Paul Faith/PA Wire/AP
A person holds ecstasy tablets.

Britain Considers Lowering Ecstasy’s Drug Ranking

January 05, 2009 11:58 AM
by Lindsey Chapman
Feeling that the effects of ecstasy are not as severe as other drugs, some researchers in Britain have proposed downgrading its ranking.

Assessing Drug Classifications

Britain’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) is expected to recommend to government officials that ecstasy be downgraded from a class A to a class B drug, according to U.K paper The Independent.

Researchers say the drug is not as harmful as alcohol and tobacco, yet it has been cited for killing at least 30 people each year in the country.

Reducing ecstasy’s classification would cut a prison sentence for its possession from seven years to five; ecstasy dealers would face a maximum 14-year prison sentence instead of life.

The council’s plan will conflict with Britain’s Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, who is likely to veto the idea, according to The Daily Telegraph. It could also create waves over how advisory bodies are treated by the government. Some critics are questioning whether the ACMD is fit to advise government officials. The committee has been accused of “being influenced by pro-drug ‘idealogues,’” according to The Daily Telegraph.

Regarding the ecstasy proposal, Professor Andy Parrott, an expert on the drug, said, “This issue should not just be about opinions—it should be about the actual effects this drug has on people’s brains and bodies. I have conducted years of research into ecstasy and I can tell them that it is not possible to take this drug without being damaged by it.”

In November 2008, the ACMD voted on possible reclassification of ecstasy. The group is expected to report the results of that vote to Smith later in January.

Background: Scrutinizing Britain’s drug laws

Britain’s drug laws have been criticized in the past for failing to reflect adequately the harm that the use of certain drugs can cause a person. In 2006, The Independent reported that researchers had assessed 20 substances for three qualities: addictive nature, social harm and physical damage. Alcohol and tobacco were considered more dangerous than LSD and ecstasy.

The rankings, the paper reported would encourage lawmakers to reconsider drug classifications, which in turn affect the punishments for their possession.

Related Topic: United States Drug Use

In 2008, a new survey showed that the United States led the world in illegal drug use, “despite tough anti-drug laws,” according to WebMD. The World Health Organization assessed legal and illegal drug use in 17 countries, and found that Americans had the highest levels of cocaine and marijuana use.

Drug laws were not the main factor affecting survey results. “Globally, drug use is not distributed evenly and is not simply related to drug policy, since countries with stringent user-level illegal drug policies did not have lower levels of use than countries with liberal ones,” WebMD quoted researcher Louisa Degenhardt as saying.

Resource: Substance abuse


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