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: Minimising the Harms of Legal and Illegal Drugs.
For many years drug education has served as a whipping-horse where we have dealt our hand in 'messages' and projected harms over an evidence based approach. Notorious schemes such as 'Just Say No' and DARE have been tragic in their application -- at best they are well meaning but misguided, and at worst they are simply sophomoric, insulting and counterproductive. Speaking as a child of the 80s, I can anecdotally relay the farce that was drug education; it saddens me that we haven't moved on.
With the release of his book, Drugs - Without the Hot Air, Professor Nutt aims to go beyond the hyperbole and treat each reader with a degree of respect that has arguably been absent until now.
David Nutt, a professor of neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College London, has heavily referenced his book so as to dovetail with his championed 'drug science' premise. The book is aimed at parents, parents and children, anyone who's interested in drugs, and those that take drugs -- alcohol and tobacco very much included within the discourse.
Another target audience of the book is those who have worked with the consequences of drugs in our society: doctors, social workers, politicians, police, and of course, teachers. I was intrigued to learn more from a senior educator about our persistent methods of drug tutelage, and choosing to remain anonymous for obvious reasons, the teacher I spoke to was vehement in his opinions:
"For many many years I had no direct understanding and had to deliver a sort of pat 'send' on the topic. Current methods are fear-inducing, and it appears to be delivered by people who have no knowledge of the territory."
I asked if a book based on fact, and perhaps, inconvenient truths would be welcomed:
"Yes. Very much so! It's nigh on impossible to 'own up' in this job, so a device such as a book that helps create an open field for debate is needed. I work in a pretty conservative world, and it's getting less relaxed."
There certainly appears to be a thirst for truth in our drug education from all sectors of society. Those with any degree of drug experience demand unadulterated truths, and those on the periphery of the national drugs discussion are left reeling over the now infamous and clichéd 'messages' that we force-feed our children. The educator concluded:
"Such a book would allow pupils to talk. Most teachers are decent people and they need something to allow pupils to discuss; a documentation that isn't damning on the topic is indeed welcomed. This could be something that will open mouths! It's insane when pupils may have significant experience of drugs, and a teacher who is effectively gagged. That mouth-trapped teacher is me and people like me; new academies can sack staff who cause displeasure far more easily than in the past. My shrewdest students are extremely capable of reading between the lines."
It's abundantly clear that the national malaise on true drug education is tangible, Drugs - Without the Hot Air fills a gap that has been present for decades. Professor Nutt has written the book in plain English so as to be read by the whole of society; there are many key points and themes which include:
How drugs work, and how they affect the mind and body.
Which is the worst drug overall - heroin or alcohol?
Does making drugs 'illegal' work?
The book also deals with addiction and the various additional aspects that lie alongside this vast subject.
There's also a considerable chapter on Britain's most debated drug entitled: Cannabis, and why did Queen Victoria take it?
The central theme to Drugs Without the Hot Air is that all drugs are harmful, but not all drugs harm equally - only when we hold all the information can we make informed decisions regarding our lifestyle choices.
A book written from an evidence based platform could certainly be a game changer in both our national discourse, and our relationship with all drugs. Professor Nutt - like many healthcare professionals - is fiercely keen to bring the public's eye into focus on alcohol and its potent potential for abuse -- and to finally include this drug within our global strategies.
The truth about drugs is a hard subject to tackle, but Professor Nutt continues in his pursuit for good, proper, and evidence based education so as to avoid the scientific illiteracy that we've tragically found ourselves in.
A no holds barred, open, and lucid dialogue about drugs can only be a good thing. Drugs - Without the Hot Air can be ordered online.