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Europe: Britain's Drug Advisory Panel Ponders Down-Scheduling Ecstasy

The British government's Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) will begin a review of ecstasy's current classification as a Class A drug, the most serious classification under Britain's Misuse of Drugs Act. The ACMD announced this week it will hold a hearing next Friday.

The popular amphetamine-type stimulant is used by tens of thousands of young Britons each weekend. Some 5% of 16-to-24-year-olds say they have used it in the past year, making it the third most popular illicit drug, behind marijuana and cocaine.

Pressure has been slowly mounting for years to reschedule ecstasy. The 2000 Police Foundation inquiry chaired by Dame Edith Runciman called for the drug to be moved to Class B after finding that ecstasy was nowhere near as dangerous as heroin and that the number of annual deaths related to ecstasy use was around 10. The Runciman report was followed in 2006 by a report from the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee that recommended urgently for ecstasy to be down-scheduled.

In the latter report, Members of Parliament heard Professor Colin Blakemore, then chief of the Medical Research Council, describe ecstasy as "at the bottom of the scale of harm." Blakemore added that: "On the basis of present evidence, ecstasy should not be a Class A Drug."

Last year, Professor David Nutt, the incoming chairman of the ACMD, published a paper ranking licit and illicit drugs according to the level of harm.

Ecstasy was ranked as third least harmful, trailing only amyl nitrate and khat, even though it is a Class A drug, along with heroin and cocaine.

Making ecstasy Class A made a mockery of the entire drug classification system, Nutt said at the time. "The whole harm reduction message disappears because people say, 'They are lying'," he said. "Let's treat people as adults, tell them the truth and hopefully work with them to minimize its use," he said.

While the ACMD will be holding a hearing next Friday to review the latest data on ecstasy's toxicity and neuropsychological effects, a final recommendation is unlikely to come before next year. And while the AMCD's make-up and posture suggest it will recommend down-scheduling it, such a move would likely be struck down by the government, which recently ignored the ACMD's recommendation that marijuana not be reclassified from Class C to Class B.

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They'll never do it

British pols are cowards. I'm sick of the teasing of the Brits and Canadians. Blah blah blah blah but they always obey their American masters. They are American client states and like to pretend they aren't. Pathetic.

Malkavian's picture

I doubut that too

Gordon Brown with his "lethal cannabis" spewage went totally against every single science advisor on the cannabis issue. Considering the fact that at least some people have died while being intoxicated on the drug-cocktail they call "Ecstasy" (as opposed to pure, crystal MDMA) I doubt it will be downgraded.

Besides, this is just posing that wouldn't accomplish much even if made to pass. It wouldn't figure out why people "die from Ecstasy" and solve it.

Personally I think "Ecstasy deaths" are fucking mysteries. Considering the usual recreational dose of approximately 1-2,5 mg./kg. bodyweight it is a Wonder of the World how something like Göttingen mini-pigs can easily survive a dose of 20 mg./kg. They even hardly heat up.

Either that Ecstasy is adulterated with other drugs, or the users are voluntarily mixing drugs themselves without realizing the consequences. Or they're on MAOi anti-depressants which happen to be rather lethal in combination with MDMA.

Anyway, Britain produces some really, really cool reports and have wonderful commissions. Too bad the politicians can opt for the "faith card" and simply choose to believe something else (even when empirical evidence conflicts with said semi-religious belief).

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