back to article Home Office picks new prof for Nutt job

The Home Office has found someone to take the job of chair of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, left vacant after the sacking of David Nutt. Les Iversen, a former Oxford professor of pharmacology, takes the chair. He has been chairing the meetings since Nutt left in October. The ACMD, required under the Misuse of …


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  1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    Three per cent of deaths?

    As you go on to say "three per cent of sudden, unexpected deaths", which is not the same thing at all.

    I imagine that other leading causes of sudden unexpected death in Spain include vehicle accidents, cot deaths and big men with moustaches, knives and an adverse disposition. But I wonder whether stroke and heart attack in the elderly are included, and being more than a bit slow crossing the road, or if we also are looking only at healthy adults who are not likely to die at all except by getting on the bad side of a vehicle, a man with a moustache and a knife, or the "Running of the Bulls" in Pamplona.

    1. Mike Richards Silver badge

      Not to mention...

      'I imagine that other leading causes of sudden unexpected death in Spain include vehicle accidents, cot deaths and big men with moustaches, knives and an adverse disposition.'

      not forgetting people being crushed by donkeys falling off church towers.

  2. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Poison Chalice

    A puppet to present evidence in support of policy is not a program for any scientist or professor to be supporting ...... and that appears to be all that the Home Office requires.

    Proving Black is White whenever White is not Black is the Folly of Fools and reveals the Sponsors and Program Supporters as such?

  3. Anonymous Coward

    If drugs kill some people and not others...

    ...even more reason for them to all be legal, but the user licenced.

    They can get the licence by going on an awareness course and annual medical (paid for by themselves).

    If it turns out they are a type that is likely to die then don't give them the licence (or put a warning label on it)


  4. Alexander Hanff 1

    You missed the Californian news

    A Californian committee on Public Health just passed a proposed bill to legalise cannabis throughout the state with a $50 per ounce tax set to raise over $1B per year to help offset California's 60B USD budget deficit.

    The Bill is not currently law but it is expected to be passed in November and given Obama's recent intervention with the DEA telling them to stop arresting medical marijuana users in pro medical marijuana states, it could be interesting to see where this one goes.

    Given that marijuana was originally criminalised to allegedly prevent the hemp industry from competing with the cotton industry, it is ironic that economic downturn could see the drug once again legalised in order to help a failing economy through taxation.

    Under the new Bill anyone over the age of 21 will be legally permitted to grow and consume marijuana and as far as I understand it, will be legally permitted to retail the drug as well.

    Interesting times.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Another great idea, ruined by the Government.

      The fact that it will be taxed will ensure the black market remains. Just like every other underground market, black or otherwise. Everyone will get it from their own sources to dodge the tax/duty/whatever.

      If the same thing happened over here we'll all be in the same boat. Everyone still paying what they always did to the same bird/bloke they always got it off while breaking the same old laws and rarely or never getting caught.

      Unfortunately this will solve f*ck all. Looks good on paper though.

      Fail. Cause it will.

      Anonymous Coward, because there is no button for Paranoid Psychosis-having Rant-monkey.

  5. Gareth 11

    I can picture the interview now...

    'Would you describe yourself as outspoken, committed to scientific principles, and willing to stand by the results of your research?"


    "Congratulations, you start Monday."


  6. Anonymous Coward

    Oh yes, that'll go down well

    Those wily Spaniard boffins, fueling the fire. The best thing? How many deaths are sudden, unexpected, and not clearly some accident? How does that hold up to all the other yearly deaths? An interesting point, sure to be ignored by the foaming-at-the-mouth anti-drug puritans.

    Personally, I only drink when with suitable company, don't smoke anything, and am otherwise disgustingly squeeky clean. But I would still like the government to fsck right off when it comes to criminalising recreational pharmaceuticals, including alcohol. The problem isn't criminal, and doing something about it works much better when dealing with it as a matter of public health, qv. Portugal's drug policy.

    The hand grenade, for that picture isn't criminal yet.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's a wonder

    "Nutt was sacked by Home Secretary Alan Johnson for disagreeing with the government's cannabis policy and accused of making political rather than scientific points when discussing the dangers of ecstasy use versus the dangers of horse riding. Nutt said the Home Office decision to upgrade cannabis was made for political reasons."

    He was sacked by Alan Johnson for criticising a drug policy decided in the absence of the evidence, it's a wonder he wasn't deported using an extradition process decided in the absence of the evidence too.

    As ever, Labour would rather lock up Brits that admit they made a mistake. As they removed Parliament from the law making process the number of mistakes and bad decisions made in haste has gone up and up and up, but they can never ever say, "this was a mistake, we're going to fix it".

    Brown alone in his own mind thinks he's perfect. It's a sickness of vanity.

