Book review: Drug Science and British Drug Policy: Critical Analysis of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971

AuthorMike Guilfoyle
Published date01 March 2023
Date01 March 2023
Subject MatterBook reviews
Drug Science and British Drug Policy: Critical
Analysis of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971
Edited by Ilana Crome, David Nutt and Alex Stevens
Waterside Press; 2022, pp. 329; £25.00; paperback
ISBN: 978-1-914603-26-6
Reviewed by: Mike Guilfoyle, Retired Professional
Associate Member NAPO
The genesis of this edited collection of stimulating and critically informed multidiscip-
linary perspectives on 50 years of failing drug policywas the 2021 anniversary of
the landmark Misuse of Drugs Act in 1971 (hereafter MDA1971). Pivoted on a
shared understanding of the urgent need to change the current inf‌lexible regulatory
framework that dominates the legislative landscape of drug policy and sentencing. It
frames a comprehensive range of important opportunities for evidence -based, work-
able improvements in the light of scientif‌ic research f‌indings and offers a compelling
case for an honest review of existing drug laws. The book is arranged in f‌ive parts
covering the impact and legacies of drugs since the 1970s and each part is clearly
delivered in an accessibly scholarly way with expert commentary from leading
f‌igures in the medical, legal, educational, pharmacological and social policy
f‌ields. As such it offers the interested reader a compact analytically balanced over-
view in headlined chapters of the latest scientif‌ic and forensic research, which call
into question the insistent populist clamour of politicians and lawmakers still
holding fast to failed policies of deterrence largely through much discredited crimin-
alisation and prohibitive drug measures.
Part 1 offers an incisive outline of the developments and advances surroundingthe
treatment possibilities of psychedelic drugs, with particular attention paid to MDMA
(ecstasy) which highlights in graphic fashion how such advances have been hampered
because of the status of psychedelics in the MDA1971 and the discrepant classif‌ication
of drugs intothe familiar A, B, C system, and thecurrent scientif‌icevidence which ques-
tions the putative levels of harmfulness occasioned by this now much outdated and
poorly framed typology. An interesting reference to the legalisation of medical canna-
bis in 2018, marking a signif‌icant shift in regulatory practice, is followed by a caveat,
given the numbers of potential benef‌iciaries, on the very limited clinicalimpact such a
change has had within the National Health Service. The fact that cannabis is used rec-
reationallyby around 1 in 12 adults in England and Wales and poses relatively low
physical and social harms is cited as a self-evident benef‌icent argument for more con-
sidered approaches to avoiding the added harms of adulteration and mis-selling, in the
absence of legal avenues for users (p. 77).
Part 2 focuses on the impact of the MDA1971 on the medical, pharmacy and vet-
erinary professions and brings into its critical purview the restrictive impact that the
Book reviews 81

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