It's always horrible to read of young people suddenly dying for any reason. As the mother of a girl who no doubt will at some point in the next decade go out clubbing with her friends, I read with horror accounts of how perfectly fit and well young people have gone out, taken some substance and died. I can only imagine what their parents are going through and feel so much for them.
The substance under the spotlight at the moment is Mephedrone, something I'd never heard of until yesterday. A "legal high", you don't have to look very far on Google before you find out how to buy some. It's apparently all the rage in the clubs.
The substance was implicated in the deaths of two young men from Scunthorpe as reported in the Guardian as well as that of a 14 year old girl last November.
So, obviously, it should be banned, shouldn't it as the Government advisers are likely to imminently suggest?
Well, maybe not.
Firstly, it's not absolutely certain that the Mephedrone actually caused the deaths. The young men over the weekend had apparently combined it with alcohol and methadone. We know that combining any drugs is something that should only be done with care and we also know that methadone on its own can be lethal. In the case of Gabrielle Price, the 14 year old who died last November, the cause of her death was determined to be Bronchial Pneumonia.
Secondly, is it a good idea to go round banning stuff as a panic reaction without any sound scientific basis? I've dealt with 3 potentially lethal substances already this morning - gas, water and electricity, but I've done it by being careful and minimising their risk. Should we maybe be saying to young people "Look, we don't know about this stuff, we do know that mixing it with any other substance could be dangerous, so if you're going to take it, please be aware of that." After all, banning it isn't exactly going to dry up the supply overnight. Banning it isn't going to make our young people safe or any less likely to be able to get hold of the stuff.
Thirdly, I am far from convinced that banning drugs is actually effective. Does it not just lead to really nasty drug dealer types using violence and intimidation to prey on their victims? If these characters were out of the supply chain, wouldn't that make it a lot easier for people to seek help, rather than be trapped in an appalling spiral of debt, addiction and crime?
Fourthly, why are so many people seeking solace in artificial substances to make them feel good? What is it that's wrong with the quality of the relationships around them and how can that be fixed? How can we make our kids naturally happy so that they don't feel the need for anything else? Should we not be doing more to encourage the feelings of energy and happiness you get from sport? Actually the range of things that need to be done to increase everyone's feeling of wellbeing is so vast - but just cos the mountain's huge doesn't mean we shouldn't try to climb it.
Enough of my rantings, however. Let's give the last word to someone who actually knows about drugs, a lot. Professor David Nutt was the cause of the worst hashtag in Twitter history (#nuttsack) when he was dismissed from his post as a Government adviser for disagreeing with Government policy and saying that Ecstasy and LSD were less harmful than alcohol. As someone who's seen the effects of long term alcohol abuse on family members, I can relate to that. Anyway, Professor Nutt is a man who knows what he's talking about and he doesn't think we should be rushing to ban Mephedrone.
If you want to know more about Professor Nutt, Mark Thomson, of the awesome Mark Reckons blog, interviewed him a couple of month ago.