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Posts Tagged ‘classification of drugs’

A shot in the arm for sense

Thursday, April 12th, 2007

Drugs

“An error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation, nor does truth become error because nobody sees it.”
Mahatma Gandhi

At last! Science is finally starting to talk sense about our completely irrational societal attitudes in discriminating between legal and illegal drugs.

The present Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 in the UK specifies the maximum penalties for Class A drugs which Include: Ecstasy, LSD, heroin, cocaine, crack, magic mushrooms (if prepared for use) amphetamines (if prepared for injection). The penalties for possession: up to seven years in prison or an unlimited fine. Or both. Penalties for dealing: up to life in prison or an unlimited fine. Or both.

The classification of drugs into classes A, B and C is supposed to be based on a scientific assessment of the risk of substances so classified to individual health, and to society by people under their influence. However, to anyone who’s conducted their own experiments into the effects of many of these drugs, or to those working with people who’ve become addicted to them, the arbitrary and often irrational classification system – particularly in its exclusion of the societally-sanctioned drugs alcohol and tobacco – has been open to serious question for some considerable time. At least 40 years. In research published in The Lancet on March 24, the authors of a comprehensive new assessment of varying ‘harmful’ criteria attributable to each classified drug conclude

“Our findings raise questions about the validity of the current Misuse of Drugs Act classification, despite the fact that it is nominally based on an assessment of risk to users and society. The discrepancies between our findings and current classifications are especially striking in relation to psychedelic-type drugs. Our results also emphasise that the exclusion of alcohol and tobacco from the Misuse of Drugs Act is, from a scientific perspective, arbitrary. We saw no clear distinction between socially acceptable and illicit substances. The fact that the two most widely used legal drugs lie in the upper half of the ranking of harm is surely important information that should be taken into account in public debate on illegal drug use. Discussions based on a formal assessment of harm rather than on prejudice and assumptions might help society to engage in a more rational debate about the relative risks and harms of drugs.”
(Nutt, David, King, Lesley A, Saulsbury, William and Blakemore, Colin. Development of a rational scale to assess the harm of drugs of potential misuse. The Lancet 2007; 369:1047-1053)

According to the study’s rankings, alcohol deserves a Class A classification, and tobacco a Class B. Against this simple rational assessment, the hysteria surrounding illegal drugs use seems not only hypocritical but ludicrous. (Doubly so when seen in the light of the pharmaceutical industry’s best efforts to ensure that the majority of the population are dependent on their products for life …) This is not to say that the effects of drug addiction – illegal or legal – are to be taken lightly, but that labelling a substance ‘legal’ or ‘illegal’ does absolutely nothing to contribute to understanding or addressing the underlying problems that lead people into a path of addiction and harm. Neither does it overly discourage those who enjoy a good party, but the illegality disguises the fact that many substances can be and are enjoyed with responsibly and moderation, just as alcohol can, when there’s no push-me-pull-you of stigma or ‘forbdden fruit’ attached to it.

Isn’t it obvious that a desire to habitually over-indulge in any mood/perspective-altering substance is not ’caused’ by the substance itself, but stems mainly from frustration, discomfort, even desperation, with the mood/perspective/situation that the person’s in prior to taking the substance? Attempting to remove the means to escape doesn’t solve the problem, and though some of these substances do themselves actively contribute to a cycle of dependence, this isn’t how dependency begins and is not the sole factor in how it’s maintained. Demonising the substance in a wave of hysterical over-reaction not only obscures the real problem but frustrates the development of a culture of responsible use for recreation and enjoyment.

Is it too much to hope for that some of the conclusions from this study might supplant the fear-based hype that masquerades as the drugs ‘education’ currently delivered to our children in schools? If we really want to protect them from harm, as opposed to merely educating them in the nature of propaganda, we need to tell them the truth. Sooner or later, the more adventurous ones find that out for themselves, and word soon spreads, so in this context what the ‘education’ achieves is to leave kids on their own to experiment with what safe and responsible use is all about, and gives them yet another reason to take what adults tell them with a very large pinch of salt. Or something else …



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Thanks to the current insanity revolving around homeopathy in this country, in both media and blogosphere, it's become necessary to insult your intelligence by explicitly drawing your attention to the obvious fact that any views or advice in this weblog/website are, unless stated otherwise, the opinions of the author alone and should not be taken as a substitute for medical advice or treatment. If you choose to take anything from here that might be construed as advice, you do so entirely under your own recognisance and responsibility.

smeddum.net - Blog: Confessions of a Serial Prover. Weblog on homeopathy, health and related subjects by homeopathic practitioner Wendy Howard