Tag Archives: lancet

Opinion: The Nutt affair – or, the thin line between evidence and policy

Firstly, a disclaimer: I am a scientist, who is also interested in governance and politics, so the following post may come across as somewhat heated. Apologies, but I do feel that the recent furore over Prof. David Nutt’s sacking as Chair of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) goes right to the heart of why I took up both science and politics as profession and interest respectively.

We begin with Prof. Nutt’s most recent criticism of the government’s drugs policy, which attracted headlines for claiming that alcohol, despite being legal and freely available, was more harmful than the Class A narcotic ecstasy (MDMA). At first sight this may seem like an outlandish statement to make, but the evidence, collated by Prof. Nutt, suggests otherwise; granted, the recent publication from Nutt’s The Centre for Crime and Justice Studies (CCJS) at King’s College London wasn’t peer-reviewed, but the methodologies used to calculate his ‘harm index’ were so, and published in one of the most respected medical journals, The Lancet in 2007 (the full article is behind a paywall, contact me if you want the pdf…). Just to repeat this – using what seems to me to be a robust method, taking into account everything from physical harm to the user to social harms at large, ecstasy does indeed seem to be less dangerous than alcohol, and it’s using this tried and tested method of enquiry that Nutt used to conclude that cannabis should remain a class C drug.

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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarTim13 30th Sep - 11:55pm
    RC What you say about the NE economy would turn people (sorry, already has turned people) there against us, not in favour. The electoral figures...
  • User AvatarCaron Lindsay 30th Sep - 11:49pm
    You need to tell us where, Suzanne. It's a thread about Conference. How can advertising a fringe be off topic?:-) And the reason half the...
  • User Avatarsuzanne fletcher 30th Sep - 11:07pm
    all good advice. I'd emphasise that it really is ok to just start up a conversation with anyone at all. I went on my own...
  • User AvatarRebecca Hanson 30th Sep - 10:57pm
    @ David, "From a distance it now seems that the tightening of standards over the last four years has meant teachers have to be on...
  • User Avatarjedibeeftrix 30th Sep - 10:46pm
    on that subject: http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2012/10/09/article-2215070-156C345A000005DC-652_634x228.jpg "This is sure to leave many middle-earners scratching their heads, wondering how on earth the hundreds of pounds taken from them...
  • User AvatarConor McGovern 30th Sep - 10:45pm
    Well done Julian. not that Theresa May will take any notice. She's in thrall to the same interests as the rest of the British political...