DrugScience (originally called the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs (ISCD)) is a UK-based drugs advisory committee proposed and initially funded by hedge fund manager Toby Jackson.[1][2] It is chaired by Professor David Nutt and was officially launched on 15 January 2010 with the help of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies. The primary aim of the committee is to review and investigate the scientific evidence of drug harms without the political interference that could result from government affiliation.[1][3][4][5]

FormationJanuary 15, 2010; 9 years ago (2010-01-15)
Key people
Barry Everitt, David Nutt
Formerly called
Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs (ISCD)

The establishment of the committee followed the controversial sacking of Professor Nutt, on 30 October 2009 as chair of the UK's statutory Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs by UK Home Secretary, Alan Johnson after the Equasy controversy.[6][7] The controversy followed his Eve Saville Memorial Lecture (2009) at the Centre.[8]

DrugScience initially focused on reviewing official risk estimates for psychedelic drugs, ecstasy and cannabis, and increasing warnings of the dangers of ketamine.[2]


Drug harm comparisonEdit

In 2010, DrugScience produced a ranking of drug harms in the UK, the results of which garnered significant media attention.[9][10][11][12] Drugs were assessed on two metrics - harm to users and harms to society. The report found heroin, crack cocaine, and methamphetamine to be the most harmful drugs to individuals, with alcohol, heroin, and crack cocaine as the most harmful to others. Overall, alcohol was the most harmful drug, with heroin and crack cocaine in second and third places. Most notably, it found the legal status of most drugs bears little relation to the harms associated with them - several class A drugs including ecstasy (MDMA), LSD and magic mushrooms featured at the very bottom of the list. Similar findings were found by a Europe-wide study conducted by 40 drug experts in 2015.

E-cigarette analysisEdit

Using a similar multi-criteria decision analysis process as the 2010 drug harm ranking, DrugScience looked to rank the harms of all nicotine-containing products, including cigarettes, cigars, nicotine patches and e-cigarettes. The report concluded that e-cigarettes are 95% less harmful than conventional cigarettes, advice which was subsequently used in a report[13] by Public Health England on e-cigarettes and now forms part of the evidence-base for the positions of the UK Government[14] and the National Health Service. This figure was widely reported on in the press,[15][16] but remains controversial as the long-term harms of e-cigarettes remain unknown. More recent systematic reviews suggest that e-cigarettes are considerably less harmful that cigarettes, but that the difference may be smaller than previously estimated.

A multi-criteria decision analysis ranking of nicotine-containing product harm. Cigarettes and cigars are the most harmful by a considerable degree, with e-cigarettes some 95% less harmful than cigarettes.

Drugs LiveEdit

Drugs Live: the ecstasy trial is a two-part TV documentary aired on Channel 4 on the 26th and 27 September 2012. The program showed an fMRI study on the effects of MDMA (ecstasy) on the brain, which was funded by Channel 4. The main researchers on the study were DrugScience's Val Curran and David Nutt who also appeared as guests on the show. Curran and Nutt oversaw research at Imperial College London, in which volunteers took part in a double blind study, taking either 83 mg of MDMA or a placebo before going into the fMRI scanner.

The documentary was presented by Christian Jessen and Jon Snow, and included debate on the harms of MDMA, as well as exhibiting the findings of the study. Some participants in the study also appeared on the show, including a vicar, an ex-soldier, writer Lionel Shriver, actor Keith Allen and former Liberal Democrat MP Evan Harris.

Nutt and colleagues have said they are preparing to run the UK's first clinical trial of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for the treatment of PTSD, based on the research from the study.[17]

