Saturday, 7 February 2009

Ride a Horse? You're Safer Taking Ecstasy

Risk is a funny thing: how many of us are so frightened of flying, we'd rather take a private car.

Humans are ridiculously poor at assessing risk. Flying - commercially anyway - is the safest form of transport ever devised and it gets safer with each passing accident. In the most recent air accident, where an Airbus 320 ditched in the Hudson river after hitting geese, everyone on board survived without serious injury.

Although hailed as a miracle, it was purely down to some great flying and superb aircraft design. The most difficult part of a water landing is ditching the plane at a very steep angle - so the tail hits the water first meaning the pilots have to work on instrument readings only.

Writing in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, government advisor, Professor David Nutt compared the risk of taking Ecstasy with the risk of horse riding - and landed in deep water himself. He says:
"Drug harm can be equal to harms in other parts of life. There is not much difference between horse-riding and ecstasy."
Observing that 100 people are killed every year on horses (or more precisely, falling off them) he writes:
"This attitude raises the critical question of why society tolerates - indeed encourages - certain forms of potentially harmful behaviour but not others such as drug use."
The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, of which Professor Nutt is chair, is in a fluster as the BBC reports, but David Raynes for the National Drug Prevention Alliance was rather more forthright in suggesting to the Daily Telegraph that either Professor Nutt resigns or is sacked.

Horse Riding 300% More Dangerous

Looking at the raw statistics - you're about 300% more likely to die falling from a horse than you are having your insides cooked by ecstasy. The problem with the drug is that there simply isn't a "safe" dose yet it is regularly used by clubbers to get the sort of high they need to keep going for hours.

This, of course, is not the full story. Since ecstasy is an illegal drug we just don't know how many people take it, in what dosage or how often. Whereas it's somewhat easier to estimate how many people ride.

Raw statistics tell us very little and Professor Nutt has, perhaps naively, picked a rather poor example. Left where it belonged - in a scholarly article, where it could be assessed as what it was worth - that would have been the end of it. But NO, some nosey bastard has to make a big fucking issue of it.

You're more likely to die in a car accident than you are taking ecstasy. The WHO has suggested (probably an estimate) that some 1,200,000 [that's 1.2 million] lives are lost worldwide each year in automotive incidents. You're more likely to die from smoking or alcohol related illness than ecstasy, in fact.

Another bizarre and improbably statistic comes from the world of sport; if we ignore the really, really silly extreme stuff such as base jumping and just consider traditional sports, the most dangerous hobby you can have is: fishing. It's not that people are regularly assaulted by ravenous rainbow trout or die from maggot poisoning, it's just that so many fall into the water and drown.

That's not to say I'm condoning ecstasy use: because it really is like playing Russian Roulette, it's just that sometimes we really do have to get things into proportion and be very careful how much trust we place in the stuff we're spoon fed by the media.

Spoon-fed. Umm.. I've got the munchies... Mushroom anyone? Ooooo the colours... My hands, they're sooooo big..... Later dudes.

1 comment:

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