Drug control through fantasy neuroscience

I’ve got an article in today’s Observer about the disastrous Psychoactive Substances Bill, a proposed law designed to outlaw all psychoactive substances based on a fantasy land version of neuroscience.

“The bottom line is, the only way of knowing whether a mystery substance alters the mind is to take it. You simply can’t tell by chemical tests, because there is no direct mapping between molecular structure and mental experience. If you could solve the problem of working out whether a substance would affect the conscious mind purely from its chemistry, you would have done Nobel prize winning work on the the problem of consciousness. A second-rank approach is just to see whether a new substance is similar to a known family of mind-altering drugs, but even here there are no guarantees. A slight tweak can make a similar drug completely inactive and about as much fun as Theresa May at a techno night.”

Although I talk about the scientific problems of the Psychoactive Substances Bill, the whole process has been a farce.

From the minister in charge clearly not understanding his own legislation to the Government having to reassure churches that incense won’t be banned.

It’s been criticised from everyone from the Royal Society of Chemistry to traditional Tory supporters stalwarts like The Spectator.

The Medical Research Council have expressed concerns that it could “inhibit worthwhile research and/or potential new therapeutics”.

Just as the rest of the world is turning away from the failed ‘war on drugs’ approach to drug legislation, the UK has decided to make up its own scientific impossibilities to support it.

Normally, scientific impossibilities would be the death knell for proposed regulation but for drugs laws I have long since stopped believing that scientific incompetence was any barrier to enacting legislation.
 

Link to article ‘Theresa May’s futile war on psychoactive drugs’

2 thoughts on “Drug control through fantasy neuroscience”

  1. As far as I can tell, there are a number of substances about which it must be said: “How do you know what it does? You’ve taken it!”

    (Think about it.)

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