FAR FROM NUTTY: An Intelligent Drug Tsar (so-called) Gets Fired In England—for honesty

“Stoned people aren’t a danger to others,” [Professor David Nutt] says. [I don't know if this is entirely true, but] “Classifying it as B [criminally] will be a disaster, because anyone caught in possession three times can be sent to prison for five years. The prison population will increase, those people will find it hard to get jobs. That way you just add to the underclass and the tax burden.

In short, an aspect of the USA’s hopeless, vindictive drug policy.


In England, Professor David Nutt was fired from his position on the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs for saying the penetratingly obvious:

Alcohol is more dangerous than cannabis.

Now I don’t do either but I still, statistically, couldn’t agree more that alcohol is dangerous in many different ways, and is probably more dangerous than cannabis.

I used to occasionally drink—until it occurred to me that alcohol lowers consciousness, keeps people inebriated and numb to their disenfranchised social conditions (the working class, for example, at least historically), it ‘s physically toxic in countless ways and it increases indiscriminate violence greatly.

So granted, I’m now the most boring person on the planet, but still…

As for David Nutt, thank god for intelligent and intellectually courageous people, which is way more than most in politics.

From the article in the telegraph:

The big problem, as [Nutt] sees it, is that while politicians love to be “tough” on classified drugs, their response to the far greater danger posed by the most dangerous drug of all, alcohol, has been “puny”.

“We are not taking the tidal wave of damage seriously enough. If we want to reduce deaths, alcohol and heroin are the issues. I have four children, now aged 18 to 26, and at almost every party they went to in their teenage years, a child was taken to hospital with alcohol poisoning.

Liver disease will become a worse killer than heart disease within twenty years. [throw it in with Type II diabetes for young people] Scotland already has the highest proportion of people with sclerosis of the liver in the world. There are hundreds of kids lying in hospital beds waiting for transplants that will never come.

But when Sir Liam Donaldson [the Government's chief medical adviser] put forward a radical approach to reduce alcohol consumption by increasing the price, within seconds the government rejected his proposal.”

Nutt is not a puritan. He confesses to “liking” alcohol, to having binged occasionally when he was young, and to having tried some drugs as a student – but not cannabis, because he has never smoked. The worst problem with alcohol, he says, is that it is “insidious”: people develop a strong head and aren’t aware of its toxicity. But the main issue is that moderation doesn’t seem to be possible for many people, especially the young.

He has asked his own children why their friends set out to get wasted and break the windows of the Keynsham church. “They say it is the excitement of not knowing what will happen.”

Alcohol—with some folks and some situations—helps numb and dumb the brain so one doesn’t care what happens. Using Nutt’s adjective, that’s its “insidious” nature: hence, drinking and driving (vehicular homicide), vandalism, physical abuse, rape etc—see even the mass rape of German women in 1945 by the Russian army—all painfully increased under the influence of alcohol.

The article is here. Do I think alcohol should be prohibited of criminalized? No. Is it a social disaster in so many ways? Yes. Do people become incredibly wealthy by selling it—like drug lords—and simultaneously respected in places of Power? Yes. Do a bunch of men in suits decide on punitive drug policy and then go off for a few shots of cognac afterwards? Yes. Is the hypocrisy beyond belief? Any fool can answer that.

“We cannot make alcohol illegal. We need a structural approach. The real price of alcohol has dropped by half since Labour came to power and the use has doubled [God bless their War on Drugs—what a joke]. To bring consumption down, prices should be doubled, maybe tripled, and the drink-driving limit should be reduced.”

The other thing is, if a country was to get rid of alcohol—even if it just really raised the prices making it exorbitant—union solidarity might increase, and who in Power wants a more organized rabble?

Love more, drink less, hug your neighbour,

Pete xoxo


2 Responses to “FAR FROM NUTTY: An Intelligent Drug Tsar (so-called) Gets Fired In England—for honesty”

  1. Karen says:

    At least we’re seeing movement in a positive direction here with the Obama Administration no longer prosecuting medical marijuana users or suppliers. And members of the Administration have already gone on record as saying the War on Drugs is a failure.

    While this may not sound like much of a step, much of the history of the US legal system involves maintaining a balance (relative term) between State and Federal power. When the Fed turns its back on an issue, it opens the door for each State to decide how to handle, and how far to extend its control over, said issue. This, ironically, brings issues closer to the voters, always a good thing. Federal law is enacted by our representatives (aka Congress) acting on the voters’ behalf, whereas State law is frequently voted on directly by the residents of the state. While the process may be slow, the tide seems to be turning.

    Now here’s an odd scenario. Legalizing marijuana would be a bad thing at the local level because local (municipal) courts (and therefore municipalities) make money from legal proceedings for drug busts. If marijuana possession and use were made legal, it would be a substantial hit for many municipal incomes, which would have to be made up in some way. Higher taxes or more nuisance laws anyone?

