Wednesday, March 17, 2010

What are they on?

The calls to ban mephedrone are based on panic not evidence. It's tragic that two young men have died and the grieving parents have, understandably, called for the drug (which is currently legal and found in plant food) to be banned.

The government's 'independent' advisory body has said that it is likely to make a recommendation on the drug at it's March meeting. However, this seems to be jumping the gun as, according the BBC, we actually have no idea what killed these young men.

"Humberside Police said the drug appeared to have contributed to their deaths. They had been out drinking in the hours before they died. Post-mortem examinations are being carried out."
So we're talking about banning a commonly available substance and the scientific advisory body will give the government advise before we even know why they died and what they had actually taken that night. What role do independent scientific advisors play if they give advise without evidence?

If it turns out the boys died as a result of taking mephedrone then the public needs to be aware of that because this is a public health issue, but we need to wait for the facts which may point to a different cause of death.

It's all very well for the police to say the drug "appeared" to have contributed to their deaths but it's absolutely irresponsible of them to make such a claim when they actually have neither the expertise nor the evidence to back that up. The post-mortems have not been carried out and we do not know what drugs they took, yet it's clear that government is going to be bounced into a ban.

The police, the tabloids and some elements of the political class are using these boys as a political football to further their agenda, they should be holding their council until we all know what happened, not exploiting the tabloids and the parents' grief.

According to the Guardian one of the boys fathers a retired firefighter said;
"We don't know much about what happened but we think he's been taking this drug on a night out. I don't want him to be labelled a druggie, because he wasn't. He was just on a night out with friends, a normal, caring, hard-working lad."
My heart goes out to him. These lads were not bad people, in fact they would not have been bad people even if the drug had been illegal. If we're to make people safe then we cannot base our drugs policies on headlines. If people are poisoning themselves then we need to address this, but using methods that work not the failed methods of prohibition and misinformation.

At the end of the day the government's insistence on treating drug use as a law and order issue rather than a health issue is part of the problem we face. It's my belief that this must change.


Pete Um said...

I've heard reports they mixed methadone (as well as the mephedrone) and alcohol. This can kill you and has killed lots of people.

Mr Andy C said...

Hardly anyone had heard of mephedrone until the tabloid fueled panic. It is likely many more will use it now, and if it is banned it will only be replaced by an alternative.

Cathryn said...

That committee isn't advising on what killed those lads, it's advising on whether the drug is dangerous. So, the outcome of the post-mortem isn't really relevant if, and its a big if, the committee has a chance to do studies / gather evidence before its March meeting. And if it doesn't, then it shouldn't give advice, whatever the status of the post-mortem.

But watching all the politicians' knees jerking is really rather sad. If they ban this, what will people turn to next, and what will they want to ban next?

It's a ridiculous way to deal with a health issue, as you say.

Jim Jepps said...

Pete: I'd seen reports that they'd taken a 'cocktail' of drugs and if true this could well be part of the reason they died - however, I'm conscious that we should wait for the post-mortem on that.

Cathryn: while I agree that the two should not be connected they are, because as I understand it the only reason they are giving this report is because of these deaths. Inevitably the cause of death will be extremely significant.

Jennie said...

Ecstasy was banned because of Leah Betts... who later turned out to have died from Water intoxication. This stuff WILL be banned, if only to appease the Daily Fail.

Pete Um said...

Indeed we do need to wait for the post-mortem Jim. In the meantime the whole media is in full moral-panic mode and I find the likes of Channel 4 News doing a "when will this evil drug be banned?" a bit depressing. I'm sure it will be banned, and I'm sure like all drugs it is bad for you if you abuse it, and may yet prove to have all sorts of health risks of which we are not yet aware, but this stuff is rife and if two people die at once from the same source then the situation is very likely more complicated than mephedrone = tragedy. Ironically the legality of mephedrone has allegedly increased the likelihood of its purity and presumed, uh, safeness, but obviously whilst the drug trade is beyond the law and consumers have to educate themselves as best they can (or not) few people are any the wiser.

Jim Jepps said...

It's all very nauseating.

I'm in favour of legalising drugs so that we can regulate their supply, check their quality and provide proper information about them rather than the counter-productive misinformation that people who take drugs don't believe we provide at the moment. *BUT* This has made me think about the fact that if the drug is as harmful as any poison then of course we would not allow to be sold as safe for consumption.

One thing is that people are taking this because the other avenues are illegal. If we legalised other drugs then people would not have to take silly risks by taking stuff that has never been tested on its effect on humans.