I wrote a feature about psychoactive drugs a few weeks ago, mainly inspired by the recent paper from David Nutt and colleagues who argued that the blanket ban of psychoactive drugs harms progress in neuroscience (apart from ruining the lives of millions of people with the unwinnable "war on drugs").
Since then, tragic events, including the death of a teenage girl here in Oxford, have highlighted the issue. There is a properly dangerous drug making the rounds in the UK right now, PMA (paramethoxyamphetamine) (probably called Dr Death for a reason), but as drugs are banned regardless of their harm, it's hard to know what is and what isn't dangerous. Plus, there is no quality control, and if kids buy an illegal pill, it could contain anything. In the Netherlands, by contrast, there are labs checking up on what is being traded, and they haven't had problems with PMA yet.
Essentially, my bottom line is, people always have used mind-altering drugs and always will do, and if there wasn't this blanket prohibition banning harmless and dangerous things alike, it would be much safer for them to do so. Hardline prohibitionists are just creating most of the problems they are pretending to solve.
Oh well. Don't get me started on this, it drives me up the wall in no time. Just read my feature:
Drugs prohibition is criminals’ gain, neuroscience’s loss
Current Biology, Volume 23, Issue 14, R585-R588, 22 July 2013 doi:10.1016/j.cub.2013.07.012
which is freely accessible (and legal, still!) as
Cannabis sativa - picture credit: GW pharmaceuticals.
PS: couple of further links re. the recent deaths linked to PMA:
- Ian Birrell in The Guardian
- Excellent piece from Archie Bland in the Independent
- Martha Fernback post-mortem inconclusive (BBC news)
PPS only after publishing this blog entry I became aware of the organisation Transform Drug Policy Reform, which has published detailed suggestions for a drugs regulation based on actual scientific evidence and on policies that are feasible (borrowing bits and pieces from established frameworks such as the handling of prescription drugs). "After the War on Drugs: Blueprint for Regulation" is freely available as a PDF download, but if you would like to support the organisation, you can also order it as a book from them. You can also download the executive summary only, which is also available in several other languages including Spanish, Russian, and Italian.