The United Nations drug control conventions of 1960 and 1971 and later additions have inadvertently resulted in perhaps the greatest restrictions of medical and life sciences research. These conventions now need to be revised to allow neuroscience to progress unimpeded and to assist in the innovation of treatments for brain disorders. In the meantime, local changes, such as the United Kingdom moving cannabis from Schedule 1 to Schedule 2, should be implemented to allow medical research to develop appropriately.
New psychoactive drugs (NPDs, new psychoactive substances) enter the market all the time. However, it takes several months to ban these NPDs and immediate action is generally not possible. Several European countries and drug enforcement officers insist on a faster procedure to ban NPDs. Introduction of generic legislation, in which clusters of psychotropic drugs are banned in advance, has been mentioned as a possible solution. Here we discuss the pros and cons of such an approach.
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.
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.