My ACMD resignation letter to the Home Secretary

1st April 2010

Dear Home Secretary

Resignation from Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs

With regret and sadness, I am tendering my resignation as a member of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs.

I was honoured to be appointed to this position and I had hoped that my substantial experience of managing drug prevention and treatment services might help influence the Committee, and thereby the Government, to think about drugs as more of a Public Health issue rather than focussing narrowly on the Criminal Justice aspects. This has not been the case.

My main interest and competence is in the field of prevention and early intervention with young people. I have grown increasingly disillusioned not only with the lack of attention paid to this by politicians and the media but also by the ACMD’s apparent lack of interest in the subject (with a few individual exceptions). At our meeting earlier this week, the update report on ‘Pathways to Problems’, published on the same day, received scant attention. Indeed, there was no time for questions on the report due to the  haste with which we were being pushed to make a decision about classifying Mephedrone; this so that the Chair could come to meet with you later in the day and you could do a round of press announcements.

Re-Mephedrone; we had little or no discussion about how our recommendation to classify this drug would be likely to impact on young people’s behaviour. Our decision was unduly based on media and political pressure.  The report was tabled to the whole Council for the first time on Monday; the Chair came to brief you before the whole Council had even discussed all of the report. In fact, I still haven’t seen the final version. 

When, as Home Secretary, David Blunkett (note – should be Charles Clarke)announced that the entire classification system would be reviewed, I welcomed it and was disappointed when the idea was shelved. This needs urgently to be revisited. We need to review our entire approach to drugs, dumping the idea that legally-sanctioned punishments for drug users should constitute a main part of the armoury in helping to solve our country’s drug problems. We need to stop harming people who need help and support.

At the end of last year, I decided not to resign over the sacking of David Nutt, preferring instead to see how things panned out and to hope that the ACMD could develop a work programme which would help prevent and reduce harm, particularly to young people. I have no confidence that this will now happen, largely though not totally due to the lack of logic of the context within which the Council is constrained to operate by the Misuse of Drugs Act. As well as being extremely unhappy with how the ACMD operates, I am not prepared to continue to be part of a body which, as its main activity, works to facilitate the potential criminalisation of increasing numbers of young people.

Yours sincerely

Eric Carlin

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113 responses to “My ACMD resignation letter to the Home Secretary

  1. The greatest of respect to you on this action, the time has come to take account for the problems MODA has caused.

  2. I am looking forward to seeing the report that was commissioned to look at the review of the drug classification system. As I mentionned in the other posting on this, it was actionned by Charles Clarke and not David Blunkett and this has now been orderred to be released by the ICO after nearly 5 years of suppression.

    I am interested to know more about in what ways the MDA constrains the ACMD. In my view a serious problem has been that the ACMD has not taken independent legal advice about the operation of the law and it’s duties. I believe that it is ignorrance and assumptions that has led to this mess.

    • Sorry for the error re David Blunkett rather than Charles Clarke. These Home Secretaries have changed over so quickly! Thanks For the correction.

  3. pineal gland band

    good on ya mate

  4. I applaude your decision and agree with the vast majority of the things you have said.

    I’m just not sure what impact your resignation, unlesss followed by others, will have now that the press feel they have won the battle and moved on.

    • The point is that drug policy should not be media-led, it should be evidence-led; where we don’t have sufficient evidence, we should establish systems to get more. I agree that I could have timed my resignation to have greater media impact but I am not a politician and I was not appointed to ACMD as a politician. I was appointed for my 15+ years’ experience of managing services for drug users and young people-led/influenced prevention services, in the latter developing the evidence base which might help reduce harm rather than relying on failed moralistic approaches.

  5. Well done Eric, seriously well done.

    Wasn’t it Charles Clarke who ordered the review of the classification system though? A minor detail.

    I suspect we’re about to see a whole new approach to drugs which will sweep away any pretence of being based on anything other than legal sanctions.

    • Sorry again, there were so many Home Secretaries coming and going at 1 time I got muddled. At least the ‘new approach’ you suggest is coming would be honest rather than pretending to be evidence-based.

  6. Congratulations, Eric – this must have been a very difficult decision. In a field like this you have to pick your battles, and choosing to go now, on a specific point of principle rather than simply out of general frustration, does more for the cause of drug prevention than you could have achieved by going at the time of David Nutt’s resignation (or, apparently, by persevering with the ACMD). I don’t myself think that the press is ready to move on from the ACMD, even if some papers (not all) feel they’ve won the war on mephedrone, and your resignation will be a significant part of that discussion.

  7. Eric, well done.

    Congratulations on taking a stand for harm reduction over Political nonsense.

    Yours is a principled, measured and courageous position.

    We can only hope that more follow your lead.

    All best
    Danny

  8. HI Eric, Respect to you and and your decision. It’s hard to add anything above and beyond what’s been said by you and the other previous resignees.
    The Home Office, as an organisation, is responding like this to extend it’s CJ remit and the Power and Money which follows.
    Their naked power broking, utilising poorly informed lazy hacks, in the red tops and on the broadcast media, is redolent of anti democratic population manipulation & anti evidence based misinformation propogandising.
    Kind Regards
    Ross

  9. We live in a society where thousands are criminalised for vices deemed arbitrarily “bad” while criminals (you can identify these easily: they leave behind *victims*) are free to continue their trade.

    How is it that politicians, of all people, feel justified in imposing their tabloid-pleasing versions of moral correctness on otherwise law-abiding minorities?

    Blair is responsible for the deaths of uncounted thousands of people, yet is free to make a fortune off the back of his war crimes. But grow a little plant in your house and you can be imprisoned? WTF???!!!

    So, um, ‘how could anyone of integrity remain in the ACMD’? is my lame and ill-made point.

  10. Kenneth Eckersley

    Dear Eric,

    Whilst you have probably done the right thing, it is a shame that we no longer have your direct influence within the Council.

    Classifying the harm of a range of chemicals, and then using that to determine supply and usage penalties is a political consideration which in practice has been mainly used to protect the licensed and prescribed drugs sectors from condemnation.

    Not surprising with so many psychiatrists and pharmacologists on a Council which requires only 4 (four) votes to determine a given issue.

    To be of real value to the population, it should be the Advisory Council on the Avoidance and Recovery From Addictive Substance Usage.

    The only sane and humane definition for “recovered” is a lasting return to the natural state of relaxed abstinence into which 99% of the population is born. Any lesser goal is a product of profit or political orientation.

    Such fully abstinent recovery from addiction is available in 43 countries and has been for 44 years, but the vested commercial interest denigration of such success, and their influence on our politicians, spawns set-ups like the ACMD as a diversion from the real problems caused by addictive substances and the available ways in which addiction can be avoided and recovered from.

    Whilst every member of the ACMD will no doubt
    consider heroin addiction as a problem for the whole community as well as for the individual, at a cost to the taxpayer of £60,000 per year per prescribed methadone user, why is methadone not also ranked by the ACMD alongside heroin, and the real answer is that psychiatrists and pharmacists make huge profits out of methadone and Subutex, etc., but not out of heroin (or cannabis, cocaine, crystal meth, etc.).

    TRAINING individuals in self-help recovery equips them for lifelong abstinence. TREATMENT keeps them as an expensive consumer of psychiatric counselling services and pharmaceutical products for for life.

    Kenneth Eckersley,
    C.E.O. Addiction Recovery Training Services.
    A not-for-profit Community Support Organisation.

  11. Eric:

    Congratulations on your principled stand and eloquent letter.

    I was also particularly sad to see the excellent Pathways to Problems follow up report, one of the most important and detailed projects that the ACMD has ever undertaken and the result of five years intensive expert discussion and work, completely ignored by the media and the Home Secretary in the tabloid froth and hysterical rush to get Mephedrone banned before the election. This was not only another political disgrace for the Home Office but a huge loss for the drugs field and wider public and political debate on issues far more important than the legal status of mephedrone.

    I hope after the dust has settled ther can be some serious contemplation about the role and remit of the ACMD, and a thorough review of the classification system and the legislation in which it sits. Surely the need for such a review is now beyond doubt.

    Steve

  12. Well, good work. Darryl’s long copypaste above, though, should be trimmed – it’s like a roadblock to the comments!

  13. I see that we’re being told that you’ve resigned because of the decision around mephedrone, thus making your point all too eloquently.

    I think it’s a real shame that the ACMD has lost such a committed advocate for prevention and it certainly leaves the committee weaker than they were.

    It leaves me wondering whether they will be able to respond to what seems to me to be real opportunities to make the case for prevention and early intervention.

    The paper from the government about early intervention, the setting up of a centre for understanding behaviour change”> and similar interest from the right of centre all speak of a desire to find ways to reduce demand for drugs.

    Of course it’s not going to be easy to do, in fact to quote from In the Loop it’s going to be “difficult, difficult, lemon difficult”, but the ACMD will now find themselves being left behind unless there are significant changes to it’s remit.

  14. The irony of this is that we most need people like you on those kind of bodies.

    Hysteric reactions to media campaigns, help noone.

  15. Pingback: Scottish Socialist Youth » Another government expert resigns over Mephedrone

  16. I’d just like to show my support for your decision; what a shame that the ACMD is governed by mass hysteria and sensationalism, not on evidence, or lack thereof. I hope you can still utilise your position to try and put an end to the way in which we criminalise victims- we need people like you!

  17. sorry to see you go.

    as a parent i am very dissapointed that the government is not interested in responsible drug policy and regulation.

    it worrys me that my children may end up using new, potentially dangerous and untested substances just because they are legal when older, known and thoroughly tested substances remain illegal and unregulated.

    it angers me when non politically motivated experts are then sacked by politically motivated non experts.

    it is a shame that my childrens welfare comes second to media hype and political popularity.

    there is no such thing a completely safe drug but it is frustrating to see dangerous ones being used in place of the less dangerous ones.

    many other responisble, honest and caring parents feel the same way i do.

    for the sake of my and other peoples children please keep up your good work and stand by your principles.

  18. Pingback: Another ACMD Resignation – An Example of What Nutt Should Have Done « Pasco Phronesis

  19. Best wishes Eric ,
    It is a pity that our Most respected Scientists have to take a Stand to feel comfortable to tell the Truth . I respect this Decision ,but do worry that your replacement may be that of a Yes person .Happy to go along with the Government Spin Machine. Lets Hope not.
    kind regards
    frank (babafk)

  20. Pingback: Mephedrone ban prompts drugs council resignation | Reaction Radio

  21. Well done, Mr Carlin. I imagine there were a few times you felt like leaving. The mephedrone story makes me gag, but not surprised this close to election. Do good work elsewhere.

  22. Pingback: Liberal Conspiracy » Drugs advisor quits! ‘Little or no discussion’ on mephedrone

  23. Thank you for a principled and decent stand. Let us hope that your remaining ACMD colleagues will have the integrity to take similar action, instead of continuing as catspaws for ministers.

  24. Pingback: BMJ Group blogs: Journal of Medical Ethics blog » Blog Archive » The Slow Death of the ACMD

  25. Pingback: Mephedrone update: Another ACMD expert quits « Medic News

  26. The Drug Equality Alliance offers its sympathy and support for your stand for an evidence-based administration of drug law. When decisions are based on science rather than hysteria this will eliminate unnecessary criminalisation and, more importantly, help save lives.

    http://www.drugequality.org

  27. I have been following the mephedrone controversy/ ACMD resignations on my blog.

    Including a post about yourself: http://medicnews.wordpress.com/2010/04/02/mephedrone-update-another-acmd-expert-quits/

  28. Eric! Well done and good on you. That is very impressive, but as has been covered above, we really do need people like you on the council. I completely understand why you did though.
    Well done on sticking to your principles –
    VB

  29. You did a good and honourable thing. As Steve says, hopefully after the dust settles some change will come about.

    I also agree with James, the long comment should be linked to or something.

  30. The greatest of respect to you on this action, the time has come to take account for the problems MODA has caused.

  31. Duncan Hoffmann

    Dear Eric,
    Thank you for taking a brave and principled stand.

    The desperate pandering to the red tops and their agenda, without ANY knowledge of what they are talking about, has yet again led to needles criminalisation of young people and a new source of income for ‘real’ criminals.

  32. James – it does require a long scroll I admit – but it’s already condensed material. If more people were better informed about Mr Hardison’s analysis of our law (including the judiciary), then the deeply rooted misconceptions about drug laws could be unravelled. This document has something to teach everyone!

  33. I will be brief Eric:
    Hear! Hear! An excellent letter that makes excellent points.
    Alan Story
    Kent Law School
    Canterbury, UK.

  34. Well done for taking such a principled stand.

    Surely I can’t be the only one thinking about petitioning the Government for a compete reform of drugs laws, through the Number 10 website?!

  35. I wish you all the best in finding a more comfortable job Eric – you deserve it. Thanks for making a stand for our society.

  36. Thankyou Eric for your service to the field and commitment to the truth.

    kindest regards

  37. Well done Eric i agree its time to start lookng at WHY our teenagers want to get out of their heads. We ought to have purity testing machines in our nightclubs to test the drugs our teenagers are taking as this may be a better option at keeping them safer rather than turning them all into criminals.
    Good luck for the future and i sincerely hope to see more ACMD employees take a stand too.
    Pat

  38. Vishant Patel

    I completely understand your position regarding the need for an evidence base to prove or disprove the potential for harm caused by mephedrone. I also understand the advocacy of prevention over criminalisation.
    What is you view on the decriminalisation of other substances?

  39. Eric, I salute you. I moved to university in September and have been taking mephedrone on occasions since then, it is extremely popular amongst students on my campus. People, including myself, are not stupid, why can’t we just get impartial drugs advice? Its funny to note how these drugs are products of prohibition – cocaine prohibiton produced crack cocaine, meth prohitbition produced crystal meth, perhaps cocaine or mdma prohibition produced mephedrone? If the government crininalises mephedrone:
    -we’ll be able to get it even easier
    -it will be impure and cut with other chemicals
    -it will help develop and drive big drug cartels
    -it will demonise the consumers like us and NOT the producers.

    Our government, which is MEANT to be our government is putting people and particularly young people in prison for doing something that maybe most disagree with morally, but are doing something that does not harm anyone else. It is an outrage. Thankyou Eric, you have principled integrity and everyone I know is behind you. Peter

  40. Paul Rowland

    Actually I’m quite happy with the government overruling the experts on this one.

    I don’t want members of unelected quango’s (no matter how expert they might be) dictating to elected ministers (no matter how un-knowledgeable they might be ) on which drugs should and should not be legalised. I’d prefer it if the experts limited themselves to advising the government – and the public – of drugs that ARE potentially dangerous, readily available, and therefore in need of some form of legal control.

    My advice to the experts – don’t waste your time (and ours) advising about drugs that you don’t consider to be dangerous – just focus on the ones that you think ARE dangerous and that the government has missed off its list.

    As an ordinary person who has no immediate plans to use any controlled drugs, I’m not that bothered if the government takes into account un-informed media hype or public opinion, and bans a drug just in case it might be dangerous. So what if the odd drug gets un-necessarily criminalised before its proven 100% to be a killer – better to err on the side of caution, surely?

  41. I spotted this on the BCC website and wanted to congratulate you – this is an issue that’s hardly ever discussed, which is shocking in light of the ridiculous amount of resignations on the ACMD. The government policy on drugs, which insists on weakening trust in the moral high ground of law whilst criminalising swathes of society, is neither sustainable nor sustainable, and it’s high time people started noticing.

  42. Darryl – Its fine to make your point but I think a link to the letter would have been better in this context. Something like that here isn’t going to get read and is more likely to alienate people.

  43. Eric, I dont know if you saw this, but here is the submission Transform made to last year’s Home Office review of the ACMD.

    I think a lot of the analysis is relevant to the recent mephedrone debacle:

    http://bit.ly/dq5IaF

    PS. I’ve just been on the BBC news channel defending your decision

  44. Pingback: This drug policy is criminal « Rob's Penguin Café

  45. As far as I know the posts are moderated and it is up to Eric as to whether posts are edited. If Eric would prefer to link to it then I have no objections.

    BTW, I am at a loss to understand why Steve posted elsewhere that that there is no point in judicially reviewing the Order for classification of cathinones on a due process argument, as clearly the ACMD is in favour of it. Frankly I would love to examine the allegations of political pressure Eric complains of.

  46. Congratulations on your resignation. It will improve the committee. You should have left long ago

  47. Judicial reviews are expensive and time consuming. I think there are lots of opportunities within the field of drug policy but specifically on the issue of whether the committee was quorate when the recommendation was made struck me as making a fuss over a technicality. If the decision was made with undue haste then maybe that would be a better procedural complaint, but I’m not sure it would be the best use of limited resources, when there are far more egregious policy issues to concern ourselves with. One would certainly have been appropriate for both the Drugs Act 2005, and the sham 2007 strategy consultation process for example (Im happy to take this discussion elsewhere – I don’t think this is the place for it).

    There is a problem – which I have discussed in the link in my previous post – that the ACMD sometimes considers potential impacts of changes in classification (on, for example prevalence or criminality) in their recommendations (for example with the khat and methamphetamine reviews), but more commonly doesn’t; (when class recommendations are an essentially technical excercise based on a use/risk evaluation). There is an unsatisfactory lack of consistency. I have suggested a better way to proceed in the short term but clearly the whole system is in dire need of a review and overhaul; the classification system, the function and remit of the ACMD, and indeed the wider punitive legal framework.

    • I agree that the quorum point in terms of Vetinary expertise is pretty narrow and such an action really just plays a lawyer’s game without connection to the real issue. However, the due process argument might be much more telling; there being considerable evidence to support an abuse of governmental power claim. I never wanted to issue proceedings on the narrow grounds anyway – what IMO ought to be argued is that the law is being applied entirely unequally. As a peaceful and responsible user of these substances, the Claimant might argue that his rights to use them are being taken away entirely unfairly and disproportionaltely when contrasted with the freedoms granted to drinkers and smokers.

      The time is takes to conduct a JR is just a fact of life – the drug war has been going on for decades – if we can win a battle in a year’s time, it will be progress. In terms of cost, any user could be the claimant, and if they were unemployed, then they would have no fees to pay for the application, and would it be impossible to make a costs order against them if the action was unsuccesful. The legal work for the Claimant would be done pro bono.

      Things are getting worse despite all the lobbying – cannabis re-classified, magic mushrooms Class A, all cathinones to be Class B, sniffer dogs roaming festivals etc. We have to recognise that nobody in government is listenning, and whilst making these ideas get into the public knowledge is invaluable, the idea of lobbying the government has become all but redundant as they are carrying out pre-determined prohibitionist policies and fetterring their discretion away from administerring the law along the lines of that you seek.

      The case for a legal challenge is stronger than ever, I don’t see why campaigners cannot adapt and learn about and embrace this possibility. If the law is being used arbitrarily, there has to be a legal redress.

  48. Holy shit dawg your famous.

  49. A brave and right move. Well done.

  50. Pingback: Mephedrone ban prompts drugs council resignation | We-found-it

  51. First Amendment

    I think it is a bit pointless slagging of the politicians for pandering to the ‘media agenda’. That is a bit like complaining that bears shit in the woods, or that the Pope has some views which are Catholic and not Protestant.

    Responding to the views of the public, as mis/interpreted by the media is all that pols can really do. Why do you think people like Rupey Murdoch or Desmondo spend so much money gaining control of the media, if not to be able to influence politicians ?

    Maybe the alternative is to persuade those folks who wrote to the Telegraph complaining about National Insurance Contributions being hiked that if they were allowed to sell miaow-miaow in Tesco, Marks & Sparks and Sainsbury’s they’d make the money back in no time.

    It might never happen, but it might balance up the debate from the political viewpoint a bit.

    “Hurry Hurry Hurry !! Double nectar points on marijuana this week only !! And extra air miles ‘Free with every E’ – but only while stocks last !”

  52. Barbara Lynch

    My 18 year old son is currently away from home and ‘experimenting’ with mephedrone and maybe other ‘legal highs’. My fear is that a) we will not see him again, b) that he does not fully understand the dangers to which he is exposing himself and c) that by not criminalising this drug and others like it – all the wrong messages are being sent to young people like him and his friends. It is irresponsible to advocate or condone such drug taking in any form without the proper research. For the record, we are staunch Conservative supporters and therefore not supporting the government’s actions for political reasons but from a concerned parents’ perspective..

    • Richard Smith

      I agree. Sure we need to research why young people want to take drugs, etc, to offer help. But these drugs should be banned. There are concerned parents where I live, especially those with kids who have taken drugs and end up in hospital, so if something makes you ill, or gives you a false high / view of the world, it isnt good!

  53. Colin Harrison

    Thank you Eric, for being brave. I salute you.

  54. The right decision, Eric. The Government is wilfully killing young people; I don’t see how any other ACMD members can continue, in conscience, to give their approval to it.

  55. Thank you for being brave enough to take this principled stance against the media-hyped decision making that is doing nothing to tackle the real, underlying problems that drive drug use.
    I hope that your resignation will help people see that the ACMD is fast becoming a yes-man organisation to the whim of the media and politicians who want a quick-fix to drug problems.
    Hopefully, we will soon live in a time where we focus on prevention and tackling the root causes rather than criminalising at every opportunity.

  56. James Mitchell

    I totally support your decision. The ACMD has been more or less a puppet organisation since they rejected their advise last year.

    Furthermore, your points about neglecting to take into consideration young people are spot on.

    I just hope this further resignation prompts a rethink into the way the UK deals with drugs.

  57. Trouble is, with all these resignations only the ‘pro criminalisation’ wallahs are left advising government. No-one left to fight for the social issues. Great.

    Why does the government want to outlaw mephadrone? Because it may have claimed 4 lives? Alcohol and tobacco claim many times that number of lives EVERY year, but government isn’t clamouring for either of these to be criminalised. Hypocrites.

    I understand why you resigned, but I don’t applaud it. All the same, I do admire your commitment and wish you every good luck in the future.

    AFA

    • Many times 4 every year? More like every day, just go down to the local hospital’s oncology or general medicine ward and you will see a mass of people dying of the complications of those drugs.

  58. Eric,

    Well done for taking such a principled stand.

    I would also just like to briefly ask the people who have posted on this thread that the government banning Mephedrone is the “safe” thing to do and “better to err on the side of caution” etc. where the evidence is that banning drugs reduces harm? They might also want to take a look at the example of what has happened in Portugal where all drugs were decriminalised 9 years ago and drug use has actually fallen (and harm has been greatly reduced on every available measure).

    Regards,

    Mark Thompson.

  59. daniel campos

    Well done Eric. A sad and difficult decision, but one which had to be taken, nonetheless.

  60. You made the right decision to resign because you are entirely the wrong person to deal with the problem of drugs misuse. Through your prevarication (and that of David Nutt and others like both of you), everyone involved in the peddling of drugs and the misuse of drugs appears to be excused by you for their unacceptable behaviour whilst you complete your so called expert research and advice. It appears that in your minds, self destructive and antisocial behaviour is acceptable for the sake of research. Furthermore the Police seem to have taken a holiday from enforcement against drugs. I have witnessed this first hand. I have seen the destructive impact on families that has resulted from failure to act by the police. This has been made worse by the appeasement of drug use (misuse) by “experts” like you. Whilst you and you colleagues prevaricate, the majority of people have had enough of the weak stance taken by the Police, the Government and by “experts” like you.

    What society needs is zero tolerance of antisocial behaviour and therefore zero tolerance of drugs use. Yes substance abuse including casual drugs use causes antisocial behaviour in a big way. Those involved in drug selling and drug use should not be allowed to hide behind the social problems you wish to resolve personally. We therefore need robust legislation and greater enforcement by the police. We do not need any more academic research.

    • Jim, I was planning on writing a reasonably detailed response outlining why your zero tolerance approach is hopelessly flawed, but instead I’ll just repeat the concluding, and most releaving, part of your rant: “We do not need any more academic research”.

      That’s right Jim, all this bloody information and evidence is far too confusing isn’t it. A good healthy dose of ignorance is exactly what this debate needs, then everyone will be as ill informed as you and we can all agree to follow the simplest course of action, regardless of whether or not that would help at all.

      • Jim Whelan

        Perhaps your ignorance of antisocial behaviour, the failure of Government and the Police is making the problem worse?

    • I have a hunch you’re a Daily Mail reader. You’re ridiculous attitude of constructing government policy with no regard for actual scientific truth, rationality, or investigation is the reason why people have lost all semblance of trust in our government frankly.

      I would say no offense, but that would be an outrageous lie.

      • Jim Whelan

        Andreas,
        Let me reassure you that I do not subscribe to the views of any politically motivated media.

        In the last week however it has become clearer and clearer that many people who have contributed to this thread are serving their own political purposes. It is for that reason that I will not be making any further comment on what you have said.

        Regards,
        Jim

    • If you believe that then fine – but you simply MUST start with the users of the lethal addictive so-called legal highs alcohol and tobacco first.

      • Jim Whelan

        Darryl,

        I apologise for not responding sooner. You make an good point about alcohol and tobacco.

        The issue I have raised however is about the proliferation of antisocial behaviour.

        Firstly in relation to alcohol, we have legal and controlled manufacture, distribution and use of this potentially harmful substance. Yet we see the abuse of this legally distributed substance every weekend in every town centre and increasingly in every suburb and village. The failure of the Police and the Government to apply the existing laws and to curb antisocial behaviour and abuse of alcohol is in my opinion appalling and needs to be addressed by society.

        I have not interpreted your position as one in support of legalisation of drugs. However I sense that you want a “level playing field” whereby alcohol, tobacco and drugs are considered in the same light.

        So for example if we were to put drugs such as mephodrone, cocaine, etc on the market in the same way as alcohol what would result? Perhaps a legally licenced proliferation of substance abuse and resultant worsening of antisocial behaviour? That is to say based on the evidence of legal alcohol distribution and the increasing misuse of that substance we might see more and not less abuse of substances including both alcohol and drugs. This possibility alongside an already dangerous level of alcohol abuse can only have negative future consequences for society.

        You might now see that I am very concerned about the impact that substance abuse is having on our society.

        I think that the arguments about prohibition are somewhat emotional and politically driven. Taking a practical view, I believe that we need clear and robust legislation, backed up by greater enforcement from society and therefore from the Police. Otherwise many people in our present society and in future generations will have no future. Surely society must not yield to exploitation of vunerable people by drug dealers and unscrupulous purveyors of alcohol. (Didn’t we have a similar problem with Gin in British society in the 19th century? And didn’t that lead to licencing laws that worked? I am not an historian and therefore would be pleased to hear from those who might know about this subject).

        With regard to tobacco – I think it is a public health liability that we cannot afford (despite the tax revenue it generates) and should be subject to higher tax and greater restriction.

        I hope this a response answers your question.

        Going beyond the issue of antisocial behaviour we have a big task to deal with the social problems that Eric Carlin cares about. My view is that the ACMD was the wrong forum in which to address this very big issue.

        Recently I have personally mentored one young person to find a purposeful life free of substance abuse. That person had been virtually debilitated by alcohol and drugs including mephodrone.

        This will be my last contribution to this blog, however I am grateful for the thought provoking content. I only hope that others who have debated in this blog might look to help young people find a purpose and future rather than continue arguing.

        Jim

      • Problems with anti-social behaviour on both sides of the artificial divide is caused by the artificial divide. You can’t start with the a priori reasonning that the status quo can bear any correlation to a ‘level playing field’ of drug regulation.

  61. I’m not sure what to say. First and foremost, it is rare for people with your knowledge, integrity, and respect for your duty to get to positions like you had. It was a very honorable statement you made with your resignation. But therein also lies the problem. Is it really better to concentrate decision-making bodies with those who have no respect for the process or its purpose?

    On the other hand, you have brought the issue to the attention of many who would have never known without such a strong statement. I commend you for your sacrifice.

    The whole topic is such a terrible dilemma. It will keep coming up again and again, not just for drugs, but for all legislation.

    Legislative fads, including trendy and knee-jerk laws, can only begin to end with a formal change in the process. Any small gains accomplished by your statement will unfortunately be forgotten in short order without change.

