Ecstasy and the UK

ecstasy tablets

I listen to the very well-done and amusing Science Weekly podcast from the Guardian (and you should too: Subscribe here).

Recently, they discussed the following:

The UK will not reclassify the drug ecstasy from “class A” (heroin, crack) to “class B” (amphetamines and such), even though the government’s own Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, looking at thousands of academic papers over 12 months, recommended doing so.

God knows I’m all for discarding evidence when making public policy, but I’m afraid that I can’t really stick this one. But of course, that’s because I’m not thinking about the CHILDREN!

The government says that it doesn’t want to send a message to kids that ecstasy is taken less seriously by government. Regardless of whether it SHOULD be taken less seriously or not. Regardless of the fact that, according to the council, it’s less dangerous than the other drugs in that class.

So what exactly is the point of having a classification system if you don’t actually classify things by their relevant characteristics?

Or am I being too hasty? I suppose that they may be classifying them by characteristics I haven’t thought of (things that aren’t in the official list of criteria). For example, class A doesn’t seem to contain drugs that cause more societal or personal damage than those in class B, but maybe it contains drugs that scare people more, causing them to suffer from irrational voting tendencies.

By the way, this isn’t the first time. Marijuana, which had made the seemingly impossible slip downward from B to C, was recently bumped back up to B, over the objections of the same (habitually ignored) council.

And by the way again, that brings us to the last little juicy bit of irony: There’s also no evidence that downgrading a drug sends any kind of message at all. Or, at least, not one that anyone acts on.

According to the podcast, when pot did go from B to C, there was no discernible rise in usage. The terrible “message” that we must avoid sending seemed to have gotten lost in the outright confusion of witnessing a sensible act of government.

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