What's More Dangerous - MDMA or Horse Riding?
When it comes to talking about drug policy, especially over the channel in the UK, we often refer to the work of Professor David Nutt. Professor Nutt is a prominent and well-regarded scientist at the forefront of the fight for rational and scientific based drug law. He was so well-regarded, that until a few years ago, he held a prominent advisory role with the UK government. However, it all changed when he told the UK government that taking ecstasy was no more dangerous than horse riding.
It is quite a revelation, and certainly a very bold statement for a government advisor to make to an ideological and regressive government (when it comes to drug law). As you can probably imagine, it didn’t go down well with the government, and Prof. Nutt was sacked for simply presenting an evidence based argument. It is a shame really, and shows exactly what is wrong with modern politics. It is based too deeply in ideology and public opinion, rather than science and evidence.
HORSE RIDING: A DANGER TO US ALL
The idea behind Prof. Nutt’s statement was to stimulate debate, and show that other aspects of life can be just as dangerous as taking drugs, if not more so. Writing an article titled “Equasy: An overlooked addiction with implications for the current debate on drug harms", Prof. Nutt took on a satirical tone, describing those who regularly go horse riding as suffering from “Equasy”, short for “Equine Addiction Syndrome”. This syndrome, he wrote, causes around 10 deaths a year, and over 100 traffic accidents. Through the sport of fox hunting, it also leads to "gatherings of users that often are associated with these groups engaging in violent conduct.”
Whilst quite humorous, it makes a very serious point: horse riding is equally, if not more damaging to society than MDMA, so why is it socially acceptable when the drug is not?
"Dependence, as defined by the need to continue to use, has been accepted by the courts in divorce settlements," he wrote. "Based on these harms, it seems likely that the ACMD would recommend control [of horse riding] under the Misuse of Drugs Act perhaps as a class A drug, given it appears more harmful than ecstasy."
It just goes to show, society can be very hypocritical, tolerating and even encouraging certain forms of harmful behaviour, whilst condemning others. As much as we would like to think that modern society is based on reasoning, science and evidence, it would seem we still have a long way to go – especially where drugs are concerned.