An academic from Bristol University has claimed that taking ecstasy is no more dangerous than riding a horse. In an article published in the journal of psychopharmacology in January, Professor David Nutt said he wanted to highlight how “drug harm can be equal to harms in other parts of life.” In the article, titled ‘Equacy: Overlooked Addiction with Implications for Current Debate on Drug Harms’, Nutt wrote that Equacy (short for equine addiction syndrome) has caused more than 10 deaths in the last year and is directly responsible for over 100 road accidents.

Nutt, who is also the chair of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of drugs, published the article in the run up to a government decision on the reclassification of ecstasy. The council which advises the government on drug policy advised the government to downgrade the drug from a class A to a class B status. However the government review which took place in February decided to maintain ecstasy’s current status; a ranking that keeps in on par with heroin and crack cocaine.

‘Nutt said he wanted to open a debate about drug abuse and risk taking’

Upon publication, Professor Nutt’s article caused a whirr of controversy among government officials as well as some anti-drug campaigners. David Raynes, a representative of the National Drug Prevention Alliance said that Nutt was unwise to make such comments and that if his “personal views conflict so very strongly with his public duties, it would be honourable to consider his position.” In response to the criticism, Nutt said he wanted to open a debate about drug abuse and risk taking. He also asks why society tolerates some potentially harmful activities and not others.

When interviewed, students on campus gave mixed views in response to the article. One 4th year student said that he agreed with Nutt’s claim and went on further to say that the only reason drugs are dangerous is because of their prohibition. He said that if governments were to legalise and regulate drug manufacture, there would be a decline in crime, corruption and the use of potentially harmful ingredients in their production. Another student disagreed saying “I don’t think you can compare ecstasy to horse riding because horse riding is a sport and if you know how to control a horse you shouldn’t have any major problems.” She added that, “I just don’t trust any drugs that mess with your brain and that can create a chemical imbalance in your body.”

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