused by asking the wrong questions, Instead of asking how harmful is a substance (and usually getting a truthful "less harmful than alcohol" answer). They never did ask the right questions of "can and is the substance being missused" and "will it be detrimental to the abuser" in setting policy.

So sack the experts and give more power to those who guess.

Govt Fail of the first degree..

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Nothing has changed

Bang the 6 million tax paying pot smokers up, let them default on mortgages and credit. Break up their families and revoke their assets.

Or, tax and regulate the sale of cannabis. Use the money to fund our schools and health system. Allow medi users to grow their own easing the burden on the state (sorry big pharma we can see right through your sativex bollocks) NHS.

Massive fail from A-Z

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Anonymous Coward

No title reqd

I have no idea why this was down-rated.

Why are people against this? The whole reason that people are against cannabis is down to the plant its self being a cheep alternative to other materials produced (paper, rope, etc) and so was lobbied against. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legal_history_of_cannabis_in_the_United_States#DuPont.2C_William_Randolph_Hearst.2C_and_hemp )

Legalise it and tax it, take something that drains money away and out of the country and turn it into something that generates cash for the government. Think of the amount of cash that we'd get in tax, think of the amount of cash we'd save in not having to police it, and if nothing else think of the children, a dealer doesn't care who they sell to as they sit outside the school, a newsagent however does care...

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Anonymous Coward

consequences?

while I've no strong views either way - there's been very interesting debates here in the US about legalizing pot in California, and the whole Medical use provisions) I do worry about the unknown / under-researched mental health consequences.

With cigarettes the problem is well known, but somehow yet still in official denial... is that because of tax revenue and lobbying efforts? Will those same considerations have more weight in this discussion that reasoned, scientific data surrounding the issues of paranoia and schizophrenia that are reported? Eliminate/reduce those side effects and is cannabis better or worse than alcohol or cigarettes... and what restrictions (eg drink driving laws) should be in place to protect users and non-users

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@consequences?

The point, of course, being that those "interesting debates" you refer to require *scientific* evidence to support conclusions otherwise they're nothing more than talking shops.

If our Government isn't going to *listen* to that scientific advice, the whole exercise is pointless.

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fuckin' magnets

"I don't wanna talk to a scientist / Y'all motherfuckers lying, and getting me pissed"....

since when did ICP start influencing cabinet policy?

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I think this is a good thing

After all, why waste money to ignore a damn good and reasonable scientific argument when we can just make things up with no knowledge at all?!

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Evan Harris not an MP any more

Don't give me hope like that!

Evan Harris is a former Lib Dem MP, not a current one, sadly.

One of the best science advocates in the Commons was replaced by a fundamentalist nutjob in May, glory be to the Great British Public.

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Makes sense.

When in a position of power why allow that position to be undermined by evidence or fact?

Government is to be praised for removing our right to choose and protecting us from ourselves.

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email your MP

If you think this is the wrong thing to do, do something about it

http://www.writetothem.com/

Okay, it may not work, but at least you'll have tried.

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RE email your MP

Good idea. I keep forgetting about this. I have just written to mine.

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MP?

Isn't Evan Harris an ex-MP now ?

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Scientists?

If you want to know the tensile strength of vanadium steel or the relative LD50 for heroin and alcohol, then a scientist is just the chap (still mostly chaps, sadly) to ask. But many of these advisers are social* scientists, where there are almost as many opinions as practitioners and very few of them based on real research. The social scientists that make it onto these Quangos are often those most adept at spotting which way the political/social wind is blowing.

Hence we get nonsense statements such as "alcohol causes more harm than heroin". Well <duh>, the UK has some 40 million alcohol users compared with a few hundred thousand heroin addicts - hardly an argument for putting heroin on the same legal footing as alcohol** (or vice versa).

* The only possible interpretation of any research whatever in the 'social sciences' is: some do, some don't. - Ernest Rutherford (Baron Rutherford of Nelson) 1871-1937

** A good idea IMHO, but then opinions are like arseholes, everybody's got one.

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: Scientists?

That's not precisely how they made the comparison. It was a bit more, um, scientific than that.

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Yeah but..............

with 6 million (approx) canna users in the UK, where do we stand? This debate isnt about crystal meth or heroin, both of which effect a tiny percentage of the populus. Its really about E (and its derivatives) and weed, thier effects and the relationship with alcohol and cigs.

Its about .gov.uk saying there is no medicinal use for cannabis in one sentance while allowing sativex and whats to follow to be rescheduled even though it is nothing more than a whole plant extract mixed with alcohol. Mixing a relativly harmless drug with a relativly dangerous one in the name of medicine. Its about big pharma losing millions/billions from the NHS because cannabis is actually a symbiotic drug to humans which gives the termanilly ill and not so termanilly a better sense of well being. But fuck that, just pump em full of analgesics.

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Boffin

That's not precisely how they made the comparison

it is if you listend to the Today program this morning.. and its acurate.. but the distinction that on an indiviual level heroin does do more damage, was also made. But that just proves that whats important is what you choose to present, not what a scientist says.

