dinsdag 16 oktober 2012

Drugs - without the hot air: Minimising the harms of legal and illegal drugs (David Nutt) [2]


If we’re going to minimise harm, we have to have a way of measuring it, and a policy framework that can respond to this evidence. Yet even comparing the dangers of cannabis and alcohol was considered a “political” act that overstepped my remit as a scientist and physician.

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The past-president of the Royal College of Physicians 10Sir Ian Gilmore was also ridiculed by much of the press and parts of government when he shared his view that the current drug laws were not working, and that the personal use of drugs should be decriminalised as in Portugal.

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The War on Drugs wasn’t so obviously the wrong thing to try in the 1970s, but today it is clearly doing more harm than good, and the “drugs problem” needs radical rethinking as a public-health crisis rather than a moral crusade.

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Jacqui Smith: You can’t compare harms from a legal activity with an illegal one. Me: Why not? Jacqui Smith: Because one’s illegal. Me: Why is it illegal? Jacqui Smith: Because it’s harmful. Me: Don’t we need to compare harms to determine if it should be illegal? Jacqui Smith: You can’t compare harms from a legal activity with an illegal one.

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When the report came out, the headline “Alcohol ‘more harmful than heroin or crack’” appeared on the front page of the Guardian, and it was widely reported across the British press and beyond. 13The Daily Mail predictably called me a “dangerous man”; it said the policies I was advancing “would be a disaster for our society”. In fact I hadn’t proposed any policies at all, but only a more rational approach to drug classification. The government’s response was interesting. Although the design of the decision analysis process had been publicly funded while I was still part of the ACMD, the Home Office’s spokesperson said quite bluntly that they hadn’t read the report, and continued: 14“our priorities are clear – we want to reduce drug use, crack down on drug-related crime and disorder and help addicts come off drugs for good.” This showed that much of the wrong-headedness of the Labour government in relation to drugs was likely to continue with the new coalition. Getting addicts off drugs for good is extremely difficult, as chapter 9 will show. Most drug-related crime is caused by addicts stealing to fund their habit, most drug-related disorder is related to people being drunk, and both addicts and drunks tend to be unresponsive to “crackdowns”.

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