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Watch > Episode > Professor David Nutt - Drug Science

Professor David Nutt - Drug Science

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Professor David Nutt, a distinguished neuropsychopharmacologist, psychiatrist and former Chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, has dedicated his career to understanding the effects of drugs on the brain and the broader implications for public health. Renowned for his groundbreaking research and advocacy for evidence-based drug policies, Professor Nutt has played a pivotal role in bridging the gap between scientific research and public policy.

In this revelatory interview, David drops by London Real studios to discuss the role of cocaine in the recent banking crisis, his current struggle to conduct a clinical trial on the effects of the psychedelic psilocybin on depression, how Amy Winehouse’s death could have been used as a public example of the dangers of alcohol, and his frustration with current laws regarding cannabis.

Born on April 16, 1951 in England, David Nutt’s fascination with the human brain and its interaction with psychoactive substances began early in his life. He pursued his academic journey at the University of Cambridge, where he earned a degree in medicine. His interest in psychiatry and neuropsychopharmacology led him to further studies, obtaining a Ph.D. in neuropharmacology from the University of London.

Professor Nutt’s research has been marked by its innovative approach to understanding the effects of drugs on the brain. He has contributed significantly to the field of neuropsychopharmacology, focusing on the mechanisms of action of various psychoactive substances. His work includes investigations into the neural basis of addiction, the impact of drugs on mental health, and the potential therapeutic applications of certain substances.

Notably, Professor Nutt has been a pioneer in utilising advanced imaging techniques, such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), to study the neural effects of drugs in real-time. His research has shed light on the complex interactions between neurotransmitters, providing valuable insights into the physiological underpinnings of drug-related phenomena.

In 2008, Professor Nutt assumed the role of Chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) in the United Kingdom. However, his tenure was marked by controversy, particularly surrounding his stance on drug policy reform based on scientific evidence. Professor Nutt’s outspoken criticism of the government’s classification of certain drugs, such as cannabis and ecstasy, led to his dismissal from the ACMD in 2009.

Undeterred by the challenges he faced, Professor Nutt has remained a vocal advocate for evidence-based drug policies. He founded the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs (ISCD) to provide objective and scientifically rigorous assessments of drug harms, challenging the prevailing political narratives surrounding drug classification. Through the ISCD, Professor Nutt continues to contribute to the public discourse on drug policy reform, emphasising the importance of basing decisions on empirical evidence rather than ideological considerations.

In addition to his research and advocacy, Professor Nutt has engaged with the public through his writings. His book “Drugs Without the Hot Air” aims to demystify the discourse around drugs, presenting the scientific facts in an accessible manner. Through his publications, lectures, and media appearances, Professor Nutt seeks to educate the public on the complex issues surrounding drug use and policy.

Professor David Nutt’s legacy extends beyond the laboratory and government advisory roles. His commitment to evidence-based drug policies and his fearless advocacy for scientific principles have inspired a new generation of researchers, policymakers, and activists. As drug policy reform remains a pressing global issue, Professor Nutt’s contributions serve as a beacon, challenging the status quo and urging society to approach drug-related matters with nuance, compassion, and a commitment to scientific rigour.

Professor David Nutt’s multifaceted career, from pioneering neuropsychopharmacological research to advocating for evidence-based drug policies, reflects a lifelong dedication to advancing our understanding of psychoactive substances. Despite facing challenges and controversy, Professor Nutt’s unwavering commitment to scientific integrity has left an enduring impact on the fields of neuropsychopharmacology and drug policy, fostering a more informed and rational discourse surrounding drug use and its societal implications.

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