The Tabloid World of Drugs

Just as I complain about the ‘tabloidisation’ of the public discourse about drugs, classification and the ACMD, a colleague has alerted me to David Nutt’s article in ‘The Sun’ – yes, ‘The Sun’ – from last week. In this, he puts forward his case for funding to develop ‘synthetic alcohol’.

According to Professor Nutt, “selling the substance would be difficult. It would be classified as a drug and would fall foul of drug laws.”

Well of course it would be classified as a drug. Alcohol is a drug.

David Nutt is effectively proposing developing a new synthetic recreational drug; presumably he calls it ‘synthetic alcohol’ to differentiate it from the other synthetic drugs on the market, such as ecstasy, spice, or acid. However, this drug would be “high quality” and “safe”.

No prizes for the most obvious Sun-type retort, I’m not going there. However, as we’re having a tabloid discussion, let me shift somewhat into the correct language – What tosh! Wake up mate!

There is no such thing as a safe drug and we humans will never all be sensible in the way we use them. By labelling this as ‘synthetic alcohol’ presumably the intention is to make it more acceptable to ‘The Sun’ readers. It would be more useful to have a proper public discussion about why our society regards some drugs – the legal ones – as good and others – the illegal ones – as bad.

David’s article in ‘The Sun’ finishes “Hopefully in the future people will raise a toast over my grave with a glass of synthetic booze.”

Check out the article –

http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/features/2721802/Ex-drugs-tsar-claims-we-could-be-drinking-healthy-alchol-in-3-years.html

And if you have £7.99 for a Page 3 2010 Calendar, you can also check what one of the Page 3 luvvlies has to say about it!

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5 responses to “The Tabloid World of Drugs

  1. yep – thats a strange one alright. Whatever my views of his published work, he could certainly do with some solid PR advice.

  2. Hi Eric, I’m a bit mystified by the £7.99p page 3 reference, having managed to avoid the Sun site before now.
    I have some scepticism about Murdoch’s media where he now gets different organs to play off against each other. Especially in the run up to an election.
    Prof Nutt’s synthetic alcohol was tried on telly by one of the ACDM resigners Dr John Marsden, in his recent alcohol / family & me programme.
    Without going into details, it lacked the “associations/placebo” effect so he just (!) got stoned and fell asleep.
    It’s interesting that the Sun , is read by the very group who are most affected by overdrinking /obesity / low activity and subsequently poor health. Social and demographic profiles.
    I for one would want any discussion about substances to include alcohol and tobacco, like Prof Nutt which seems to have more to do with the sacking and resignations than anything else.

    Todays consultation on PHSE guidance from the DCSF includes alcohol and tobacco in it’s definition of DRUGS, so we do seem to be getting some consistency of approach through your own speciality.
    As we know though, exposing kids who wouldn’t have originally been interested in using any substances to the knowledge and info increases uptake.
    It’s why the drinks industry and their apologists are so keen to support it.
    They want the next generation to see them as edgy and risky, rather than boring and old school.
    The Swiss and Portugeuse approach has more going for it where all substance-use is received as for “losers” , “saddo’s” and the usual suspects.

    If this was easy, it would be sorted.

    The Sun has let Prof Nutt write his own piece.
    It’s about one of his many activies but all are linked, so it will be interesting to see it all pan out.

  3. Having just read the DCSF 13th November news which references the Blueprint “findings” I am struck by how much one would have to understand the spin to get the fact that Blueprint was rubbished by everyone recently! The Home Office are “something else” when it comes to spin!
    http://www.dcsf.gov.uk/news/content.cfm?landing=new_improved_guidance_for_schools_on_drugs_and_alcohol&type=1

    http://drugs.homeoffice.gov.uk/publication-search/blueprint/blueprint-final-report-2009?view=Binary
    Read Page 2 and see what sense you can make of that!
    That’s a whole PhD taking that to bits!

  4. But that drug is already done! It is call Kava and has been used for thousands of years: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kava

    • Daniel, thanks. I didn’t know about Kava but have just looked it up, thanks to your wikipedia reference. I think though that this is something different; my understanding (from ‘The Sun’ article!) is that David is proposing developing a ‘synthetic’ and ‘safe’ alcohol substitute. From the reference you gave me, Kava is obviously neither synthetic nor safe. There is a reference to concerns about liver toxicity.

      I was trying to raise discussion about a few points in my original post: about the ‘dumbing down’ of the discussion about drugs; the acceptability of some (legal) as opposed to others (illegal) and the consequent labelling of this new proposed drug as ‘alcohol’ rather than a ‘drug’; and whether or not such a thing as a ‘safe’ drug exists.

      There are also a complex set of ethical questions about the appropriateness of research to create another synthetic recreational ‘drug’ or ‘alcohol’ substitute…call it what you like. Do we really need more drugs? Don’t we need instead to understand why some people who use (any drug) get into really big difficulties and also sometimes create huge problems for other people. We need to understand risk and how to promote/support less harmful behaviours.

      Sorry, I know it would all be simpler if we could just create an ‘antidote’ to counter-act drug harms but that isn’t how we human beings function.

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