DrugScience publicationsEdit

  • Rogeberg, Ole; Bergsvik, Daniel; Phillips, Lawrence D.; Amsterdam, Jan van; Eastwood, Niamh; Henderson, Graeme; Lynskey, Micheal; Measham, Fiona; Ponton, Rhys (2018). "A new approach to formulating and appraising drug policy: A multi-criterion decision analysis applied to alcohol and cannabis regulation". International Journal of Drug Policy. 56: 144–152. doi:10.1016/j.drugpo.2018.01.019. PMID 29459211.
  • Singh, Ilina; Morgan, Celia; Curran, Valerie; Nutt, David; Schlag, Anne; McShane, Rupert (May 2017). "Ketamine treatment for depression: opportunities for clinical innovation and ethical foresight". The Lancet Psychiatry. 4 (5): 419–426. doi:10.1016/s2215-0366(17)30102-5. PMID 28395988.
  • Taylor, Polly; Nutt, David; Curran, Val; Fortson, Rudi; Henderson, Graeme (2016-03-26). "Ketamine—the real perspective". The Lancet. 387 (10025): 1271–1272. doi:10.1016/s0140-6736(16)00681-4. PMID 26975791.
  • Nutt, David J.; Phillips, Lawrence D.; Balfour, David; Curran, H. Valerie; Dockrell, Martin; Foulds, Jonathan; Fagerstrom, Karl; Letlape, Kgosi; Milton, Anders (2014). "Estimating the Harms of Nicotine-Containing Products Using the MCDA Approach". European Addiction Research. 20 (5): 218–225. doi:10.1159/000360220. ISSN 1022-6877. PMID 24714502.
  • Ragan, C. I., Bard, I., Sing, I, Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs (ISCD) (2013). "What should we do about student use of cognitive enhancers? An analysis of current evidence". Neuropharmacology. 64: 588–595. doi:10.1016/j.neuropharm.2012.06.016. PMID 22732441.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  • Celia J. A. Morgan, H. Valerie Curran, the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs (ISCD) (2011). "Ketamine use: a review". Addiction. 107 (1): 27–38. doi:10.1111/j.1360-0443.2011.03576.x. PMID 21777321.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  • Nutt, D. J., King, L. A., & Phillips, L. D. (2011). "Drugs and harm to society- Authors' reply". The Lancet. 377 (9765): 555. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(11)60199-2.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  • Nutt, D. J., King, L. A., & Phillips, L. D., on behalf of the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs (ISCD) (2010). "Drug harms in the UK: a multicriteria decision analysis". The Lancet. 376 (9752): 1558–1565. CiteSeerX doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(10)61462-6. PMID 21036393.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Sacked scientist promises impartial drugs advice The New Scientist, January 2010
  2. ^ a b Jack, Andrew (16 January 2010). "Hedge fund chief backs drugs panel". Financial Times. Archived from the original on 2010-07-12. Retrieved 16 January 2010.
  3. ^ David Nutt (2010-01-15). "The best scientific advice on drugs". The Guardian. London. Retrieved April 2, 2010.
  4. ^ http://www.drugscience.org.uk/ Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs Homepage
  5. ^ Nutt, D. J.; King, L. A.; Phillips, L. D. (2010). "Drug harms in the UK: a multicriteria decision analysis". The Lancet. 376 (9752): 1558–1565. CiteSeerX doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(10)61462-6. PMID 21036393. Lay summaryBBC (1 November 2010).
  6. ^ Nutt, D. (2008). "Equasy -- an overlooked addiction with implications for the current debate on drug harms". Journal of Psychopharmacology. 23 (1): 3–5. doi:10.1177/0269881108099672. PMID 19158127.
  7. ^ "Support the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs". The center for crime and justice studies. January 15, 2010. Retrieved April 3, 2010.
  8. ^ http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/radio4/tls/tls_20120918-0930a.mp3 David Nutt on The Life Scientific with Jim Al-Khalili, September 2012, BBC Radio 4
  9. ^ "Study compares drug harms". nhs.uk. November 2010. Retrieved 2018-03-14.
  10. ^ "Alcohol 'harms more than heroin'". BBC News. 2010-11-01. Retrieved 2018-03-14.
  11. ^ "Scoring drugs". The Economist. 2010-11-02. Retrieved 2018-03-14.
  12. ^ Boseley, Sarah (2010-11-01). "Alcohol 'more harmful than heroin or crack'". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-03-14.
  13. ^ "Public Health England e-cigarette update" (PDF).
  14. ^ "E-cigarettes around 95% less harmful than tobacco estimates landmark review - GOV.UK". www.gov.uk. Retrieved 2018-03-14.
  15. ^ "E-cigarettes are 95 percent less harmful than tobacco: UK study". Reuters. 2015-08-18. Retrieved 2018-03-14.
  16. ^ Roberts, Michelle (2016-04-28). "Give e-cigs to smokers, say doctors". BBC News. Retrieved 2018-03-14.
  17. ^ "Drugs Live: The Ecstasy Trial. Presenting original research on Channel 4 : Scientific progress, and a televisual first". The Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs. 27 October. Archived from the original on 2014-03-06. Retrieved 2014-02-26. Check date values in: |date= (help)