Prof David Nutt kicked off Day 05 of the Trial of the Plant with an extremely enlightening morning session detailing hard solid scientific facts in relation to the harms of drugs. Nutt, a Psychiatrist Neuropharmacologist said that “decisions on drugs are usually made by politicians, not scientists.” and that most drug policies are political motives. This makes researching the harms of drugs hard and prohibitive. “It is very hard to get data on illegal drugs- making it hard to measure the relative harms of drugs. We have to estimate it.”
As a drug harm expert, Nutt is has done a great job in talking through the various aspects of drugs use and abuse and their relative harms associated with it. “If the harm of drugs leads to appropriate sanctions by governments…In some cases execution more harmful than drug use.”
“Cannabis cannot cause psychosis, it can mimic it, but it cannot create it”
The question was put forth if laws prohibiting drugs have achieved what it has set out to achieve. Does it protect society from drug harms?
Nutt went on to ask whether the harms of drugs can be compared to other harmful activities that are not illegal but do take place. Nutt along with other scientists rated 16 drugs on 20 criteria on different harms-. Tobacco kills most people. Heroin is most deadly per dose.
The facts have been brought forward that if you were to treat alcohol in the same way as you treat food additives like colourants- the average drink allowed would be 1 in a year and that is not one safe drink of alcohol you can have. Each and any alcohol beverage have toxic effects.
In terms of harm to the consumer, dagga can be 100 times safer than alcohol per dose used. This is according to a scale looking at the harm of a single dose of a drug. The average alcohol consumer will drink 1000 times alcohol a year of what would be considered safe if measured against the safety profile of food colourants used by food technologists.
“Cannabis does not kill in an event of an overdose”
When it comes to driving under the influence, the likelihood of a traffic accident while under the influence of cannabis, is double than if sober, in comparison, Alcohol increases likelihood of a traffic accident by 8 times. When we look at comparative harms, there’s very little reasoning left to be soft about alcohol use and abuse.
The concern that legalising cannabis will lead to increased traffic accidents is unfounded, says Nutt. While real world data has shown to have completely the opposite effect.
When measuring deaths from drugs in UK ( 2009)- cannabis deaths was rated at zero. Alcohol deaths were 8000 for the year while Tobacco deaths were 80 000. Half of all people who perish in house fires around the world die due to cigarette stubs not being put out properly.
Nutt has worked with Doctors & smoking experts in South Africa on a medical study (the paper will soon be published), to rate harms of smoking in the Southern African region. The NHS in Wales has been offering E-Cigarettes to help people give up smoking, all thanks to Prof. Nutt’s work in drug harm reduction.
The harms of criminalization of drugs will be a big topic during the course of the Trial of the Plant detailing how some (if not most) harms of drugs are caused by criminal sanctions and enforcement thereof that apply.
Although the relative harms of drugs have been established, Prof. Nutt detailed that even though we know some of the harms, “The big problem with illegal drugs is knowing what is in them” and that the “current drug policy has been disastrous for drug research. He also found through his extensive research in drug harms that the UN drug laws are the most destructive laws to medical research in human history.
Nutt sharing his personal opinion about the South African alcohol market is a disturbing reflection to the easy barriers of entry for unlicensed alcohol sales where the wholesalers still make profit of those sales without a license.
“The Subsaharan alcohol market is unrestricted, which is a problem”
While discussion the current legislative framework in Holland for the coffee shops, he states that “It’s in nobody’s interest to sell more than what the state allows. If someone had to leave a coffee shop with more than 20gr, they can get arrested”.
Court has been adjourned for lunch as agreed on by council and the proceedings will start again on Monday at 10AM