sativa vs indica Sativa Vs. Indica: Fact or Fiction?

According to cannabis folklore, there are two separate strains of cannabis with wildly different effects. Dispensaries and stoners alike will tell you that “sativas” give a heady, cerebral, stimulating rush, while “indicas” have more sedative properties, leaving users with more of a “body high” that sometimes puts them in a state of “couch-lock….

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Untitled 1 Before you hit the bottle this holiday season,  lend Prof. Nutt your ears for 9 minutesProfessor David Nutt who was recently awarded the Nature/Sense About Science prize for standing up for science, this month gave a short talk at Bristol TEDx which might make you see alcohol under a new light. Beyond the fact below cited by Prof. Nutt I’m not going to give any spoilers so this post …

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Oliver Sacks Oliver Sacks on DrugsThe highly regarded neurologist, psychologist and author Oliver Sacks has released a podcast with the New Yorker and a video on his blog (embedded below), describing some of his experiences with cannabis, amphetamines and LSD. In the podcast Sacks describes the inspiration and insights he gained from using the drugs, including the effect on his writing and the increase in his ability to be empathic with patients, but in the video Sacks issues a stark warning in which he describes amphetamines as “the most dangerous drugs physiologically” due to the powerful impact on the reward pathway and the cardiovascular system.

The media coverage comes in the run up to the release of Sacks’ new book “Hallucinations” (due for release in November), which if his previous writings are anything to go by should prove to be a truly fascinating read. If Sacks’ work inspires you to want to know more on the topic, Henry Lester a professor of neuroscience at California Institute of Technology (Caltech) is coincidentally unveiling an introductory course on “Drugs and the Brain” this November which is completely free and available right from your home computer.

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Alcohol is the fourth most dangerous drug after heroin, crack and crystal meth and the second most damaging to society, according to a study published today in the British Medical Journal (PDF). It is the largest ever study of its kind. This follows Prof. Nutt’s controversial lancet paper which in 2010 rated alcohol as the most dangerous drug to society.

BMJ Drug harms 20121 The largest ever study in to drug harms places alcohol in the top four

This latest study is a pretty weighty verdict, the study used responses from 292 individuals sourced from responders from the membership list of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in Scotland as well as a range of addiction professionals. The parameters used were:

(a) physical harm caused by acute, chronic and parenteral use.

(b) psychological harm; physical harm and intensity of pleasure linked to dependence.

(c) social harm from intoxication; other social harms and associated healthcare costs.

It’s worth noting that the study only assessed the drugs listed and doesn’t address research chemicals that are increasingly moving from the grey market to the black market as a result of recent government bans. The authors make a damning  indictment of the recent bans of research chemicals, citing evidence that the mephedrone ban has done nothing to affect use and “may only act to drive up the price”. The authors do not mention that a ban has a range of knock on effects inherent to black market supply such as effects on purity, the “gateway” effect of having to visit an illegal dealer and the societal implications of criminalising the user. Only today, London police have issued a blanket drug warning after one person has died and two remain hospitalised after taking a white powder that still has not been identified. The authors state that drug use should be treated as a medical issue and “should be separated from the criminal justices system and associated penalties”.
Reference:
Taylor M, Mackay K, Murphy J, McIntosh A, McIntosh C, Anderson S, & Welch K (2012). Quantifying the RR of harm to self and others from substance misuse: results from a survey of clinical experts across Scotland. BMJ open, 2 (4) PMID: 22833648(PDF)

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The Alternative World Drug Report Two Major Reports Slamming The Drug War Released in One Day

Global Commission Two Major Reports Slamming The Drug War Released in One Day

Two reports have been published today, both describing in exquisite detail the havoc reaped by the war on drugs. The first, by the multi-national anti-drug-war organisation Count The Costs, preempts the official UN Office on Drugs and Crime’s 2012 World Drug Report that is currently due for release and attempts to calculate the full costs of the war on drugs, as opposed to the official version which focuses on the cost of enforecement. The unofficial “Count The Costs” report is supported by a list of NGO’s as long as your arm, I have pasted the press release below.

The second report is by the Global Commission on Drugs (a collection of former government drug tsars, former world leaders and experts) and outlines the catastrophic direct effect of the drug war on the HIV pandemic. Watch the full one and a half hour press conference below.

Scroll down to read both reports in full.

Count the Costs Press Release:

Alternative World Drug Report exposes destructive nature of $100 billion a year global war on drugs

Posted on: 26/6/2012
Author: George Murkin

A new report, launched to coincide with publication of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime’s 2012 World Drug Report, exposes the failure of governments and the UN to assess the extraordinary costs of pursuing a global war on drugs, and calls for UN member states to meaningfully count these costs and explore all the alternatives

After 50 years of the current enforcement-led international drug control system, the war on drugs is coming under unparalleled scrutiny. Its goal was to create a “drug-free world”. Instead, despite more than a trillion dollars spent fighting the war, according to the UNODC, illegal drugs are used by an estimated 270 million people and organised crime profits from a trade with an estimated turnover of over $330 billion a year – the world’s largest illegal commodity market.

In its 2008 World Drug Report, theUNODC acknowledged that choosing an enforcement based approach was having a range of negative “unintended consequences”, including: the creation of a vast criminal market, displacement of the illegal drugs trade to new areas, diversion of funding from health, and the stigmatisation of users.

It is unacceptable that neither the UN or its member governments have meaningfully assessed these unintended consequences to establish whether they outweigh the intended consequences of the current global drug control system, and that they are not documented in the UNODC’s flagship annual World Drug Report.

This groundbreaking Alternative World Drug Report fills this gap in government and UN evaluations by detailing the full range of negative impacts resulting from choosing an enforcement-led approach:

  • Wasting billions and undermining economies
  • Harming international development and security, and fuellingconflict
  • Threatening public health, spreading disease and causing death
  • Undermining human rights
  • Promoting stigma and discrimination
  • Creating crime and enriching criminals
  • Causing deforestation and pollution

The report also describes the other options for controlling drugs, including health led approaches and legal state regulation and control. It ends with a call on UN member states to count the costs of the war on drugs, and properly explore all alternatives that might deliver better outcomes.

Count the Costs spokesperson Martin Powell said:

“This powerful report exposes the skewed and incomplete nature ofUNODC’s annual World Drug Report by telling the other half of the story, laying out the unsustainable costs of pursuing an enforcement-led approach to the drug problem.

The ‘war on drugs’ is a policy choice. There are other options that, at the very least, should be debated and explored using the best possible evidence. For the sake of their citizens, UN member states have a duty to make sure that now happens.”

Carel Edwards, Former Head of the European Commission’s Anti-Drug Coordinating Unit said:

 “This important report comes at a crucial time in the campaign for drug policy reform, with countries in Latin America no longer willing to blindly support a war on drugs that has cost them so dearly. The evidence brought together in this report is a serious indictment of the current regime, and supporters of this initiative are right to call upon heads of UN member states to count the costs of the war on drugs, even if that reveals failure, and to explore alternative options.  Only then will we have the evidence to make informed judgements about how best to deal with one of the most pressing concerns of our time.”

 

Global Commission on Drugs Press Release:

References:

Count The Costs (2012). The Alternative World Drug Report (Public Report) [PDF]

The Global Commission on Drug Policy (2012). The War on Drugs and HIV/AIDS: How the Criminalization of Drug Use Fuels the Global Pandemic (Public Report) [PDF]

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