FreshComment: Ecstasy Agony

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by Kane Mumford, FreshReporter

It is nothing new to assume that if alcohol was invented today it would be a controlled and classified substance. More difficult to determine, however, is in this hypothetical scenario where alcohol is removed from its ingrained place in society and treated as any other inebriate is what classification it would receive from the home office.

The simple answer is no one knows. The department for science and technology have been voluble on the arbitrary nature of drug classification for some time – in 2005 they said that “the present system of drug classification is based on historical assumptions, not scientific assessment”. So it really is down to who is in charge at the time.

Jacqui Smith, when calling upon an Advisory Council, headed by Professor David Nutt of the DST to find out just how naughty people who take ecstasy are being, she discovered that in Nutt’s words “Horse riding is a more dangerous pursuit”. He was made to apologize for his statement which was based on a mere year of study and a career in pharmacology and ecstasy remains a Class A drug. It resides in this category with heroin which funnily enough is called horse. So Ecstasy is as dangerous as horse (not horse riding).

[caption id=”attachment_1795” align=”alignright” width=”300” caption=”Ecstasy has become the drug of choice for the clubbing generation”][/caption]

Smith’s cause is noble enough – people should not be breaking the law for their kicks and to demote Ecstasy to a Class B substance may indeed “send out the wrong message”. But the fact is that it has been at Class A since it was recognized as a controlled substance – a period that has seen its use become more popular. Furthermore, a slightly foolish young person caught with ecstasy intended for recreational use can look forward to the same treatment at the hands of the law as one caught with a more harmful substance. This sort of thing will happen as long as the classification system misrepresents the dangers of substances and people will continue to get the wrong message about those who fall foul of the disproportionate sentencing this it leads to.

When Jacqui Smith grudgingly accepted Professor Nutt’s apology for the horse remark she shovelled some salt into his wound by saying words to the effect that he was called upon to provide scientific evidence for serious consideration and not to make glib equine remarks. After all the muted, drummed up furore the horse remark remains the tagline controversy for what has been a harmful and blatant disregard for the work of science. If it can be so easily ignored for political reasons then what is the point in commissioning costly investigations aimed at providing the best possible advice for the government to act on?

Ecstasy will continue to be used by thousands of people – a sad statement, perhaps even an indictment of an Icarus society that’s so jaded it needs such rocket powered highs to celebrate its leisure time. But As long as this problem is not acknowledged and the government continues to keep the drug problem at arms length – a whole section of society will suffer at the hands of  an enforced ignorance.

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