Illiterate, vulgar and irresponsible

His Holiness the Dalai Lama some years ago was addressing a group of young people in America. One of them asked him, ‘What’s the quickest way to enlightenment?’ His Holiness, for whom compassion is a way of life, responded by bursting into tears at the spectacle of  someone being so very far from enlightenment as to ask such a stupid question.

There is, of course, no shortcut to enlightenment. Yet this does not stop people trying to bypass the sustained and devoted efforts required to achieve it with drugs.

Taking drugs for this purpose, or merely to ‘get high’, is inherently dangerous. It can bring about an altered state of consciousness through causing a chemical imbalance in the brain, or to put it bluntly, by poisoning the brain.

The dangers are spelled out in a BBC online news article (26 June 2017):

Man dies after taking potent MDMA drug in Oldham. MDMA is better known as Ecstasy.

A man has died and four others are in a critical condition after taking a ‘particularly potent’ form of the drug MDMA, Greater Manchester Police said.

Ten people were admitted to hospital after taking the drug over the weekend, with four remaining in intensive care.

Det Insp Jim Faulkner said the situation was ‘incredibly worrying [and] we are doing all that we can to warn people against taking the drug and help those who may have taken it.’

There is a link, ‘This is what happens if you take too much MDMA’, where we find the following:

So what happens to your body when you take too much MDMA? We asked an addiction psychiatrist, Dr Adam Winstock, to explain….And although Dr Winstock says the number of deaths in the UK where MDMA is implicated is on the rise, overall he describes it as a ‘remarkably safe’ drug.

This struck me as a surprising. I looked up Dr Winstock – and then the penny dropped. He is associated with the well-named Professor David Nutt whose antics I have written about previously:

Dr Winstock wrote an illiterate, vulgar and irresponsible post, ‘Let clubs be honest about drug use so they can educate people and save lives’ on ‘Mixmag’ (24 November 2016), an ‘electronic dance and clubbing magazine’. He believes it is a good idea to advise people how to take Ecstasy:

Safer drug use at venues means less use of emergency services; safer drug use at venues means less (sic) people leaving early and spending less at the bar; safer drug use at venues means happier, healthier punters (sic) who are more likely to be repeat visitors.

The relationship between MDMA dose and the risk of death is inconsistent and unpredictable. [That’s the trouble!]

People need to know how to dose with MDMA (start low go slow, tell your mates so they know). They need to know when they will come up (15min – to over an hour), how they will feel (they might feel nauseous) and when to re-dose (not when you are peaking). They need to know that twice the dose is not twice the high – even small increases in dose can lead to very big increases in actual blood levels and can tip you into feel sick and unwell. They need to know not to take MDMA from different batches. And then there’s all the basic stuff: not drinking too much water, not getting p****d on alcohol on a pill, not mixing with other stimulants and leaving a month or more between doses. If you are reading this and nodding in agreement, then you are in the majority. But with so many people out there a minority of people is still a s**t load of people who could be so much safer if they knew a few basic rules.

He may say he is being realistic, since people are going to take this drug anyway, so they might as well be advised how to take it safely. But there is no guarantee that anyone can take MDMA safely – it is a hit and miss affair. You cannot know in advance how it will affect you. That is why one man died and ten were in hospital. And what to do if someone is adversely affected? Go to A&E – unload it on the health service. Wonderful. People should be advised not to take these drugs. There is no need for it. The use of mind-altering drugs should be strongly discouraged.

Where Dr Winstock also goes wrong is that he thinks people take these drugs for pleasure. They may find it pleasurable the first time, unless they have a bad trip or it kills them, but then what? Take it regularly and get hooked on it?

The Guardian (3 December 2012) carries a headline: ‘Drugs are taken for pleasure – realise this and we can start to reduce harm.’  Professor David Nutt dilates:

One of the most important motivations for taking drugs, which cannot easily be acknowledged by the authorities, is personal pleasure.

How does he know? Do people in clubs and parties find their lives so boring and bland that they need an artificial source of pleasure by taking mind-altering drugs? Something that is intended to cause a chemical imbalance in the brain? He goes on:

The fact that there are so many users of ‘illicit’ drugs such as cannabis, MDMA and ketamine means that the pleasures must often be seen to outweigh the pain, just as they do for alcohol and tobacco. Until we properly understand the personal value of all drugs (including alcohol and tobacco), harm- and use-reduction policies are bound to fail.

Does Professor Nutt understand nothing about drug addiction? You cannot lump alcohol with illicit drugs, and my views on tobacco are well known ( As for harm- and use-reduction policies for illicit drugs, Professor Nutt is right – they will fail.

These drugs should be banned.

Text © Gabriel Symonds

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