We need your help to change the debate
By David Nutt
I am writing this to ask all supporters of the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs if you would get more involved in supporting our work.
In the last 18 months, the Committee has established itself as the leading independent scientific body on the harms and benefits of both legal and controlled drugs in the UK. The Committee’s leading drug scientists work together to ensure that the public can access clear, evidenced based information on drugs without interference from political or commercial interest. Our work developing a ‘scale of drug harms’ continues to receive global media coverage since its launch and you may well have seen the recent media coverage of our new report on ketamine and associated harm reduction advice.
Following my removal as Chair of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, I have spoken at scores of meetings up and down the country (and across the world), at universities, professional associations, schools and even meetings at local pubs. It is clear that outside of the Westminster bubble, many people want to debate, discuss and learn about the science of drugs and what it means for them, their friends and families. Like you, they understand the importance of the evidence in the formulation of drugs policy.
This public spirit is not matched at Westminster. The Coalition’s Drug Strategy in many ways represents a further step back from the evidence base as explained in our responses here and here, and there has been no challenge to it by the official opposition in Parliament. This is a missed opportunity. It simply reflects that the three main parties are, at present,incapable of basing policy on the scientific evidence because they fear losing votes to each other.
This is no way to conduct a national debate on such a crucial issue, especially given that a large section of the public are far ahead of the politicians in wanting a rational and evidenced based drug policy.
Defending science: changing the debate
Thousands of you wrote to me following my sacking to express your support of my speaking truth to power and to defend science against political interference. We need to bring together everyone that supports scientific evidence as the foundation of a rational drugs policy so are launching a national advocacy campaign to create a critical mass that will change the terms of the debate. This will take time and serious effort, involving the building of a coalition between scientists, practitioners and the general public, but I am convinced that, with your help, we can achieve this.
We will build:
- A media response network involving those who support the ISCD to challenge policy makers when they ignore or distort the evidence base.
- An online presence that engages with tens of thousands of people through social media sites.
- Advocacy networks for drug science in professional occupations.
- A drug science supporters’ network to continue the debate in homes and workplaces throughout the country. We will be producing factsheets to inform and support those involved.
Meanwhile, the scientists who are at the heart of the ISCD will be getting on with the vital scientific work that will be the foundation for all the arguments that we put to the general public.
How you can help
These are ambitious plans and I need your help as a Friend of the ISCD to carry them out. Here is what you can do:
- Join us online via my Twitter feed and Facebook profile and suggest me as a friend to others.
- Circulate the ISCD monthly newsletter to those you know might be interested.
- Join one of the ISCD Professional Networks to help advocate for the work of the ISCD.
- Invite the ISCD to speak to a meeting in your area or workplace.
- Donate to the ISCD to ensure its independence and effectiveness.
Regular giving by individuals is crucial to allow an independent ISCD to advocate for a rational drug science policy. Our initial aim is for 1,000 people to offer an average of £10 per month to secure the long term future of the ISCD. Whatever you decide to give will be a step towards our target.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. The work of the ISCD is vital but we can only effect real change with your help. I look forward to working with you all towards a rational drugs debate.
Remember, together we are stronger.