Science goes AWOL in the EU

December 3, 2010

Today’s EU-wide ban on mephedrone based on recommendation from Europol and EMCDDA is remarkable for its lack of scientific evidence. The Europol/EMCDDA report primarily relies on user experiences and a handful of hospital admissions, with no formal studies to demonstrate the actual or potential harms of the drug and with mephedrone only formally cited in one case as the cause of death.

It is not yet possible to say how harmful mephedrone is given the lack of evidence. However, by legislating on a substance without reliable, scientifically-based evidence, we run the risk of causing more harm through criminalising users than might be caused by the drug itself. The evidence on drug harms should not be sacrificed for political and media pressure, especially given recent research by Sheila Bird positing that a drop in cocaine deaths in 2009 was due to users switching to mephedrone.

A minimum data set, specifying what needs to be known about a substance in order to deal with it effectively, through legislation or otherwise, is urgently needed, at both the domestic and international level. The Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs (ISCD) have been developing a minimum data set for this purpose. You can find it here or at http://www.drugscience.org.uk/minimumdataset.html.

10 Responses to “Science goes AWOL in the EU”


  1. Interesting. I hadn’t heard about it until reading this, so I checked it out online. Seems it’s around the US as well.

    I don’t understand why the governments are always after these legal plants and/or drugs that users experience as pleasurable all while leaving alcohol alone. The pedestal alcohol stands on while all these others are banned and more people will be imprisoned, just makes me sick.

    Glad I ran across your post. We can only fight the fight with education.

  2. David Raynes Says:

    “we run the risk of causing more harm through criminalising users than might be caused by the drug itself”.

    A statement which you cannot possibly back up with evidence, scientific or otherwise or you would surely present it. I am afraid you need to remember the biblical exprssion about Motes & Beams.

    “Data sets” also apply to social science not just your kind of science. To focus just on death is plain silly.

    • Greg de Hoedt Says:

      Cannabis is illegal and that in itself causes more harm to users. And when I talk about users I’m not talking about “junkies” I’m talking about Medical Users and just everyday people that choose a safe herb over a toxic bevvy.

      Pots illegality causes an unregulated Market where the product/medicine is frequenty contaminated, little quality control and a black Market that doesn’t use the Police, it uses guns, knives, fists, fear and whatever else is in reach.

      If you make it illegal before you can get enough research and data on it then it becomes very hard to get that data cause it’s illegal…which is why the Govs still say “we don’t have enough research on it yet” like with most things. It’s a back door for them to avoid the issue on a serious level.

  3. Mafficker Says:

    Section 150 of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill proposes:

    ‘Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs

    In Schedule 1 to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (constitution etc of the Advisory
    Council on the Misuse of Drugs), in paragraph 1—

    (a) in sub-paragraph (1), omit the words after “appropriate”, and
    (b) omit sub-paragraph (2).’

    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmbills/116/11116.95-101.html#j401

    According to the Bill’s explanatory notes section 150 would:

    18. There are also measures in Part 4 to amend the constitution of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs by removing the statutory requirement on the Secretary of State to appoint members with experience in specified activities. This will allow for greater flexibility in the membership of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs.

    Clause 150: Advisory
    Council on the Misuse of
    Drugs
    231. S ubsections (1) and (2)
    amends Schedule 1 to the
    Misuse of Drugs Act 1971
    (constitution etc. of the
    Advisory Council on the
    Misuse of Drugs) to remove
    the requirement on
    the Secretary of
    State to appoint to the
    Advisory Council on the
    Misuse of Drugs at least one
    person with wide and recent
    experience in each of six
    specified activities – medicine,
    dentistry, veterinary
    medicine, pharmacy, the
    pharmaceutical industry
    and chemistry – and persons
    with wide and recent
    experience of social
    problems connected with the
    misuse of drugs.

  4. Kate Says:

    Electronic cigarettes haven’t killed anyone since they emerged in 2004 and lots of smokers find them an acceptable alternative to smoke. Suppose it makes the tobacco control industry obsolete and that’s why they’re being spun into something hazardous and banned all over the place. Vested interests, kill millions.

  5. Mafficker Says:

    The recently published Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill proposes two radical changes to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

    Part 4 of the Bill amends the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 by introducing a new power for the Secretary of State to temporarily control a substance for up to one year by statutory instrument, without the input of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs. And then it amends the constitution of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs by removing the statutory requirement on the Secretary of State to appoint members with experience in specified activities. Ostensibly, this will allow for greater flexibility in the membership of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs. Or at least a mechanism to get rid of the scientists who make decisions on evidence, not tabloid hysteria.
    The most relevant section of the Bill’s explanatory notes with respect to the cognitive castration of the cognitive Council reads:

    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmbills/116/en/2011116en.htm

    Clause 150: Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs 231. S ubsections (1) and (2) amends Schedule 1 to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (constitution etc. of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs) to remove the requirement on the Secretary of State to appoint to the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs at least one person with wide and recent experience in each of six specified activities – medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine, pharmacy, the pharmaceutical industry and chemistry – and persons with wide and recent experience of social problems connected with the misuse of drugs.

    No need for evidenced based advice then! Mx

  6. Citizen's Free Press: Ireland Says:

    Thanks for the link Prof. Keep up the good work.
    J. P. Anderson.
    Dublin Ireland.


  7. [...] a European directive going ahead for it to be made illegal across all of Europe in December 2010. At the time of the Europe wide ban there had only been one death formally cited as due to mephedrone…. This is where the EMCDDA data gets shaky. The EMCDDA claim that in UK there were 46 deaths in 2010 [...]


  8. When the media starts influencing policy decisions without full scientific evidence, then the road becomes rather slippery and dangerous. The deaths reported earlier due to Mephadrone actually did not establish a ‘causal association’ but ‘an association’ as the presence of other drugs needed to be investigated.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 12,664 other followers

%d bloggers like this: