From: Professor David Nutt
15 January 2010
Our new advisory committee is not a rival to the government’s, but I believe that scientific advice must be independent of politics
After the politics of recent months, it was great to go to the Science Media Centre today to announce the launch of the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs (ISCD).
I set up the committee because I feel passionately that drugs policy needs to be based on the best available scientific evidence. Crucially, the production and dissemination of this scientific evidence needs to be entirely independent of political influence.
Our committee has funding for an initial two- to three-year period. We have the support of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, which will be helping us run the committee. Most important of all, the committee will have some of the top scientific experts in the country. Over time, the committee will become the key independent scientific body on drugs issues.
One of our first priorities will be to review the effects of “legal highs” such as mephedrone, sometimes referred to as “miaow”. Currently, it’s perfectly legal to buy and use these drugs in a completely unregulated manner. Yet there are real scientific concerns about the harm they might cause.
We will publish guidance on these drugs to inform public discussion, media coverage and policy formation. We will also publish guidance on the effects of ketamine. This powerful drug is currently a Class C drug. It can have all sorts of unpleasant and long-term side effects on users.
Until recently, the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) was actively reviewing both legal highs and ketamine. This work came to a halt following my dismissal as chair and the subsequent resignation of several other scientists. The new Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs will seek to support the work of the ACMD and policy formation by ensuring that the best scientific evidence on the effects of drugs is made available. There has been some speculation that we are setting up a rival body. This is simply not the case.
The new committee will also provide accessible information on drugs to the wider public and engage in an ongoing dialogue. We will be developing a dynamic web presence and making sure that all our work is freely available. We will also be using social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter: indeed, you can follow me now on Twitter at @ProfDavidNutt.
All too often, crucial information on the effects of drugs is buried away in arcane scientific journals and the debates of expert groups. We want to make sure that this information is much more accessible.Republish