Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Ecstasy: truth is the foremost casualty in the war on drugs

On Wednesday 11th Feb the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) will announce the outcome of its review of the classification of ecstasy, and in all likelihood will recommend it be downgraded from Class A to Class B.

A Transform spokesperson said:

“Parliament is reveling in moral grandstanding and populist posturing by eschewing the science on ecstasy. Truth is always the first casualty in any war, including the war on drugs. Given that the Government overruled the ACMD on cannabis classification, and has made it clear that whatever the evidence ecstasy’s classification won’t change, this entire exercise was doomed before it began.

“Drug prohibition is unique in the public health field in using criminal sanctions to reduce social and health harms. It is also uniquely ineffective. There is no evidence that punitive law and its enforcement has more than a marginal impact on levels of drug use or misuse.

“The Advisory Council's job is to reduce the health and social harms associated with the misuse of drugs, so it is a real concern that it is still using a system of classification that was derided comprehensively by the Science and Technology Select Committee less than two years ago. The ACMD’s time would have been far better spent conducting a fundamental review of the evidence underlying the classification system and distinguishing drug harms from harms caused by criminalisation. “

“From Transform’s perspective any reduction in unjust criminal penalties for consenting drug users would have been a positive step. But we remain deeply concerned that regardless of alphabetic classification, ecstasy will remain illegal, its users will still be subject to serious criminal sanctions, and the control of its production and supply will remain in the hands of unregulated criminal profiteers supplying pills and powders of unknown strength made with unknown ingredients.”

“Telling the truth about the harms associated with drug use compared to those caused by prohibition will remain taboo whilst the overarching commitment is to scare the public into supporting an unwinnable war on drugs.”


Notes for Editors:
  • Transform staff will be available for comment at the ACMD’s presentation of its ecstasy review at 11.30am Weds 11th February; The Council Room, One Great George Street, London, SW1P 3AA

Transform’s submission to the ACMD ecstasy review

Transform critique of the classification system in Drugs and Alcohol today

Science and Technology Select Committee report on the classification system

2006 Lancet paper on drug harm ranking

See also:

Ecstasy reclassification meltdown: it begins again 21.05.08


Anonymous said...

This was just on the bbc on breakfast and not surprisingly the only opinion they gave was that of a prohibitionist (which they've been doing a lot recently) saying that it should stay class A.

Not long later they started talking about tea as a "recession proof product" rather than a recession proof drug, someone emailed in saying that they couldn't have a day without it and that they went through 20 cups a day, one of the presenters said "what's wrong with that?"

These double standards are insane and the fact that they consider themselves impartial is laughable.

Anonymous said...

Professor David Nutt must go further in his drug re-classification demands.

The chair of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs has been lambasted for his view that ecstasy ought to be re-classified as a Class B drug, but why should it be Class A or B? Surely if it is as relatively safe as he suggests, it ought not be classified as a controlled drug at all. Indeed, one paradox costing so many lives from drug abuse of all kinds is the failure to offer equal protection of the law. Wherever a drug is ‘controlled’ by law and therefore supplied by criminal organisations, then it becomes more dangerous than it would otherwise be if it were legally regulated (due to misinformation, unknown strengths, contaminants and impurities). Drug activities such as smoking tobacco, are incorrectly, but understandably assumed by many to be relatively safer than those activities associated with controlled drugs.

Nutt is charged with the responsibility of guiding the administration of law. The law is supposed to be fairly applied to all drugs. If a drug-use activity is relatively safe, then there is no justification for it being declared illegal at all, for this would unduly infringe upon the rights of the individual. Such risks must be weighed up fairly, and take into consideration whether such risks only principally affect the user, or have wider social impacts and cause, or may cause harm to others. Alcohol is a drug that impacts hugely across all risk categories, yet it remains a non-controlled drug – there can be no legal justification for allowing such a dangerous drug to be treated so differently to ecstasy, cannabis and many other drugs.

Mountaineers, racing drivers and many others are famed for their non-aversion to risk-taking. Certainly many risky activities have a social-utility value, usually enjoyment. Why are drugs seen differently? Why, if tens of thousands can have a delightful weekend experience dancing the night away with ecstasy, is this less acceptable than other social activities? Perhaps this way of thinking is a hitherto unrecognised form of discrimination, and the sooner it is recognised and dealt with openly and honestly, the better.