  8. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Easy alcohol filled weekends for some = severe psychiatric harm for others

      The same could be said for alcohol. It can produce long term problems in it's users.

      Everything that produces pleasure for a human can also kill them. Rather than criminalise such stuff where there can not be any control on how it's used, such pleasure inducing stuff should be legalised and licensed and taxed. Education is also very important which can't happen if something is illegal.

      The other thing to look at is why people take drugs. It's because their life is very unexciting/they have psychiatric problems/personal, family, financial problems/etc. They use drugs (including alcohol) to escape. The other is the availability. Legalised doesn't mean more easily available, it means more control. Legalised also means better and known quality (I suspect a lot of deaths are due to poisonous bulking agents).


    2. Marcus Aurelius


      If I recall, Nutt went on to say that the chances of "dope psychosis" are minimal and this was factored into his comments. The real risk is approximately double that of a non-cannabis user i.e. statistically significant but not greatly so. Your chances of dying from alcohol or tabacco use are much greater. As further evidence that the doctors are not on the side of Daily Mail outrage, it is the opinion of the BMA and Lancet that cannabis should be legalised

    3. Shakje

      Oh, ok

      "Sociologists often ask why young black boys so underperform educationally. Well dope might have something to do with it."

      Because all young black boys smoke a couple of ounces a day? It's that damned rap music! Interestingly, as part of C4's sometimes-interesting, sometimes-shit week of programmes about racism, there was one in particular about whether IQ was a racial divide, and near the end, they talked to someone who had done a lot of research on IQ changes over the last 40 years (ie compiled stats), and had seen that although IQ was originally lower in black people, it has been increasing at a phenomonal rate since they started getting the chance of equality, and his projections suggest it will outstrip the IQs of white people in the next 30 years or so (it's still a reasonably slow process), I'd postulate that we're seeing the same sort of thing in the UK.

      "Back to the psychiatric harms, any A&E doctor will tell you of the inordinate number of people coming through their doors with dope psychosis. Psychosis is not to be taken lightly - it's like a heart attack of the mind, to put it crudely. It can take years to recover from, and often people do not emerge per se."

      No doubt. I don't have time to find it right now, but there was a Scandinavian (think it was Swedish, might be wrong) study which looked at something that other studies on drug-induced psychosis didn't - family history of mental health, by compiling the results of other studies and looking at the family histories of the people involved. It found that an overwhelming majority of the people who suffered drug-induced psychosis had a clear family history of mental illness, supporting the view that drug-induced psychosis is an early warning sign of something deeper. Now, instead of hearsay (although I respect the opinions of any doctor), I'd like to see some cold hard facts on how many people annually are admitted to hospital with cannabis-induced psychosis, compare it with statistics on the number of cannabis users in the UK, and then compare it with the number of, say, drinkers who have liver failure, or smokers who have lung cancer. Is it a serious topic for discussion? Of course it is. Will people still end up in that situation if it stays illegal? Certainly. Will people be more aware of the issues and more likely to get such psychosis treated early (instead of being scared of admitting to any official, even a doctor, that they've been getting a bit more paranoid recently than usual) if it's legalised? Almost definitely.

      "El Reg sadly backs the hippy-dippy libertarian stance, clearly, by implying that policymaking which bans drugs, isn't based on evidence. I hope you guys and girls might think more deeply about the implications of drug use - you're a successful, bright bunch, who clearly have your problems licked, but there are a lot of folk out there who Prof Nutt gave the green light to, when it should have shown up a very, very bright red."

      Bloody libertarians (shit, I forgot to call them hippies, maybe you should have tried commie pinkos as well)! It's not so much a case of policymaking not based on evidence, but a case of "we'll commission an investigation so that we can say we have scientific approval" and then ignoring the report because it goes against their preconceived notions. This makes it all a waste of money. How about we agree to disagree on drug policy, but at least agree that paying for an investigation that you're going to ignore, and then have a paddy when a scientist tells the press that you ignored it, is a bit silly really.

    4. Anonymous Coward

      Let's play the data game.

      I've been smoking high-grade skunk pretty much every day for 15 years. As have many of my friends. No one has ever had a psychiatric episode. Indeed, no one I know knows anyone who has ever had a cannabis-induced psychiatric episode. All my friends are young professionals - even the black ones - and are happy, well-adjusted, married, having children, etc. None of this really matters. Except. Where is this pharmageddon you hint at?

      We aren't sinking under an army of raving dope fiends. At least not that I or anyone I know can tell. This includes, by the way, my sister, a clinical psychotherapist who works specifically on drug addiction. Oh of course. It's all the chavs on sink estates who don't have the brains not to have psychiatric episodes.

      You. Tory. Arse.

