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Drugs - without the hot air: Minimising the harms of legal and illegal drugs [Kindle Edition]

David Nutt
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (80 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Prof David Nutt was appointed chairman of the UK Government's Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), in 2008. In 2009 he published an editorial in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, comparing the harms caused by horse-riding with the effect of taking ecstasy. As a result of this and other comments on the harms caused by legal and illegal drugs, he was sacked by the then Home Secretary. In "Drugs - without the hot air", Prof Nutt puts the case for an evidence-based scientific approach to drugs. In straightforward languages for the lay person, he explains what drugs are, how they affect the body and the mind, and why people take them and get addicted to them. He shows how we can quantify the overall harms of a drug, addressing issues from direct danger of death, through to environmental, financial and family factors, to obtain a true indication of the overall effect of a drug. Then, working from the facts, he recommends how society ought to address drugs and drug-taking, to minimize the harms at every level. * How do drugs act on the mind and body? * Which is the worst drug of all? * What is addiction? How do drugs become addictive? How can addiction be treated? * Why did Native Indians never get addicted to smoking but we do? * Drugs of the future: alcohol substitutes. * cognition enhancers for memory intellect. * Why did Queen Victoria take cannabis and cocaine? * Does making drugs illegal work? If not, should drugs be sold in supermarkets instead? * Psychedelics for creativity: should scientists take LSD? (Kary Mullis and Francis Crick did.) * Performance drugs in sport. * Where to find help if you need it. * What should I tell my children about drugs? And when? * How much does the War on Drugs cost? What unintended consequences does it have? Is it effective? * Not all drugs harm equally. We need to quantify the harms of each and every drug. Then we can make informed decisions regarding our choice of lifestyle, and policymakers can take a rational approach to legislation on alcohol, cocaine, heroin, tobacco etc. A potential deep rift between governments' need to appear tough on drugs on the one hand, and a rational evidence-based approach to drugs legislation and treatment, could have very damaging consequences.

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"the most sensible book about drugs you'll read this year" ... "Nutt is both committed to rigorous, evidence-based policy and to clear, no-nonsense prose that makes complex subjects comprehensible" ... "a book that everyone should read." Cory Doctorow, BoingBoing, June 2012 "Finally, Drug Education Gets Real" ... "There's an inherent danger in any sector of education: if the teachings fail to measure up to the truth, then we'll be paving the way for a deep distrust and a greater apathy. With this in mind, it is of tremendous enthusiasm that we welcome Professor Nutt's book: Drugs - Without the Hot Air" ... Huffington Post, 31-May-2012 "Drug bans hamper brain research, says neuroscientist" ... "Bans on drugs like ecstasy, magic mushrooms and LSD have hampered scientific research on the brain and stalled the progress of medicine as much as George Bush's ban on stem cell research did, a leading British drug expert said on Thursday." ... Reuters, LONDON

About the Author

David Nutt is professor of neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College, London. He is a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, Royal College of Psychiatrists and the Academy of Medical Sciences, the president of the British Neuroscience Association and vice-president of the European Brain Council. He was Chair of the ACMD's Technical Committee for seven years, and became chairman of the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs in 2010.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
61 of 63 people found the following review helpful
Its not often that books come along written by professional people who really know their stuff, that are readable and accessible by the ordinary person who reads books.

What is fascinating about this book is not only that it explores in pretty good detail the social and pharmacological areas of drug taking, but that it confidently exposes the political dimension as well, and, in particular, the deep divide between the overt aims of the ant-drug legislation - reducing harm to society caused by recreational drug abuse - and the covert aims - essentially remaining electable in a media spun hysteria of moral indignation.

And so we discover that the knee jerk political response are probably the cause of at least more than a little of the harm,that drug taking does..

If you are concerned about drugs, or are thinking of taking them, or indeed - let's be honest, you DO take them, this is essential reading. The very real dangers are frankly discussed, and the very unreal dangers are debunked.

I can give no higher praise than to say that if I ruled the world,. Mt Nutt would be put in charge of framing a rational policy to deal with binge drinking and recreational drug abuse. His solutions might shock and cause moral indignation, but I am sure they would be effective in reducing the social and individual harm associated with these activities.

Sadly in a world where policy is based, not on facts and explaining them to the public, but by knee jerk response to media generated perceptions, there is little hope of this ever happening.

But if you have got as far as reading this review, this is a subject you are patently interested in, this book has to be some kind of milestone in our understanding of the relationship between individuals, the drugs they take, and the society and politics of our time. It's an absolute must-read.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent read. 29 July 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Professor Nutt is an expert authority in the area of recreational drug use and addiction and in his book provides accessible information to a lay audience. It is a pity that the UK governments have not utilised this expertise to develop an evidence based approach to drug policies. The book is well written and perfectly pitched for its target audience. I suggest that it would be a useful book for any secondary school library which would help provide useful information about recreational substances to young people, enabling them to make better informed choices about sustance use and lifestyle. I hope that the book finds a wider audiance and through that enables greater public debate about the current and future roles of recreational and life enhancing substances. Over all, a great book and a great read.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fair and honest 31 May 2012
In 2008 Nutt was appointed president of the government's Advisory Council on the unlawful use of drugs (ACMD). A year later he published a controversial article in a magazine that compares the risks of horse riding to taking ecstasy. As a result (and also because of other comments about the damage caused by drugs - legal and illegal)he was fired by the Home Secretary.
His book "Drugs - without the hot air", published during the controversy that emerged from his dismissal, explains that all drugs - from tobacco to heroin - are harmful.

Likewise, it shows the government's hypocrisy: while on one hand they try to take a hard line on drugs, on the other hand they try to legalise them.

He explains in depth how drugs affect us and why we take them, and how society should face drugs and their consumption to minimise the damage.
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sensible, informative and easy to read 4 Jun. 2012
Government policy on drugs is nonsense and this book explains not just how it is nonsense but also how we got into this ridiculous situation. The facts are not always clear in the drugs debate, if only because government policy, driven largely by reaction to biased media reporting, makes research almost impossible. However, there is a great deal we do know.

This book explains the basics of how we are affected by drugs, both legal and illegal, and the different ways they do harm. Then it goes on to evaluate sensibly a range of options for minimising that harm, including different treatments to help addicts quit or manage their condition, and practical ways to reduce demand and supply. Current government policy, both in terms of law and government spending, is clearly non-optimal and Nutt explores the complex historical, geographical, economic and cultural factors which have go us here, and where we need to change to make sensible progress.

Finally, there is some excellent advice which everybody should read before they start taking drugs of any kind.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars crucial 3 Sept. 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Forget the rest, this should be the starting point for everyone learning about drugs;as a GP specialising in substance misuse, this explodes all the myths better than any other book Ive read. If only the public knew all the misinformation the government feeds them.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well worth closer inspection 11 Aug. 2012
By Fpops
Fantastic book. Easily accessible for any sort of reader, so don't be put off if you have no scientific background.

Section on the harms of alcohol is particularly enlightening.

Only criticism is that his prose is slightly dry- a minor point that is entirely forgivable given he is an academic rather than a journalist.
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