    There must be legislation that leads to valid, reliable scientific supporting and law being a mandatory prerequisite for the passage of any legislation. The studies must be at least two corroborating studies done by separate non-biased organizations, with no interest in the outcome (no conflicts of interest) whatsoever.

    It would be expensive, of course, and it would reduce the total amount of legislation being proposed and passed. However, I argue that those are positives. It would force laws to actually be effective, instead of these “for the greater good” laws that are actually bandages or political bargaining chips that only benefit the legislators that passed them, citizens be damned.

    But alas, that is all a pipe dream. Now that those that be have so much power, it would be incredibly difficult to get them to agree to limit it.

    “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his job depends on his not understanding it.” – Upton Sinclair

    The fact is, it will have to be something huge to get the public infuriated enough to get something like that passed (ie, to make it necessary for a politician to support such change in legislation in order to further his career). Poor libel laws that limit the basic freedom of speech, and a knee-jerk banning of guns apparently weren’t enough, so it looks you all are stuck for the foreseeable future.

    Good luck, though.

  62. I am sorry that good people like yourself have to do this. This is why nice things don’t happen anymore in the UK and why I left it.

  63. Peter Reynolds

    http://peterreynolds.wordpress.com/2010/03/17/mephedrone-i-told-you-so/

    You have my support. Surely the ultimate irony in all this is that we now have cannabis and mephedrone in the same classification. I despair at the way that politicians treat the drugs issue. They are directly responsible for so much suffering and for the promotion of violent and organised crime.

    http://peterreynolds.wordpress.com/2009/10/31/drug-crazed-politicians-promote-crime-and-misery/

    http://peterreynolds.wordpress.com/2009/03/09/cannabis/

  64. Dear Eric

    I was delighted with your resignation, although I had never heard of you previously and disappointed that you hadn’t resigned earlier – an advisor and sympathiser for those who use, possess, supply and manufacture harmful substances (whether banned or not). It is difficult to see why the obvious moral point of deaths did not affect your “academic” opinion on the recent and necessary speedy intervention by the Government that took place.

    I appreciate you possibly felt you were somehow pivotal in the decision making process on the issues of why individuals engage in drug abuse. Society as a whole, and loved ones of the user all suffer from the selfish act that epitomises drug taking behaviour.

    Mephedrone would have found its social niche in the same way as other harmful substances have, with it highly likely to have a large, harmful effect on the population. Assessing this inevitability as an academic study would have had little useful contribution. It was highly likely to be harmful is the central issue and reason for Government action, it would be immoral not to err on the side of caution and in fact incomprehensible for any government not to act in this way!

    Hope you note the comments from the concerned parent above, and others who do not share your liberal views, that legalisation is not the way forward. They, like myself feel it is unlikely that large numbers of people who currently act irresponsibly will somehow change and act in a measured, responsible and healthy manner, and welcome the necessary Class B classification.

    Alcohol was referenced in an earlier blog as, “Government hypocrisy”, as it had not been banned. Much as it would be a good idea if discovered now, along with tobacco. It has possibly escaped the authors notice that alcohol is a substance (yes a drug) that is already controlled in terms of supply and consumption but is widely available. It is in fact the pinnacle of the harm reduction approach in my view and is a failure of this model for substance use by individuals.

    Widespread and chronic abuse has occurred from alcohol consumption and other similar legal highs such as mephedrone would follow the same sort of path I am quite sure.

    As the government have finally taken the necessary step of banning a substance that clearly required this action, I can only applaud those who are actually charged with making these decisions. Leaving this action to a mere advisor who has no mandate to decide policy, would appear to have been misguided. I am glad policy was not constructed this way nor such responsibility left in the hands on unelected individuals.

    Drugs are an epidemic on a global scale not just the UK and although some countries have different approaches, they all suffer from similar issues surrounding the use of these substances by their populations. Often harm reduction advocates neglect the relatives, friends, loved ones and complete strangers who are affected by the users behaviour. It is these people who have to suffer the long term consequences of a drug addict in their social circle. Ordinary members of society already fund large scale harm reduction strategies, support addicts, tolerate their behaviour whilst also occasionally being victims of crime from drug addict’s harmful behaviour and those further up the supply chain. Tolerating the affects this causes on society in general is already a huge burden.

    Creating a large availability of another substance would present the same problems as others I am quite sure; it is naïve to think otherwise. I note you a very experienced individual with 15 years working in the field of harm reduction. The issue of why people use drugs is only a tiny part of the whole picture; it is the holy grail of the issue and is unlikely to ever be resolved unless things change dramatically as we are never likely to live in a utopian society where everything harmful is available but we all act responsibly.

    I am no “expert” but as someone who, along with my fellow citizens, tolerate drug use in society, my experience has shown that removing a drug user from their supply completely and providing them with another outlook on life appears to have some success. Creating an additional and legal supply would be like letting a recovering alcoholic have a drink now and again.

    The reality of exploitation, human trafficking, deaths, destruction of lives, and communities, forced prostitution, breakdown of families, creation of mental welfare problems and disease are all real factors that exist because people choose to use drugs.

    The rampant availability of harmful substances accompanied by a belief that the use will temporarily improve their outlook on life is an accepted reason, but in reality it makes it much worse and worse for those around them. There is no magic solution, I do not pretend to have an answer but I support the fact that there is now one less supporter in an advisory capacity for making things worse for everyone else since you have resigned.

    • So why are you not calling for the banning alcohol and tobacco then if you recognise all this chronic abuse? What’s sauce for the goose etc.

