The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs reviewed the classification of cannabis in the light of real public concern about the potential mental health effects of cannabis use and, in particular, the use of stronger strains of the drug.
Due to its prevalence of use, MDMA is a significant public health issue. The Council believes that criminal justice measures will only have limited effect and strongly advises the promulgation of public health messages. It is of vital importance that issues of classification do not detract from messages concerning public health.
The UK system of classifying drugs according to their harmfulness has been in place since the introduction of the Misuse of Drugs Act in 1971. Over the past 35 years patterns of drug use have changed quite significantly, and recent debates about the classification of certain drugs, especially cannabis, have led to questions about the clarity of the current system and whether it remains fit for purpose.
This article explains the international context of regulation to control addicting substances that gave rise to schedules. It discusses the impact of scheduling decisions on subsequent national drug control legislation and international drug control negotiations, highlighting how the creation of schedules introduced new incentives and rewards into calculations about the national/international commerce in drugs.
The 196l Single Convention did not include so-called "psychotropic substances" such as amphetamines and barbiturates among the drugs controlled. The discussions on the scope of control were focused on plant-based drugs, such as cannabis, poppy cultivation, poppy straw, coca bush and coca leaves This document describes the development of an international instrument for the control of psychotropic substances.
Martin Jelsma, from the Transnational Institute, prepared an analysis for theLatin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy, explaining the drug policy situation in the European Union and the current state of debate in the United Nations agenda. The commission is an initiative born of former presidents Fernando Henrique Cardoso, from Brazil, César Gaviria, from Colombia and Ernesto Zedillo, from Mexico, to respond to concerns related to the problems of drug consumption and traffic in Latin America. The idea to constitute a commission capable of consolidating a debate concerning this problematic also responds to the necessity of reviewing the world drug policies in the scope of the United Nations, which began in March 2008.
This is the second edition of the IDPC Drug Policy Guide aimed at national government policy makers. This publication is a collaborative effort by a number of members of the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC) and partners, and brings together global evidence and best practices on the design and implementation of drug policies and programmes at national level.
Ketamine is an essential medicine used for anaesthesia. It is the only available anaesthetic for essential surgery in most rural areas of developing countries, home to more than 2 billion of the world’s people. Scheduling ketamine will leave these populations with no alternative anaesthesia for essential surgery, and will further deepen the already acute crisis of global surgery.
E.J.M. Pennings, A. Opperhuizen, J.G.C. van Amsterdam
22 August 2008
In preparing a decision about the legal status of khat in the Netherlands, the Dutch Minister of Health requested CAM (Coordination point Assessment and Monitoring new drugs) to assess the overall risk of khat in the Netherlands. The present paper is a redraft of a report which formed the scientific basis of the risk evaluation procedure (October 2007). This report reviews the scientific data about khat available in the international literature. In addition, the report contains some information specific for the Netherlands (prevalence, availability of khat and public order aspects).
The principal aim of these guidelines is to put in place a sound methodological and procedural basis for carrying out each risk assessment. The risk assessment has regard to the health and social risks of the use of, manufacture of, and traffic in the new psychoactive substance, the involvement of organised crime and the possible consequences of control measures. The guidelines were finalised and adopted by the EMCDDA’s Scientific Committee in November 2008.
The 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs and the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances, entrust the Expert Committee on Drug Dependence of the World Health Organization (WHO) with the responsibility of assessing substances for abuse liability in order to make recommendations on their control under the two aforementioned Conventions.
J.G.C. van Amsterdam, A. Opperhuizen, M.W.J. Koeter, L.A.G.J.M. van Aerts, W. van den Brink
30 June 2009
In its report Ranking of drugs: A comparison of the harmful effects of drugs, the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) has performed a risk assessment on the harmful effects of 17 drugs plus that of tobacco and alcohol. These 19 items were ranked according to their degree of harm.
David Nutt, Leslie A King, William Saulsbury, Colin Blakemore
24 March 2007
Drug misuse and abuse are major health problems. Harmful drugs are regulated according to classification systems that purport to relate to the harms and risks of each drug. However, the methodology and processes underlying classification systems are generally neither specified nor transparent, which reduces confidence in their accuracy and undermines health education messages.
In my view, perceived harms associated with drugs are vulnerable to so many restrictions on reliability and validity that, for the time being, a serious estimate of drug harm per drug is impossible. In my view, it is even invalid to associate harms to drugs alone. Drugs are used by humans, under individual, social and legal conditions, in certain purities and dosages. Whatever the 'effects' of drugs, harmful or not, they cannot be estimated or even discussed without associating the drug with a particular user or user culture. Drugs per se do not meaningfully exist.
The article reviews the status of khat, the most recent plant based psychoactive substance to reach a global market, and considers policy making processes in general and the framework of drug control in particular. The risk assessment and classification of psychoactive drugs is a contested arena where political, economic and moral agendas collide, leaving countries that have banned khat, with significant social costs. To best manage the risks arising from the increasing availability of khat it is therefore suggested to draft a regulatory framework with clear objectives and guiding principles.
On the basis of the available evidence, the overwhelming majority of Council members consider that khat should not be controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. In summary the reason for this is that, save for the issue of liver toxicity, although there may be a correlation or association between the use of khat and various negative social indicators, it is not possible to conclude that there is any causal link.
Reflections upon this year’s CND are mixed. On the one hand, some states went further than ever before in openly challenging the current regime on the grounds that, after a century, it needs modernising. That the government of Uruguay is currently considering a domestic policy on cannabis that would put it in breach of the Single Convention shows that, in one instance at least, we have moved beyond rhetoric and posturing.
Scheduling ketamine would restrict its availability worldwide, which would lead to harmful impact on animal health and welfare, as well on public health. The World Medical Association is urging its 111 member associations to lobby their governments to oppose scheduling the anaesthetic agent Ketamine as a controlled drug.
No one is suggesting that drugs are not harmful. The critical question is one of scale and degree. We need a full and open discussion of the evidence and a mature debate about what the drug laws are for - and whether they doing their job? In `Estimating drug harms: a risky business', Professor David Nutt, of Imperial College London argues that the relative harms of legal drugs such as alcohol and tobacco are greater than those of a number of illegal drugs, including cannabis, LSD and ecstasy.
A clash between the home secretary, Theresa May, and her expert drugs advisory group is looming after it decided against banning qat, a mild herbal stimulant, traditionally used in Britain's Somali, Yemeni and Ethiopian communities. The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs said there was insufficient evidence that Qat caused health or wider societal problems to justify a ban in Britain.