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Watch > Episode > David Nutt - The Truth About Drugs

David Nutt - The Truth About Drugs


David Nutt is a British psychiatrist and neuropsychopharmacologist specialising in the research of drugs that affect the brain and conditions such as addiction, anxiety and sleep. In this landmark interview, Professor Nutt joins London Real host Brian Rose in studio to discuss Why LSD was made illegal, how alcohol is the original recreational drug and the use of medicinal cannabis in America alongside the implications for policy in the UK.

Professor David Nutt’s academic journey has been marked by a fascination with the intricacies of the human brain. From his early career where he pursued medicine at the University of Cambridge and later obtained a Ph.D. in neuropharmacology from the University of London, Nutt’s research focused on understanding the neurochemical mechanisms of drugs, laying the foundation for his future contributions to the field.

Professor Nutt emerged as a pioneer in utilising advanced neuroimaging techniques to study the effects of psychoactive substances on the brain. His work, incorporating functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and positron emission tomography (PET) scans, has provided unprecedented insights into the neural mechanisms underlying drug actions. This groundbreaking research has not only expanded our understanding of addiction and mental health but has also paved the way for more effective interventions and treatments.

In 2008, Professor Nutt assumed the role of Chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) in the United Kingdom. His tenure, though short-lived, was marked by a steadfast commitment to basing drug policies on scientific evidence. Nutt’s vocal criticism of the government’s classification of certain drugs, including his assertion that ecstasy was less harmful than horse riding, ultimately led to his dismissal in 2009. His principled stand highlighted the challenges of bridging scientific objectivity with political considerations in the realm of drug policy.

Undeterred by the political fallout, Professor Nutt founded the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs (ISCD) as a platform for objective evaluations of drug harms. The ISCD, composed of leading experts in the field, aims to provide evidence-based assessments to inform drug policy decisions. Nutt’s initiative has been instrumental in challenging societal perceptions and advocating for a rational, health-focused approach to drug classification.

Beyond his scientific endeavours, Professor Nutt has emerged as a vocal advocate for drug policy reform. His critiques of the arbitrary nature of drug classifications, emphasis on harm reduction strategies, and calls for decriminalisation have fueled a global conversation about the need for evidence-based approaches to drug regulation. Nutt’s ability to articulate complex scientific concepts to the public has contributed to a more informed and nuanced discussion surrounding drug policies.

Professor Nutt has extended his influence beyond academic circles through various publications, public lectures, and media engagements. His book “Drugs Without the Hot Air” serves as a valuable resource, presenting scientific facts about drugs in an accessible and unbiased manner. Nutt’s commitment to public education has helped demystify the discourse around drug use, fostering a more informed and empathetic understanding of the complex issues at play.

Professor David Nutt’s legacy is one of scientific rigour, courage, and a commitment to advancing public understanding of drugs. His contributions have not only expanded the frontiers of neuropsychopharmacology but have also catalysed important conversations about the intersection of science and drug policy. As the global landscape shifts towards more rational drug regulations, Professor Nutt’s work continues to be a guiding light, influencing policymakers, researchers, and advocates alike.

David Nutt’s journey from pioneering neuropharmacologist to influential advocate for drug policy reform reflects a career dedicated to scientific inquiry and societal betterment. His impact transcends traditional academic boundaries, leaving an enduring legacy that challenges conventional wisdom and promotes evidence-based approaches to drug-related issues. In a world grappling with evolving drug challenges, Professor Nutt’s work serves as a beacon, guiding us toward a future where science, compassion, and pragmatism shape our approach to drugs and their societal implications.


00:00 Trailer.
02:09 Brian’s thoughts on the episode.
06:09 Brian’s Introduction.
06:51 Why LSD was made illegal.
15:14 Alcohol, the original recreational drug.
18:28 Influence on Government and media attitude to recreational drugs.
20:17 Scoring drugs.
24:38 Social, class and racial attitudes to use of alcohol and other recreational drugs.
27:04 Ecstasy versus Equasy paper.
31:15 Calls for resignation and the sacking of David Nutt.
33:43 A youthful fascination with LSD and its effect on America.
38:11 Discovering profound impact of LSD on the brain.
43:01 Those that cannot change their minds, cannot change anything.
48:15 Analogy of drug laws being the worst censorship of research since the ban on the telescope.
51:53 David’s motivation for constantly striving for what he believes.
55:00 Brexit, a sad day for young scientists.
58:58 Dilemma of uneducated use of legal drugs versus benefits of illegal drugs used responsibly.
1:07:03 The future of research on psychedelics.
1:11:38 David’s hope for the future use of psychedelics.
1:14:14 What he never talks about.
1:15:24 Why is there no Professor David Nutt counterpart in America?
1:18:43 Judges rely on us. Scientists can change policy.
1:23:17 Risks of speaking out.
1:24:36 What to tell your kids about drug use.
1:27:04 Use of medicinal cannabis in America and implication for policy in the UK.
1:30:33 Success Secrets.
1:31:24 Inspirational successful person.
1:33:12 David Nutts obituary.
1:34:56 What he thinks other people think him crazy for believing.
1:35:17 What keeps David Nutt awake at night.
1:38:06 Phone call to the 20 hear old David Nutt.
1:38:55 Best advice ever received.
1:40:57 Advice to the 20 year old who is an aspiring scientist or questioning drug use.
1:42:44 His final good advice to anyone thinking about using illegal drugs.
1:46:04 Brian’s summing up.


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