LONDON – In what could come as a rude shock to many alcoholics and smokers, the British government’s drug adviser has said that drugs like Ecstasy, LSD and cannabis are less harmful than alcohol and cigarettes.
Criticizing former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith’s decision to rate cannabis as a Class B drug, David Nutt, the chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, accused him of “distorting and devaluing” scientific research.
Prof Nutt pointed out that smoking cannabis carried a “relatively small risk” of psychotic illness, and called for the use of a “harm” index to rate all drugs including alcohol and tobacco.
According to him, alcohol was fifth behind cocaine, heroin, barbiturates and methadone in causing harm, while tobacco was ninth, ahead of cannabis, LSD and Ecstasy.
He blasts the “artificial” separation of alcohol and tobacco from the illegal drugs.
“No one is suggesting that drugs are not harmful. The critical question is one of scale and degree,” the Times Online quoted him, as saying.
“We need a full and open discussion of the evidence and a mature debate about what the drug laws are for – and whether they are doing their job,” he said.
Prof Nutt added: “I think we have to accept young people like to experiment – with drugs and other potentially harmful activities – and what we should be doing in all of this is to protect them from harm at this stage of their lives.
“We therefore have to provide more accurate and credible information. If you think that scaring kids will stop them using, you are probably wrong.”
However, James Brokenshire, the Conservative home affairs spokesman, disagreed with Prof Nutt.
He said: “Giving simple labels of levels of harm risk gives a false impression of the dangers, Drugs like GBL [a 'party' drug] can be lethal if taken in combination with alcohol. “Rather than providing clearer evidence on the harms linked to illicit drugs, Professor Nutt is making an overtly political pitch and that isn’t helpful.”