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Home Office picks new prof for Nutt job

As Spaniards blame coke for three per cent of deaths

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The Home Office has found someone to take the job of chair of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, left vacant after the sacking of David Nutt.

Les Iversen, a former Oxford professor of pharmacology, takes the chair.

He has been chairing the meetings since Nutt left in October. The ACMD, required under the Misuse of Drugs Act, is responsible for general government advice and particularly for classifying drugs.

Professor David Nutt is working with the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, as promised, on setting up a new Independent Council on Drug Harms - it holds its first meeting later this week. Although Nutt won widespread support for his stance of demanding evidence-based policy making, we can't see the Home Office paying any more attention to his new group than it did to an advisory body required by statute.

Nutt was sacked by Home Secretary Alan Johnson for disagreeing with the government's cannabis policy and accused of making political rather than scientific points when discussing the dangers of ecstasy use versus the dangers of horse riding. Nutt said the Home Office decision to upgrade cannabis was made for political reasons.

The clumsily-handled sacking, followed by six further resignations, led to a row over how the government treats, or rather ignores, scientific advice.

In other drugs news, Spanish researchers found that three per cent of sudden, unexpected deaths were related to cocaine. Researchers looked at 668 sudden deaths over three years, 21 of these were related to cocaine use and all were men aged between 17 and 45. In 17 cases problems were related to the heart.

The boffins reported: “Any amount of the drug can be considered to have the potential for toxicity due to the fact that some patients have poor outcomes with relatively low blood concentrations, whereas others tolerate large quantities without consequences,” according to the Times.

Many of the cases showed premature signs of heart disease like furred arteries. Researchers said the combination of cocaine with alcohol and smoking made problems worse. ®

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