Pubdate: Wed, 12 Jun 2013
Source: Scotsman (UK)
Copyright: 2013 The Scotsman Publications Ltd
Author: Jamie Grierson
Page: 17


"Laws have not been updated despite scientific advances" Professor
David Nutt

INTERNATIONAL drug laws have set back key areas of scientific research
including potential medical treatments, a controversial former
government drugs adviser has warned.

Professor David Nutt, of Imperial College London, said United Nations
conventions on drugs have led to some of the most scandalous examples
of scientific censorship in modern times.

Along with another former government adviser, Leslie King, and
Professor David Nichols of the University of North Carolina, Prof Nutt
argues that psychoactive drugs used in research should be exempted
from severe restrictions.

Prof Nutt resigned as the chairman of the Advisory Council on the
Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) in November 2009 over the decision to
reclassify cannabis from a Class C to a Class B drug.

The possession of cannabis, Ecstasy and psychedelics are regulated
under national laws and international conventions dating back to the

Writing in the journal Nature Reviews Neuroscience, Prof Nutt said:
"The decision to outlaw these drugs was based on their perceived
dangers, but in many cases the harms have been overstated and are
actually less than many legal drugs such as alcohol.

"The laws have never been updated despite scientific advances and
growing evidence that many of these drugs are relatively safe. And
there appears to be no way for the international community to make
such changes."

The paper argues that the illegal status of psychoactive drugs hinders
research into their mechanisms of action and potential therapeutic
uses, for example in depression and post-traumatic stress disorder

He went on: "This hindering of research and therapy is motivated by
politics, not science. It's one of the most scandalous examples of
scientific censorship in modern times.

"The ban on embryonic stem cell research by the Bush administration is
the only possible contender, but that only affected the USA, not the
whole world."

Prof Nutt and his colleagues argued that the limitations of cannabis
research have had a harmful impact on UK pharmaceutical

Although many of the psychoactive elements of the cannabis plant were
discovered in the UK, he said, developing them into medications has
been severely hampered by excessive regulation.

"If we adopted a more rational approach to drug regulation, it would
empower researchers to make advances in the study of consciousness and
brain mechanisms of psychosis, and could lead to major treatment
innovations in areas such as depression and PTSD," Prof Nutt added.

The call for reform has been endorsed by the British Neuroscience
Association and the British Association for Psycho-pharmacology.

The researchers are also seeking support from other academic
organisations including the Royal Society, the Academy of Medical
Sciences, the Royal Colleges of Physicians and Psychiatrists, and the
Society for Biology.
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