The Nutty Professor, otherwise known as Professor David Nutt, has recently made headline news again, this time for suggesting that alcohol is more dangerous than heroin or crack cocaine, and he produced a plethora of statistical evidence to back up his research, with graphs and flow charts splashed across the front pages of the tabloids. Nutty first came to public prominence when he was appointed the government’s top drugs adviser back in 2008.  His remit was to advise on the classification of harmful drugs, and in particular, the reclassification of cannabis from class ‘C’ back to class ‘B’.  But far from supporting the government’s position, he not only advised that cannabis should remain class ‘C’, he also advised that ecstasy should be downgraded from class ‘A’. In support of this advice, he advanced a theory, called ‘equasy’, where he argued that it was more harmful to ride a horse than it was to take ecstasy.  Make of that what you will! I suspect that much of this is in response to his name, not helped by the success of the two eponymous films produced by Disney.  He is determined to be wacky. Sadly however, for him at least, he wants us to take him seriously.  He can’t have it both ways. Needless to say, his latest pontifications have been met with widespread ridicule, and rightly so. But by taking the extreme cases of alcohol abuse, he diminishes his argument.  We all know that alcohol taken in excess over a period of time is harmful and potentially life threatening.  We all know that those under the influence of alcohol are likely to behave in an antisocial way, and we all know that this can lead to violence and crime. But to equate the consumption of alcohol per se with heroin and crack cocaine is a deeply flawed comparison.  Heroin and crack cocaine, even when taken in small amounts, are highly addictive, as those who labour regularly at the coalface, through the courts, the professional agencies and the police, know all too well. Those of us who climb behind the wheel of a car are far more likely to be killed or maimed than if we stayed at home, and the same applies to horse riders, who are far more likely to be thrown from their horse than those of us who wouldn’t climb into a saddle for all the tea in China.  My limited experience of riding quickly persuaded me of the folly.  My horse was more comfortable going backwards than forwards, and it farted all the time.  It was its primary mode of propulsion. But seriously, it must have been a very quiet day in the newsrooms to have given such claptrap the extensive coverage it never merited in the first place.  Publicity, even bad publicity, is the oxygen of life for Nutty and his camp followers, and we have only ourselves to blame.  The same applies to the preacher in the States, obviously barking mad, and with a congregation of no more than thirty lost souls, who rose to international prominence when he decided to hold a “burn the Koran” day on the village green.  Instead of ignoring him, it made headline news around the world, and the preacher had his Andy Warhol moment, never to be heard or seen again. All this claptrap is enough to drive a man to drink.  Mine’s a large scotch, and go easy on the water!  

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David is an English barrister, writer, public performer and keynote speaker. His full profile can be found on his website.

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