Ecstasy and equine pursuits

A few days ago I wrote in praise of a recently broadcast television documentary about cannabis, and concluded with the cautionary note that scientific evidence is only a small part of the story. It is culture, politics and PR that rule in the public debate surrounding drugs.

The truth of this statement is borne out by the case reported today of pharmacologist David Nutt, who says that taking the popular party drug ecstasy is no more dangerous than riding a horse. In the current issue of the Journal of Psychopharmacology, Nutt writes:

“Drug harm can be equal to harms in other parts of life. There is not much difference between horse-riding and ecstasy.”

“This attitude raises the critical question of why society tolerates – indeed encourages – certain forms of potentially harmful behaviour but not others such as drug use.”

Already there have been calls for Nutt’s head. The Advisory Council on Drug Misuse immediately distanced itself from its chairman’s remarks, and I can see the Home Secretary sacking Nutt if he refuses to step down. Perhaps the Council should consider dissolving itself. After all, no-one is listening to the expert advice it provides.