I received an interesting answer to a recent written Parliamentary Question on the ‘legal high' Mephedrone. The drug is causing significant concern after its mis-use has been linked to several deaths. In order to assess the policy background and the need for a potential change in the law, I thought I would ask the Home Office what assessment they had made of the likely effects on health of the use of mephedrone as a recreational drug and what advice they had received from the Advisory Council for the Misuse of Drugs. The reply that I received was as follows:
"Mephedrone (4-Methylmethcathinone) is a stimulant drug which is structurally related to cathinone and methcathinone, both of which are controlled substances under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) is currently considering the harms of Mephedrone and related cathinones compounds as a priority of its current review of so called 'legal highs', commissioned by the then Home Secretary earlier this year. The ACMD will report back early next year and their advice will inform our response to these substances. The Government's FRANK campaign provides information on Mephedrone with clear advice about its known harms provided by the Department of Health and our current 'legal highs' information campaign has included warnings about Mephedrone."
The problem is that following the departure of David Nutt as chair of the ACMD and subsequent resignations it is difficult to see how the ACMD will be in a position to respond on this serious issue early in the New Year. Even if it does, given the number of key vacancies on the committee there will be questions over the robustness of the advice it provides. It looks as if we've been left with a big hole in policy making on an issue which needs urgent attention and with no current indication from Ministers as to how this is likely to get fixed.