One of the Government’s leading drug advisers has called on the Home Secretary, David Blunkett, to downgrade ecstasy to a class B drug. Professor David Nutt, who is on Mr Blunkett’s official drug advisory panel, said giving ecstasy the same status as heroin and cocaine misleads young people.
“One of the sad things is giving them the message that ecstasy is as dangerous as heroin,” said Professor Nutt, who is on the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs. “Millions of kids every week take ecstasy and it’s actually a very safe drug. I’m fully signed up to it being class B.”
His views will strengthen calls from drugs campaigners, senior police officers and politicians for further reform of Britain’s drug laws.
In July, Mr Blunkett announced the first relaxation of the laws for 30 years with the downgrading of cannabis to class C. Next month, he is expected to outline plans to improve access to treatment for drug addicts and increase the availability of heroin on prescription. But the Home Secretary has rejected calls from MPs on the home affairs select committee to reclassify ecstasy.
Professor Nutt, head of clinical medicine at Bristol University, added: “It’s clearly safer than heroin or crack but more dangerous than cannabis. Politics is never far away with ecstasy. I think the Home Secretary’s decision to reclassify cannabis and not ecstasy was based on fear of public opinion [after the death of the teenager, Leah Betts].”
Last year, 40 ecstasy-related deaths were reported. Between 1993 and 1997, 72 people died after taking the drug compared with 275,000 who died from smoking or alcohol-related illness. This year, three leading psychologists started a controversy by claiming ecstasy may not be dangerous.
One, Dr Harry Sumnall of the University of Liverpool, said previous research was flawed, researchers were biased and there is no conclusive evidence to show the drug damages the brain.
Dutch psychologists are planning a five-year study into ecstasy’s side effects.
Pubdate: Nov.24 2002
Author: Sophie Goodchild, Home Affairs Correspondent