    You know I’m very familiar with the devastation alcohol can cause for both individuals and those who love them, but I’m still inclined to rank alcohol and cannabis equally dangerous as both cause similar serious long-term physical, social, and interpersonal problems. Alcohol’s effects are well established, but long-term cannabis use has been connected with many of the same ill effects as smoking (some of the chemicals in cannabis are worse than cigarettes) including chronic respiratory disease and cancer, as well as degenerative effects on concentration and memory formation/learning, and there is increasing evidence that it can effect fertility, particularly in men, via effects on hormone regulation.

    Also, I have attended, and once been involved in, MVAs that were directly attributed to cannabis. In my case no one was hurt, but the others involved some serious injuries. All were caused not by excessive speed but aberrant judgment. (For the record, I was not the one using; the other driver was stoned, so much so she had to be transported to the hospital.)

    Professor Nutt, an obviously very wise individual and parent, is not the first and I’m sure not the last individual to be smacked down for daring to make sense. Donna Shalala was nearly drawn and quartered for suggesting that students be taught alternative methods from intercourse to mutual sexual pleasure in sex ed. The technique she suggested precludes intercourse, prevents pregnancy, and makes the spread of STDs much less likely. Members of congress were “appalled” and requested apologies! There’s irony!

    What is it about winning an election that causes the total loss of all perspective on reality? It certainly seems to happen an awful lot, or is it me?

    Love to you and those you love,

  2. Lovely Karen,

    As always, your comments are fantastic. And I probably sound like I think marijuana isn’t a problem, which is not fully true. Heavy use of the drug, I would guess, is not a healthy thing at all, and the information you give is very important, and I really appreciate it.

    I would also guess that either substance in true moderation is probably not a big deal. The weird thing is, one is illegal and the other is not only legal, but the expected and encouraged gift at every and any social gathering, except perhaps an AA meeting. That’s just perverse to me, in a certain way.

    I certainly don’t need alcohol to have a great time with people I like or love. That some do is fine. But that social gatherings actually imply that we will drink—drink is presupposed (is that the right word? I think I’m drunk)—and that people bring alcohol without any conscious awareness of who is pushing this ritual is to me unfortunate, ironic and has caused countless—hundreds of thousands—of deaths by driving.

    But again, your comments are great. And I agree with you. The thing is I’m not a prohibitionist. I don’t want to make alcohol illegal. And I don’t want people to be imprisoned for the use of the drug of their choice. At the same time, I don’t want drug use to lead to the injury or death of others. And I would, utopianly, love people to be drug-fee, by choice, and deeply content. But alas…life is not that simple. We have hearts and brains and pain and longings and on and on…

    So whatever procedures achieve the most harm reduction, do not increase drug use, and can be matched by a pragmatic cost analysis, I’m all for. But enriching drug lords? Funding covert wars? Further marginalizing already marginalized people? This is not good, or just. But who knows what’s going on, or what will happen? Still, you’re the greatest.


    PS I thought your letter about Type II diabetes was great too, and informative. As for the Simply Raw diet, I don’t think it demands a complete lifestyle change but is rather to show immediately, unequivocally, the brutal effects of what we are eating (and, man, I love cooked and comfort food!). And although your comment about weight loss was a valid and smart one, I don’t think it actually was, in the Simply Raw diet, the weight loss that dropped the insulin at first. Within THREE days of this diet, the insulin count, for five of the six, had dropped dramatically, and insulin was already being deeply cutback, if not stopped. Within two weeks, I believe they were all off insulin. Two older guys who were heavily medicated, 16 or 17 drugs, were no longer taking their drugs.

    And ironically, you said that one could do that diet for a month, but then what? I agree with that thought, but get this: One guy (maybe 60 years old), after two weeks, was off his insulin (if I remember correctly) and had gone off all the pills (16 or something) but quit the program anyway, two weeks in! He couldn’t deal with the food and the change to his system—in a sense, perhaps, the emotion or feeling of his body being detoxed, or healthier. And when his relative came to pick him up (he was Native Indian), hobbling on a cane, and looking—I know, I’m judging—but looking very diabetic and unwell, my heart broke. He preferred to eat (or had to eat) processed, vacuous food rather than be insulin free and off medication. It was painful to see, and the others were trying to talk him into staying. It was sad and telling. Food is a big, conditioned, difficult deal.

    And I just watched a film called Fixed, about drug addicts, and these totally strung out junkies (a mother and daughter, tragically) wanted one kind of food in their state: McDonalds! I thought, no wonder. They’re brutally processed and messed up, and thus they want food of the same energetic and health (or lack thereof)—brutally processed and vacuous. We are part of this environment, part of nature, and we are, in a profound way, what we eat (and think—what our brain eats). But I say all this with my own issues, and with humility, because it’s so hard to be more free, healthy, clear-thinking, undepressed et cetera, and countless forces pull us in the least beautiful direction.

    I send you big love, and gratitude for your always in-depth and wise comments,

    Pete xoxo

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