      > Specifically, the many people whose dope freakouts see them hospitalised and/or otherwise

      > often irrecoverably reduced in their functioning as human beings, VERY often in the leadup to > GCSEs and A levels.

      Lots of statements purporting to be facts but with no data behind them. Point me to any kind of study that backs this up. Oh you can't? So you're either just stupid or lying through your teeth in an attempt to affect policy. Tell me, as an evil, deranged, idiot dope smoker, should I smoke more and more until such time as I can operate intellectually, emotionally and morally at your level? Or should I smoke less? I'm confused.

      Does "very often" refer to some asshat having 5 children out of 6 growing up into asshats and blaming that on the drugs not the genetic heritage. Would you be one of those asshats?

      > Sociologists often ask why young black boys so underperform educationally. Well dope might > have something to do with it.

      Yeah. It might. It might also be the case that black skin reflects more of the clever-waves that the pixie people secretly beam at us at night. I believe it is. I shall effect policy on that basis.

      > Back to the psychiatric harms, any A&E doctor will tell you of the inordinate number of people

      > coming through their doors with dope psychosis.

      My boyfriend, a departmental pharmacist at a famous London hospital rather disagrees with you. I know it's an informal fallacy, but so are you, and I'm going to take his "data" over yours.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        And my belief - having studied this for decades (but not having smoked dope in years because it took so long to quit cigarettes and I'm afraid I'd go right back to them) - is that psychological issues are a consequence of heightened perception and consequent increased sense of honour and justice in a society dominated by lying bigots, and the dope users who do need psychiatric help do so because they can't take the scumbag reactionaries currently exemplified by the so-called Labour Party - and ACPO members - and, sadly, seeing the reality of parents who would rather their children suffer than break the law, any longer.

        1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

          It is Government which is psychotic, with its pathological lying and concealment of the truth

          Absolutely, The Great Mooshta, got to the top of the class as you hit the nail right on the head..... Bullseye.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Plus a change

    Governments have always chosen which advice to act upon, so no change there then. But that's the point of advice isn't it? As a network security advisor I can give advice, if management chose not to take it that's their decision. I don't throw all my toys out of the cot when they ignore me.

    I always suspected that Nutt didn't understand how government works, what his role was or indeed the nature of "advice". It is not now, nor has it ever been the role of government advisors, scientific or otherwise, to create policy. Oddly enough it is the role of advisors to advise.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You obviously don't understand.

      Democratic Government is not supposed to be about putting the profits of the Company first. But maybe that was the point of restyling us as 'customers'.

  10. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Flogging a dead horse ..again, indicates serial embedded stupidity?

    Thanks for those well known and documented observations, Puck , and the dangers which are usually caused by ill informed overuse and abuse by the undereducated and already mentally ill/febrile/depressed/psychotic for how else would one explain the millions who are and remain perfectly normal and who would regularly occasionally enjoy its magic spells?

    There is though always the glaring Bull in the China Shop hyprocisy which is the massive support of alcohol and its brutal taxation ....... which causes more problems and deaths than anyone can be bothered noting or care enough to stop, which does render the position of any who would be critical of the weed as just a political pawn to a very subjective and therefore corrupt and dishonest government.

    "but there are a lot of folk out there who Prof Nutt gave the green light to, when it should have shown up a very, very bright red." ..... Crikey, that is a wild leap into the unknown, Puck, with scant to zero hard evidence to back it up, I'd guess. Nice sound bite, though.

    And Love the Headline, El Reg.:-) .... which says it all for IT in a nutshell.

  11. Throatwobbler Mangrove
    Black Helicopters

    Mumbles in The Mumbles

    "He was sacked by Alan Johnson for criticising a drug policy decided in the absence of the evidence, it's a wonder he wasn't deported using an extradition process decided in the absence of the evidence too."

    Please don't give him any ideas. If he'd realised that Nutt's comments were "intended to provoke anger and division between communities" (specifically, the Cares What The Daily Mail Says community and the Rest of Us community) and out of line with Johnson's own views, he would have proscribed the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs like he did Islam4UK...

  12. Anonymous Coward

    Evidence, Reports and Science

    Of course Nutt should have been sacked.

    My understanding of *ALL* Political and Scientific studies is that you agree on the desired outcome at the beginning then make sure the study is conducted in such a way that the evidence points to that outcome.

    How else can you explain:

    Drug use or abuse

    Alcohol use or abuse

    Teenage Pregnancy

    Global Warming

    The War in Iraq

    The War in Afganistan

    1. Captain Thyratron

      Cargo cult science

      Feynman called it "cargo cult science"--a method which is dressed up to look like science, but which misses the point underneath (whether by ignorance or by design).

