||[Oct. 31st, 2009|10:01 am]
Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary (the most recent one- nobody lasts long in the job) just sacked Professor David Nutt from his headship of ACMD- The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs- for publicly stating that LSD and Ecstasy are less dangerous than booze and fags. Hired to be a propagandist, Professor Nutt has consistently acted as a scientist- and man of conscience. Earlier this year he memorably aquainted us with the statistic that ecstasy kills fewer people than horseriding. |
My Johnson's government is committed to the unwinnable, economy-busting and world-wide-misery-causing "war on drugs"- and cannot allow anyone on its team to compromise that policy by giving the public the facts.
Didn't you know, we're supposed to accept the science blindly when it comes to GM foods and reject it equally blindly when it comes to drugs? Careful now, or you'll be packed off to the Correction Centre.
It's dispiriting how little weight the truth carries when it comes to government policy.
Sometimes I wonder where this fear of pleasure comes from. It must go deeper than the Puritans, this idea that anything that *feels good* is automatically bad for you.
There have always been killjoys. The definitive statement on the Puritan mindset is Euripides' The Bacchae.
Which demonstrates what happens when you try to exclude pleasure, ecstasy, and altered states entirely. *points to the head of Pentheus*
The problem with being married to a scientist is that I will no longer accept a statistic such as "ecstasy kills fewer people than horseriding" without wanting to know whether that's just the raw numbers or whether that's corrected for numbers of participants in each activity. I'd also want to know what exactly he means by "horse riding". Does that include professional riders like jockeys and competitive sports like eventing? Or has he only included leisure-type riding activities?
There's also the point that horse riding is a dangerous sport. That's why about 10 years ago I finally admitted I'd lost my nerve and found a new home for the horse.
So saying that taking ecstasy is less dangerous than horse riding isn't terribly helpful really.
All of which is a long-winded way of saying that it's all very complicated and people will try to reduce it to sound bites.
I don't know how the figures were arrived at either.
But I think the point remains whatever the science. We accept risk in one area of life, but not another- and there's no real logic to it. Horseriding and drugtaking are gratuitous and unnecesary activities that people indulge in for pleasure. Both carry risks. Why is one considered wholesome and the other not?
Indeed. But without knowing how the figures were arrived at, they're absolutely meaningless. Basically the scientist has said that one potentially risky activity is more dangerous than another potentially risky activity. Or possibly not, depending on how he's interpreted the figures.
But it's always more complicated than that, which is why science can't give us the answers. Moral and other issues are important, which is why I was happy for my son to play rugby and go mountain biking, but wouldn't let him join the cadets, even though that was probably a much less dangerous activity for a teenager.
PS Just so you know how I stand on the issue, though I have never taken drugs (other than alcohol, which I do classify as a mind-altering substance) and have no wish to do so, I tend to feel that drugs ought to be legalised, including hard drugs. As I see it, the dangers of them being illegal far outweigh the dangers of using them.
That's very much my opinion too. I don't take drugs- unless prescription painkillers count- and have no particular wish to do so. I think they should be legalized and controlled, as tobacco and alcohol are.
The Victorians managed to run an empire and write great novels and build railways while ingesting vast amounts of legal laudanum. I think the dangers of drugtaking have been greatly hyped.
It's nice to know that American pols are not the only ones who get dumb ideas sometimes - or a lot of the time...