Newsbrief: British Government Drug Expert Calls for Ecstasy Downgrade 1/30/04

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While Britain is still recovering from the shock of downgrading cannabis from a Class B to a Class C drug, one of the government's leading drug experts has called for a similarly downgrading of MDMA (ecstasy), from a Class A to a Class B drug. Class A drugs include cocaine and heroin, Class B drugs include amphetamines and barbiturates, and Class C drugs include steroids, anti-depressants, and now, cannabis.

Ecstasy has been a staple of British club life for years, although its use appears to be tapering off. At the peak of the drug's popularity a year or two ago, British observers estimated that partiers were gobbling down 500,000 hits every weekend.

"Ecstasy is not a Class A drug. It shouldn't be," said Professor David Nutt, chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs' technical committee. It was this committee that earlier recommended the downgrading of cannabis. Nutt told the Independent on Sunday that the committee is carrying out a full review of the classification system.

But Home Secretary David Blunkett has said he has no plans to reclassify ecstasy, and when three leading psychologists last year dared to suggest there was no conclusive damage that the drug damages the brain, they provoked an hysterical reaction similar to that seen in recent weeks as cannabis downgrading loomed (

Professor Nutt also had something to say about that. "Four years ago everyone was saying we were not going far enough. Then everyone was very positive and a month before the legislation everyone discovers cannabis is a deadly toxin," he complained. "Almost nothing has changed. This thing about it might cause schizophrenia -- that is still a possibility but that is not a reason for not reclassifying, it's a reason for making sure people are aware of the dangers."

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