      The point of science is to test ideas by experiment. This simply won't do if your objective is to "prove" an agreed-upon conclusion, because you might end up disproving it in the process. But perhaps you want the public credibility of having investigated the matter scientifically, but you don't want that unfortunate side-effect that your agreed-upon conclusion might be wrong. You want the authority of being right, truth be damned.

      The solution is to imitate everything about science except the important part about testing an idea by experiment. Have an "experiment" and lots of pretty-looking data of dubious derivation, and hush up about the details of how you handed a bunch of people questionnaires designed to dupe people into giving you the right answer (like asking Finnish people with brain cancer whether they've use cell phones a lot). Control group? That could dangerous. Nix that unless your phoney experiment is phoney enough to cope with it. We want results here!

      Voila! You've "proven" something politically convenient, and your constituency will think it's science.

  13. Robert Carnegie Silver badge


    Alcohol also kills a great many people. So do cars.

    If David Nutt was sacked from his unpaid(?) position for criticising government drugs policy, I was under the impression that it was specifically the policy of pretending that your policies are based upon scientific evidence when they are not. Which is slander against science itself.

  14. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Horse riding more dangerous than ecstasy

    Johnson made this sound like a flippant, politcally motivated statement. AFAIK it is a factual statement based on the probabiliy of a fatality horse riding versus taking ecstasy. Quite a lot of people do both. A *lot* more get hurt fallling off a horse (or ending up under one).

    In the 5 years in the UK since the 7/7 terrorist attacks more people have died in botched DIY accidents than have died as a result of terrorist attack (in fact that was also the case in 2005 as well. Roughly 70 a year versus 57 )

    On the job front perhaps they could get in that nice lady who ran the Royal Institution. She's at a bit of a loose end and seems quite willing follow NeuLabour thinking in this area.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hemp is a recession beating plant

    Hemp can easily out perform other textile plants, and the clothing produced is quite remarkable, it can be worn in both hot and cold climates.

    Shelled hemp seed is incredibly nutritious, one of nature's complete foods.

    And marijuana; an excellent recreational tool that improves relationships if unfettered by laws and perverse and uninformed morality, is also a brilliant medicine that can relieve a lot of suffering and put people onto the road of recovery in what are normally terminally ill cases.

    What I would preferred to see banned, and marked as a poison is all pharmaceutically produced psychiatric drugs, those are the ones that induce madness. It would be interesting to see who exhibited signs of madness: a psychiatrists treated with psychiatric drugs against someone smoking a few spliffs, my money would be on the psychiatrist losing it.

    Psychiatry is not about the strengthening of sanity, it is about the creation of madness. It would be interesting to see if they could prove that wrong, but they wouldn't dare, as I suspect nearly all psychiatrists know they are in perhaps one of the biggest con and control jobs ever created, they don't want the scrutiny they just want the cash and the power, exceptionally immoral, harmful and really quite cowardly.

  16. Etrien Dautre
    Paris Hilton

    Mom, Why Do Peeple Have All Children Girls Across The Block?

    It's ok with MJ users, as far as I believe, probably with non-Jamaic(i)ans (tm) too, but...

    A statistical substantial pot gives about 8 of 10 girl children births amongst its users' environment, from 6/10 in lower latencies, to the given number in lands lying closer to the poles. Some people know why happens so. Not a disaster, girl children are pure joy, but you can hardly call this tide a counter-Qaeda one...

    Peeple just need to be informed, kid (-: Not by your dad, but by the masters, you probably know the one from... err... ok, sleep, baby.

    You may name El Reg, Jan 14 a source. Not in the Google yet.

    Always forgets did she have a second puff already.

  17. Greenalien

    Freedom to make an informed choice...

    "The other thing to look at is why people take drugs. It's because their life is very unexciting/they have psychiatric problems/personal, family, financial problems/etc."

    WRONG - most people take drugs, legal or illegal, because TAKING DRUGS IS FUN!!!

    Now, I appreciate that not everyone has the same idea of what constitutes fun - some people would rather read a good book, or kick a football about, or go horse-riding (make sure you don't fall off!!) - and all activities carry some sort of risk - but there's still this undercurrent of puritanism in Western society that decrees that only medically-trained people should be able to decide if you can alter your consciousness, and that recreational use of pharmaceutical substances is somehow evil. Drugtaking is the last major taboo, and it's 'high' (ahem) time it was overturned.

  18. Ascylto
    Big Brother


    The word "Patsy" comes to mind.

    The march of the Orwellian State continues apace.

  19. Anonymous Coward

    Bad science

    The 3% says nothing about the safety of cocaine. It merely states that *if* you die a sudden unexpected death (itself an extremely rare event), there is a 3% chance that this will be cocaine related.

    Sudden deaths caused by cocaine expressed as a percentage of total cocaine users would be more telling, but of course that would probably support the notion of 'safe cocaine' and be a lot less dangerous than horse racing :-)

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