Tuesday, 12 January 2010
Well that was a great lecture, David Nutt is every bit as interesting as you'd think from the stories in the news. He pulls no punches when it comes to talking about policy and the Government, including his personal definition of a "drug": something that politicians use and then wish they hadn't.
His lecture talked at great length about why prohibition of drugs does not work and how flawed the current drugs classification system is.
Unfortunately he only did the first half of the lecture, after which he snuck out, so I didn't get much time to ask him questions, but we did have the following exchange:
Q: If your position is that certain illicit drugs, for example cannabis, should share the same legal status as alcohol and tobacco, is this something you see realistically happening in the future?
A: Well I think I would go in the opposite direction. I've always been a strong advocate that prohibition is not effective, and just adds to the problem. Clearly there is no such thing as a completely harmless drug. Alcohol abuse is a big health issue in our society and I would not suggest that they ever market cannabis like they market alcohol, this would only have a detrimental effect on health. I think ultimately it comes down to the Government giving a proportionate response, which our study shows is not currently the case.
Q: What do you think needs to change before the Government will seriously look at this issue?
A: People. People need to stand up and let them know that they won't tolerate an unfair and punitive system.
Q: Do you look at a system like the one they've adopted in Amsterdam as an ideal model for controlling drug usage.
A: Well what they've done in Amsterdamn is very clever. They haven't made it fully legal, they've just decriminalised it, and not everywhere only in certain places. So now what you see are all these "coffee" shops all over the place... I think what people commonly don't realise is that there is no link between criminilization and usage, I think if you look at the statistics in the UK and Amsterdam Cannabis usage is very similar, or if anything even less.
Also worth mentioning that we had a mysterious newcomer sitting at the back of the lecture theatre who clearly was not a student. A journalist perhaps, or someone sent to keep an eye on what David Nutt said to us impressionable young medics.