Sunday, December 13, 2009

Politics bests truth again

The chairman of the British government’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, Dr. David Nutt, was fired from his post in October for speaking the truth. Nutt referred to a paper published in a respected medical journal and suggested that the UK rethink its drug policy using the research and other objective facts.

As we all know, the truth has little sway in the halls of government. Remember Joycelyn Elders, President Clinton's surgeon general, who was cut loose after a little more than a year because she said that masturbation is part of human sexuality? In the US, and in Britain as well, we sometimes behave like little children. It's ludicrous.

The Globe story on Dr. Nutt is discusses the study to which he made reference. The paper was published more than two years ago, and it asked a wide range of professionals to rank drugs according to three criteria: "physical effects on the user, the likelihood of addiction, and its impact on society," according to, and the totals were tabulated. It's no surprise that heroin is, by a wide margin, first on the list -- meaning that it's most dangerous -- but alcohol is fifth and tobacco are ninth, both ahead of marijuana, LSD, ecstasy and more.

Dr. Nutt and the researchers weren't saying that we should make alcohol and tobacco illegal and legalize everything below them on the list, but they do believe that the UK should reexamine its policies on illegal drugs with facts in mind. This seems eminently obvious and applicable to America as well. Alas, politics would seem to reject even that simple step.


dylan said...

I'm with you here. At least part of the way. The libertarian in me (a small fraction of me!) thinks that pot, at least, should be legal. And not because I use it, but because it's comparatively harmless.

As for Dr Elders, correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't she say something to the effect that elementary school students should be taught about masturbation? If she had simply said that masturbation is a common part of human sexuality, and left it at that, she'd probably not have been sacked. Teaching about it in the early grades? I don't think it's eccentric to recoil from that suggestion. (In that area, it's probably safe to say that most youths are autodidactic!) Middle school would not be an inappropriate area for the discussion.

But back to your original point, yes, it's foolish that people are being prosecuted for using or growing pot. Ludicrous, to use your word.

Jim said...


I am encouraged by our common ground here. And, leaving aside what to actually do about the issue, we will never get anywhere if people are sacked for making simple and truthful observations.