Race to the bottom: Eroding evidence from EU drug policy

October 26, 2010

Last week’s recommendation from Europol and EMCDDA for an EU-wide ban on mephedrone is remarkable for its lack of scientific evidence. The 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 only one case  formally cited as having mephedrone 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.

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. I will be discussing its development at the ISCD/Lancet joint summit Drug science and drug policy: Building a consensus on 1 November 2010.

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11 Responses to “Race to the bottom: Eroding evidence from EU drug policy”

  1. Andrew Says:

    I used Mephedrone regularly between January 2010 to April 2010. I supported the ban when it was introduced and I still support it now.

    I was not using large amounts, typically my friends and I would divide 1-2g between us.

    I experienced a range of side-effects from this regular use, both physical and mental. These effects lasted into the week when I was at work and not using.

    Constant nose-bleeds.
    Severe persistent cough.
    Persistent blocked nose.

    Paranoia when using that lasted into the week. When I was using in nightclubs I believed that the bouncers were watching me in case I was using/dealing, I was scared to shake peoples hands in case the bouncers thought I was passing them drugs and it got to the stage where using mephedrone was defeating the purpose of why I was taking it (to have fun) due to the overwhelming paranoia.

    This paranoia would still be present at work after the weekend. Every time I left my office I was sure colleagues were talking about me and I felt that I was going to be sacked at any minute.

    Prior to mephedrone I occasionally used MDMA, once every 3-6 months and only on special occasions. I never bothered wtih cocaine due to the terrible purity.

    As any MDMA user will know for the past 12-18 months good MDMA has been hard to come by which is why so many people were using mephedrone.

    The only reason I used so much mephedrone was due to the cheap price and the amazing ease at which you could order it online.

    I saw people that would never take illegal substances using mephedrone. At one stage I felt like the nightclub community where I live was completely under mephedrones hold. It got to the point where even if I said to myself that I wasnt going to take any mephedrone out with me, so many of my acquaintances would have some on them that it was impossible not to be offered any.

    To reiterate I am glad it is banned as a drug that potent should not be legal or so easily available.

    Prof Nutt I am available at any time to discuss my point of opinion and can provide you with more detailed experiences to support my opinion

  2. Sebastian Says:

    Hi I am quite an ordinary guy at 21 years old have used Mephedrone never again .. I injected it into my vein, do not do that I went on it constantly for 2-3 weeks and I knew the obvious side effects, like I had electric shock without further though I had not used it for over 24hours, I hardly dared to sleep for I thought I would die in their sleep, anyway as I fell asleep and I woke up to an electric shock and I tried to scream but no sound came, or something I was completely destroyed .. I used 0.2 grams to 0.8 grams at a time and with 30 to 60 mins apart, my friend did the same thing and got the exact same problems .. do not underestimate legal chemical drugs! and a tip you have to keep on with some form of drug or so, use Marijana it’s the only right thing to do if you need to

  3. Chris Says:

    I think there are much nicer legal herbal highs derived from plant extracts, which get the desired effect without the nasty comedown or side-effects associated with mephedrone and other chemical psychoactive substances.

    The whole mephedrone thing gave legal highs a bad name, but of course there are many legal herbal highs that are certainly much safer than their chemical counterparts.

    Of course when we have governments that are implementing the European Commission’s hated Codex Alimentarius guidelines to ban all natural herbal medicines in favour of allopathic medicines, I do not expect any sympathy from the government for natural herbal highs.

    I have been selling legal herbal highs for many years now; years ago I was selling magic mushrooms before July 2005, which are not at all dangerous, but Labour saw fit to make them a class A drug, the same as heroin or crack. I’m glad I never sold mephedrone, as I always had a bad feeling about that one, but I don’t have any particular opinion as to whether it should be banned, although it seems strange they made it a Class B drug, when MDMA is a class A drug, and as someone who used MDMA regularly when I was younger can confirm it certainly doesn’t have the nasty side-effects Andrew says he experienced after taking mephedrone.

    I no longer use MDMA as I got bored with it, but I enjoyed it at the time. Seems to me it’s a lot safer than mephedrone, which I’ve heard from many people can be quite unpleasant; although I suppose some people must have liked it, given the amount that was sold while it was legal (and probably still being sold by criminals now it is illegal).

  4. Peter Reynolds Says:

    These three comments scream out the need for fact and evidence based regulation, precisely the point Prof Nutt is making. It is also the policy that should be at the heart of the new drugs strategy.

  5. Alex Young Says:

    Surely mephedrone is only a major issue because all the well-studied drugs with good effects are illegal. I came across people using mephedrone who have never used illegal drugs, putting themselves at far higher risk than if they took MDMA. It’s an insane treadmill that one could run on forever, as one can always find another untested compound that has narcotic effects to push as the new legal high. It’s further evidence for the harm of the unscientific legal=OK/illegal=terrible division.

  6. hst2 Says:

    Hey Mr Nutt, thought I’d drop by and write a comment on a random article as I have seen the news once again flare up this week about the drug issues.
    Take it from someone who sees the sense you see, and enjoyed a weekend at one of the biggest raves in the UK (Westfest) and had an amazing time, probably because there was no alcohol involved. My friends, family and myself all support your work and only hope you can convince this Government to accept the blindingly obvious and admit they’re wrong.People such as myself who want to use medicinal Cannabis and lead an otherwise crime free life are seen as criminals for wanting to be well.

    All the best.

  7. John Baker Says:

    I wondered what prospects there were for making an international scientific response to drugs policy (IOW, an International ISCD)? Seems to me, this would have increased credibility, independence, funding, research capability, publicity and out-reach, and ability to ridicule & influence the inconsistent and lunatic policies of national governments, since they seem unable to do so themselves.

  8. MaryAnne Says:

    I dont understand how Dr. Nutt can be a part of the ” Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs” then publish a paper and have it be ” independent ” of influence.

    I have the paper, but havent read it yet.

    I do agree with the findings, I wonder about the methods.

    Just a social worker in NYC….


  9. Dear Dr. Nutt,

    Well done again. Some day this whole edifice of stupidity must collapse with people such as yourself chipping away.

    Regards
    Bernard Palmer
    Sydney
    http://www.primaryfundamentalright.org/index.php?pageName=pfrWhatIs

  10. John Arthur Says:

    Absolutely agree on need for evidenced based policy making, as a worker on frontline I have witnessed time and again people turning to more harmful substances when banning made their drugs of choice illegal.

    Magic mushrooms was a classic example of this where young people moved to fly agaric and illegal substances including LSD with far more potential for harm, following the closing of the law which had allowed fresh shrooms to be sold legally in the UK.

  11. stacy Says:

    makes me want to drink alchoholic beverages


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