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.