      It seems reasonable to expect that if a selection of drugs were regulated, than alcohol consumption and that of other drugs might be moderated by users having a different drug or recommended combination of drugs on separate occasions. All things in moderation as they say. Perhaps all the drug war is about is protecting the drug dealing racket of those drug pushing activities of marketting dangerous addictive ‘legal highs’ at pubs, supermarkets and nigh on everywhere else from any competition. It is a bit alarming for publicans to find out that someone can be nicely innebriated for a quids worth of cannabis, mephedrone etc without a need to become somewhat less attractively intoxicated by spending a kings ransom on their drugs.

      Save all the concern about crime as well please – that is absolutely the fault of the business being handed to criminals.

    • Peter Reynolds

      What a dreadful bigot with a myopic view. You’re certainly dangerous enough to be made illegal

    • Jacques Cartier

      Nick: I am no “expert”

      We can see that. Yet you feel qualified to speak against those who _are_ experts? Hm…

  65. Some of the opinions expressed here are prime examples of what i see as a real worrying social issue. That of the complete disregard of anyone who has read and understood empiric evidence in favour of what “feels right”…I.e. drugs are bad therefore banning them is the answer, regardless of whether this would actually work or not. We have banned and regulated illegal drugs with no significant improvement.
    I’m not a parent, but I’ve lost people i loved through drugs and without doubt what really killed them was impurities in the drugs, secrecy and lies.
    I don’t pretend to have answers either (after all, i’m not an expert) but maybe, just maybe there is no one answer to a “problem” that has been with us forever, maybe it’s just our nature, and we have to accommodate it somehow.

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  67. pineal gland band

    do prohibitionist really think that consumers of substances want to die ? or be ill , or get addicted, surely regulation and a class D system would be a sensible approach and any good scientist cant deny the scientific facts shown by already working international models and as a voter does control mean regulating supply and demand legal or not and not handing the market to the criminal underworld who will sell to children , are these drug lords powerful enough to put law in their favor ? who are the real drug lords when we look at the line of gain regardless of title ? , Eric I hope you can find a place on the ISCD, your knowledge could prove vital

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  69. I may not be an expert… but it is a very sad and hypocritical society to be in where I am told I cannot share a point of view on a subject I feel very passionate about because I am not an expert…should I only be allowed to support a one sided view on this blog? These drugs are causing *death* and other negative effects, unless you consider aspects of death, addiction, and breakdown of mental capacity good things. More research may be needed but do you want to wait until more people have died before mephedrone is banned, and have to explain to the poor parents/loved ones that you now have the information confirming it is a potential killer/psychotic drug or other – we missed the boat years ago in banning cigarettes and alcohol and it is too naïve in thinking this may be now possible, whether it is a good idea or not. However, it is not too late for mephedrone, before it is integrated into society and causing the widespread chaos that alcohol and other substances, such as Cannabis does to this day (although I note one blogger feels we should be building houses and running our cars on it, so I think he has smoked enough already)!

    I have read and considered various suggestions in a bid to broaden and build on my view – I am open to compromise but being labelled a bigot, myopic or, as was referred to the home secretary in a recent blog as “off his head” just because he does not share a view is a very aggressive stance to take – we are all guilty of being bigots if this is your view.

    No-one can be naïve enough to think that crime is only caused by the dealers – apart from the theft and violence that goes along with it, the crime involved in drug taking (including alcohol) isn’t just monetary, it includes all types of serious/sexual assault, fatal accidents and harm to yourself which is something you cannot just blame on the dealers; it is the effect that some drugs have on some people (and you never know if you are one of those people until too late). They alter reality, they alter behaviour in that reality – the person high on cocaine, may commit these crimes or have a high chance of heart attack; someone high on heroine may harm their loved one/stranger/themselves just because they are in an altered reality. Or one bloggers favourite “gods herb”, cannabis, where people may eventually suffer paranoid episodes, end up requiring life long medical assistance due to their mind being unable to function properly from drug induced mental illness.

    It’s not just the dealers that are criminals – yes dealers are a huge problem, but only part of the problem. It like blaming a supermarket for selling foods we all know we should not eat.

    Drugs are inevitably going to be used whether legal or not, a mixture of banning *and* education is very important, but if they are readily available and not illegal more people are likely to try them because it signals that they are harmless – but they *are* addictive whether physical or psychological, and once someone has started using, their defences are down and whether it be peer pressure, the pursuit of extra enjoyment or blocking out pain, nothing will stop them until they achieve the required high – who has heard of a heroine addict taking heroine in moderation?? What of the cost to parents, relatives, friends, work absence, the NHS etc when this becomes as big a social problem as alcohol?

    To blame poverty solely for drug abuse or lack of opportunity is unrealistic, drug use is widespread throughout the classes and should be tackled in all areas. To introduce another substance to those already in wide circulation is selfish, foolish and misguided considering this picture is exactly that of numerous residential areas of the UK today. Creating a cheap , legal and available product that creates the same effects is only going to add to the current social issues unless you advocate everyone should get high, sit about, not work, not generate income, not participate in the larger society that funds, schools, hospitals, research, law and order and care for sick and elderly.

    I would love to know the answer to this problem but I also have a view – I am not a strong supporter of any political party, but this one decision has been made in a bid to save peoples lives, and I can only applaud it whole heartedly.

    • What, because so may people are addicted to the lethal drugs alcohol and tobacco we are jst stuck with that situation? I don’t see anywhere in the Misuse of Drugs Act an exception for drugs which are widely misused causing massive health, policing and social cost in preference to creating an hysteria around a drug that hasn’t even been proven to have been caused in any death yet. It probably will be found to have caused harm or fatalities – but this will be as a consequence of it being sold as a plant food, unweighed into doses, with no instructions – thanks to prohibitionists creating this mad situation.

      The rest of your post is nothing less than a prohibitionist propaganda rant – it has little correlation to any real issue or fact. Your ideas are straight out of Harry Anslinger’s note-book. When you have come clean on alcohol and tobacco and compared notes with David Raynes perhaps we can move on.