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FAIL

A Tit is required

When Scientific Advice contradicts Political Priorities, stop listening. Wankers.

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WTF?

There's no evidence to prove it, but it IS scientific fact!

So the gov. get told "you're wrong", they then fire the guy who says that and then gets rid of needing his ilk to consult on policy.

I thought this happened in shitty dictatorships, not supposedly free and open countries!

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Joke

I thought this happened in shitty dictatorships

And your point is?

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FFS

Policy by gut feel and popularism, rather than hard facts and evidence. Have these morons learned *nothing*? If the facts show that drug X does less harm that (say) alcohol, then that's the hard truth, deal with it.

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Science? Pah. Blind faith and obedience? That's more like it.

"Smith also ignored scientific advice when she upgraded cannabis from C to B even though downgrading it had led to less people taking it. Maybe we could save some money by just sacking these scientists rather than paying them to offer advice which the government will then ignore."

I blame John Oates. He gave the bastards ideas.

Eh, who actually believes the government on its drugs policy any more anyway? Frank? They've been losing the War On Drugs That Aren't Alcohol since the mid 1920s, and they look set to lose it for another century at this rate. Why did nobody learn from US prohibition and nearly 100 years of propaganda and imprisonments?

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War On Drugs That Aren't Alcohol

Or caffeine. Or [insert over-the-counter drug here]. Do you know how wrecked you can get on anti-histamines? Enough to cause traffic fatalities, that's for damned sure. It’s all about the money; who would make it and who wouldn’t. There’s only one thing I know for sure:

Try to take away my caffeine, and it’s motherf**king WAR, baby.

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No surprise

This just proves govt drugs policy has never been about the medical effects.

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Anonymous Coward

Probably for the best

All they did was employ 'experts' at huge costs, ignored their advice and went along with the 'Drugs are bad, mmmmkaaay' policy. With policies like that in place, who needs these pesky, expensive experts who research and offer impartial advice when you already know what the answer will be?

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I think I heard the committee are unpaid.

The new rule doesn't itself change the committee membership, it only removes a requirement to know something about what you're talking about.

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True

So now they're exactly as ill-informed at a fraction of the cost. Well done Cameron, seriously.

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"The Nutt sacking"?

I see what you did there.

-dZ.

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I'm glad...

...I'm not the only person to have noticed, or at least commented upon, that. :)

It's why I love El Reg!

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Typical

Haha, that's just plain brilliance all over....

Gov: "Hey old bean, that scientist is bothering us again with those pesky facts?"

Gov2: "Yes, they do it all the time... little do they know we're going to sack them."

Scientist: "I have done some more research, and have come to the conc...."

Gov: "Hold it there chap, we're not going to listen to facts and evidence anymore... and by the way, you're sacked."

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WTF?

"La la la la I'm not listening"

Is our country being run by adults or 8 year old children?

I'm sure looking back at history would show that governments who have decided to silence their advisors haven't lasted very long.

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Happy

@Scott Thomson

"Is our country being run by adults or 8 year old children?"

Is that a trick question?

They've just had a conservative back bench MP propose putting an age certificate on *every* website on the WWW *despite* said MP knowing there are roughly 250 million of them and the relevant Minster saying he does not believe ISP's are "Dumb pipes" and thinking age certification is a *great* idea.

If they are not 8 YO children they sure believe the world should *operate* at the level of an 8YO (or perhaps slightly younger)

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Stop

That is rather unfair.

Most 8yos could run rings around most MPs for IT knowledge.

They tend to be better behaved too, much of the time.

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WTF?

The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

I would comment, but I'm too busy banging my head on the desk.

(I just happen to have very accurate head banging skills that enable me to type as well, ok?)

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Yeah well

drugs are bad mmmm.k

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Sir

I have a 50 year old sister in-law who has a serious attitude problem with her 21 year old daughter when it comes to smoking pot, i.e. comes down on her like a ton of bricks - she really is anti-drugs, and being an ex-nurse she is in a position to know after all.

That is until you know some other facts about her, like..

1. She is addicted to codeine, so much so she can't take anything less and have it work, and she's been giving this to her daughter as well since she was 3!

2. She's a raging alcholic and a very ugly drunk. So much so she was dismissed from her position as a nurse when she failed to supervise a junior properly when they were administering drugs which caused a fatality.

3. She smokes 60 cigs a day, and yet her and her husband are so skint they have knowlingly eaten rotten chicken before now.

BUT, she doesn't smoke pot, so she has the moral high ground. Nothing she has done is illegal (apart from being drunk at work I think). Fucking stupid, yes, but not illegal - and that's what seems to count.

This is also the mentality of the government it seems and a massive, stupid, retarded, FAIL.

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Paris Hilton

Weve all been there mate.

"so skint they have knowlingly eaten rotten chicken before now."

I know times are tough, but shopping at iceland, fuck me that's rough.

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Badgers

After eating a KFC

At a motorway services on the M1 about an hour ago, lets just say there are some things that a blend of special herbs and spices can't hide

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