Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Government finally admits to abandoning reason on the drugs issue

Imagine you are seated at a table with two bowls in front of you. One contains peanuts, the other tablets of the illegal recreational drug MDMA (ecstasy). A stranger joins you, and you have to decide whether to give them a peanut or a pill. Which is safest?

You should give them ecstasy, of course. A much larger percentage of people suffer a fatal acute reaction to peanuts than to MDMA.

This, of course, is only a thought experiment; nobody would consider doing it for real. But it puts the risks associated with ecstasy in context with others we take for granted. Yes, ecstasy is dangerous and people who take it are putting their lives on the line. But the danger needs to be put in perspective”*

(*taken from a New Scientist editorial by Prof. Nutt entitled "Drugs drive politicians out of their minds")

Unfortunately, the scientist who put forward this bold but reasoned statement, based on an intense scientific analysis of the evidence for the harms associated with MDMA, was recently sacked from his Government position for stating this and similar claims. Prof. David Nutt, was forced to resign last week from his post as chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) by the home secretary Alan Johnson, after supposedly stepping over the line as a scientific advisor by refusing to keep quiet about the truth. Accused of campaigning instead of advising by Johnson, Nutt stated that his position as an independent advisor was severely compromised because the Government wished the ACMD to support their politically-led policy regardless of the scientific evidence.

Three more scientific advisors in the ACMD today resigned following Nutt’s sacking. Read Nutt’s latest response “Government’s should get real on drugs” in the New Scientist here. Read the important Lancet paper co-published by Nutt that reviewed the perceived dangers of 20 common drugs, both legal and illegal, according to a wide panel of experts. This categorisation clearly shows that both ecstasy and LSD are considered less dangerous than alcohol, indicating the current controlled drugs classification system is a farce and a mess. Science and sense must prevail over politics and prejudice! Please join the campaign to have Prof. Nutt reinstated by signing the petition, and join one of the Facebook groups. Also check out the "Nice People" Take Drugs cards by Release.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Taking the mush out of mushrooms: Forthcoming Letcher lecture

Attempting to unravel some of the mycelial-like myths and mysteries that pop up in the mush surrounding the magic mushroom, Dr Andy Letcher will be deconstructing the cultural history constructed around fungal cultures this month at the Ecology, Cosmos and Consciousness lecture series. See you all down the rabbit hole on Tuesday, 24th November at the October Gallery for a reinvigorating mycophilic gathering in true salon style.

Making Sense of Magic Mushrooms

Dr Andy Letcher

October Gallery, 24 Old Gloucester Street, London, WC1N 3AL

(Tel: 44 (0)20 7831 1618). – email: rentals AT

RSVP so that we can anticipate numbers – Please book in advance by credit card to guarantee a place or pay on the door.

Entry £7 /£5 Concessions, Arrive 6pm for a 6:30pm Start - Wine available

For those who have encountered magic mushrooms, the psilocybin experience is like an ancient codex whose glyphs are at once baffling and clear. To make sense of it, each person must perform an act of translation or interpretation by which the strange is rendered familiar. But how should this be done? In the post-war period alone an original psychological framework has given way to that of mysticism, itself replaced in turn by the language of shamanism.

In this talk, Andy Letcher will encourage us to move away from the mushroom experience itself – the usual province of trip-lit –, to a consideration of how it has been interpreted throughout history. For, contrary to received wisdom, very few cultures have decoded the mushroom as we do. Along the way he will ask whether magic mushrooms bring genuine transcendence, or if the experiences they occasion forever bound by culture.

Andy Letcher is a freelance writer, academic lecturer and folk musician living in Oxford, UK. He lectures at Oxford Brookes University and Bath Spa University on subjects as diverse as neo-Paganism, shamanism, and theory in the Study of Religion. He is the author of the critically acclaimed Shroom: A Cultural History of the Magic Mushroom and Mad Thoughts on Mushrooms: Discourse and Power in the Study of Psychedelic Consciousness, published in the journal Anthropology of Consciousness. Known for his iconoclastic style, and with doctorates in both Ecology and the Study of Religion, he challenges us to question received wisdom about psychedelics and psychedelic history. A prolific song-writer, tunesmith and exponent of English Bagpipes, he fronts psych-folk band, Telling the Bees.