Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Friday, 28 May 2010

Case that sparked mephedrone panic didn't involve mephedrone

It is now being reported that in the tragic case of Louis Wainwright and Nicholas Smith, two teenagers who died back in March, neither of them had taken the now banned (but then legal) drug mephedrone.

The case kicked off a media panic about the drug when it was rumoured that they had taken it. The political furore that then ensued ultimately led to the banning of the drug just before the General Election.

There have also been other cases where initial reports have suggested the drug was involved only for it later to turn out not to have been the case. This is one of the reasons why many at the time were pleading for more time for the ACMD to reach its decision about the drug - they needed more and more accurate information.

Eric Carlin, a former member of the ACMD who resigned in protest at how political pressure was being applied regarding mephedrone has said that the decision to ban the drug should be "revisited" in light of the findings, and the "public health consequences" of the ban needed to be considered. he went on to say:

"The fact these two people died and it's not actually connected with mephedrone just emphasises the fact that we were under a lot of pressure to ban this drug and these cases were actually cited as being examples of why that was necessary."

In fact there has only been one case so far in the UK where mephedrone has been established as the cause of death.

This latest revelation about the March cases underlines how important it is for government policy to be based on evidence and not media panic stories.

We can but hope that the new administration is more circumspect in its approach the next time there are a rush of unproven stories about one particular drug.


asquith said...

I'm not aware of any policy rumblings on this matter from the coalition unless I've missed something? I think Camoron might well be personally liberal on the issue but I'v never expected that to translate into policy.

Duncan Stott said...

Just to add Mark, that one UK death wasn't solely caused by mephedrone. The man had corony artery disease, chronic renal disease, diabetes and was HIV positive. Plus he had injected himself with mephedrone multiple times and was found with the second highest ever recorded level of the drug in his bloodstream.

@asquith, I understand that the Tories have got their way on temporary bans on legal highs whilst evidence is compiled by the ACMD.

Bill Quango MP said...

Unlikely Tories are going to be more rational when presented with media scare stories.
Last time they almost destroyed the poultry industry over a boiled egg story.

dazmando said...

There you go. No waiting, Big rush, No evidence and bang wrong and bad policy party given to us in response by Labour to the Press. Wonderful

neil craig said...

The problem is the law won't be repealed. Big government totalitarianism usually ratchets only 1 way. The answer to any regulatory failure is always more not less regulation.

Unknown said...

Perhaps the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs should be renamed The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Sudden Deaths for Political Ends?

@Duncan Stott: Thanks for that information. It does seem that the evidence of risk from mephedrone is rather less than that for, I don't know, alcohol....