Observations On the Contrary

The years of magical thinking

BMJ 2009; 339 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.b4678 (Published 11 November 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;339:b4678
  1. Tony Delamothe, deputy editor, BMJ
  1. tdelamothe{at}bmj.com

    The government’s commitment to evidence based policy is belied by its ministers’ initiatives on drug misuse, dementia, and screening

    As the parent of offspring who fit both the ecstasy taking and horse riding demographic, my ears pricked up at the claim that horse riding was more dangerous than ecstasy. It turns out to be true. If you track down Professor David Nutt’s editorial in the Journal of Psychopharmacology (2009;23:3-5, doi:10.1177/0269881108099672) you’ll see that horse riding is associated with acute harm once every 350 episodes and that the figure for ecstasy is once every 10 000 episodes.

    The then home secretary, Jacqui Smith, told Professor Nutt, the then chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, that she was “profoundly disappointed” by his comparison. That Ms Smith was profoundly disappointed by this truth made a deeper impression on me than Professor Nutt’s original statement on relative risk.

    Since then Ms Smith has returned to the backbenches in a welter of revelations and recriminations over expense claims for second homes and adult movies. No doubt she experienced another spasm of profound disappointment last month when the standards commissioner judged that the allegations made against her were true. …

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