  70. Nick, don’t feel so aggrieved, you are of course entitled to your opinion, it’s just that is is merely that…an opinion. It is a stance, not a reasoned argument based on empiric evidence.
    Personally, I feel that people will always find something to abuse if they want to. If we banned cigarettes, alcohol etc, what next, cake? That’s very bad for us too…coffee maybe?
    So I return to my point from a previous post. Substances are not “bad” behaviours are to a lesser or greater extent harmful depending on the individual, It’s those individuals who abuse substances we have to help and believe me prohibition just won’t do it.

  71. I take it you have heard of the search engine phenomenon, saves time flicking through those long boxes of cards – find out yourself about the roots of cannabis prohibition and the racist connotations associated with vested interest groups propaganda war.

    If we are going to only concern ourselves with instant death and avoid the expensive and traumatic decline into alcoholism, lung cancer and the rest of it (and there are also a lot of instant deaths from alcohol OD and accidents BTW), then is it OK to allow the peaceful use of controlled drugs which can be shown never to cause such deaths? Certainly psychedelics and cannabis are not associated with such tragedies. What you have pointedly failed to grasp is that deaths from drug misuse are so linked to prohibition (due to criminalty, impurities, unregualted doses etc) that with a regulated market there would be so much less chance of that happening to an individual user – it is incomprehensible to maintain prohibition if harm reduction is the aim.

    Note: You’re playing fast and loose with facts and commonsense – mephedrone has not been implicated in deaths as yet, although it probably will be – but very very foolishly you missed the point. It was sold as plant food, no label, no instructions, no contra-indications, no doses, no 1/100g scales, sold to anybody – get real, that’s what harms, drugs being sold like this, pure or not.

    Your charactature of drug-tripping hippies draining the economy is very dated and naive – do we have to go into the famous drug users of history? It’s beginning to sound like a wind-up troll posting. Deal with alcohol and smoking fairly – have the integrity to be equal, and then I can take your concerns more seriously.

  72. pineal gland band

    spot on sir
    prohibition is the devils alchemy ,
    the prohibition paradox really comes to light when the unknowing prohibitionist uses the results of prohibition to argue its success at tackling what it causes!

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  74. Its good to see censorship is alive and well and my previous post has been “prohibited” just like some drugs huh! This is probably what happened in Portugal.

  75. I think (as an ex-user with addiction issues) if it was proven that prohibition would work i’d be very tempted to approve of it. I feel from my experience and the experiences of others i’ve known, that it might be worth restricting freedom to avoid the hell that drugs can cause. It goes against every libertarian bone in my body, but it would be tempting. HOWEVER, every serious piece of research that i know of across political and national divides, from health care professionals to the police have consistently suggested that prohibition not only doesn’t work, but makes the problem worse. That is what many people are responding to here. Not some demented, drug crazed desire to have cheap readily available drugs. It angers me that if you feel this way, there is an automatic assumption from some people that you’re some Gandalf obsessed pot-head from decades ago!!

  76. I Absolutely recognize what your position in this topic is. Although I should disagree on several of the smaller aspects, I think you did an awesome job explaining it. Sure beats needing to research it on my own. Thank you.

  77. Eric stated “When, as Home Secretary, David Blunkett (note – should be Charles Clarke) announced that the entire classification system would be reviewed, I welcomed it and was disappointed when the idea was shelved. This needs urgently to be revisited. We need to review our entire approach to drugs, dumping the idea that legally-sanctioned punishments for drug users should constitute a main part of the armoury in helping to solve our country’s drug problems. We need to stop harming people who need help and support.”

    It is with heavy heart that I must report that the victory won by the Drug Equality Alliance after a protracted FoI battle culminating in the ICO decision that the Home Office must release this report from 2006 has now been subject to a last minute appeal against disclosure despite the decision being entirely unambiguous from the ICO. This can only be summed up in one word; PATHETIC!

  78. Eric stated “When, as Home Secretary, David Blunkett (note – should be Charles Clarke) announced that the entire classification system would be reviewed, I welcomed it and was disappointed when the idea was shelved. This needs urgently to be revisited. We need to review our entire approach to drugs, dumping the idea that legally-sanctioned punishments for drug users should constitute a main part of the armoury in helping to solve our country’s drug problems. We need to stop harming people who need help and support.”

    It is with heavy heart that I must report that the victory won by the Drug Equality Alliance after a protracted FoI battle culminating in the ICO decision that the Home Office must release this report from 2006 has now been subject to a last minute appeal against disclosure despite the decision being entirely unambiguous from the ICO. This can only be summed up in one word – PATHETIC!

  79. #

    Eric stated “When, as Home Secretary, David Blunkett (note – should be Charles Clarke) announced that the entire classification system would be reviewed, I welcomed it and was disappointed when the idea was shelved. This needs urgently to be revisited. We need to review our entire approach to drugs, dumping the idea that legally-sanctioned punishments for drug users should constitute a main part of the armoury in helping to solve our country’s drug problems. We need to stop harming people who need help and support.”

    It is with heavy heart that I must report that the victory won by the Drug Equality Alliance after a protracted FoI battle culminating in the ICO decision that the Home Office must release this report from 2006 has now been subject to a last minute appeal against disclosure despite the decision being entirely unambiguous from the ICO. This can only be summed up in one word – PATHETIC!

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  81. Respect, the war on drugs needs to be re-worked. Re-visited.

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  89. celebrity diet

    I am really inspired together with your writing skills as neatly as with the format for your blog.
    Is that this a paid theme or did you customize it yourself?
    Anyway keep up the excellent high quality writing, it is rare to look
    a nice blog like this one these days..

    • Thanks – I don’t update very often. Hopefully not until I have something of interest to share. It’s just a free format by the way on WordPress. Best wishes
      Eric

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