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Preview: Street Drugs in the Northern Powerhouse

Conversations about the use and regulation of recreational drugs have always been wrought with controversy. The dominant narrative in the mainstream media and from the government is one of protecting the public through stricter legislation on drug users and suppliers. The argument goes that these substances cause harm to the body and society. But an upcoming symposium at the University of Manchester aims to look at such drugs in a totally different way, which could provide benefits that are currently inconceivable.

The symposium, being held on the  28th March, invites you to rethink ‘street’ drugs and explore their use in the medical setting.  Hosted by the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health in collaboration with the British Association of Psychopharmacology, ‘Street Drugs in the Northern Powerhouse: Perspective and Policy’, will bring together leading experts in drug research and policy for a day of talks, discussions and Q and As.

The event will brief the audience on the clinical benefits of ‘street’ drugs such as cannabis and psilocybin, the active chemical in LSD and magic mushrooms, which have increasingly come under the lens of scientific study.  Through the work of scientists like Professor Val Curran, who will be at the symposium, these drugs or their derivatives have been found to be effective against a range of diseases and conditions from depression to chronic pain.

Current drug laws, however, mean it is hard to envisage medicines containing these drugs becoming accessible to patients anytime soon. In 2016 the Psychoactive Substances Act put a blanket ban on any substance said to have a stimulatory or depressive effect on an individual.

This event will look closely at ramifications of legislating against drugs and explore the interaction of prohibition with their risks and potential benefits. Andrew Costello of the Greater Manchester Police and Neil Woods, a former undercover drugs officer and chair of LEAP, both have frontline experience of putting drug legislation into practice and will be speaking at the event.

A high profile speaker also on the line-up is Professor David Nutt who currently works at University College London. Professor Nutt is a well-known figure in drug debates, famously highlighting statistics that show horse riding to be more dangerous than taking ecstasy to advocate for a more scientifically driven drug policy, the topic of his talk.

This event is poignant as it comes amidst a wave of legalisations for the medical use of cannabis in countries such as Canada, Australia and several states in the US. Although the UK is very far from such legislation at the moment, this symposium reflects a growing number of voices calling for a different approach to drug policy in the UK.

This event will take place on Wednesday, 28 March 2018 in Roscoe Building, from 9.30am to 16.30pm and provides a unique opportunity to hear from leading experts on this controversial and very important topic.

Tickets (£10 for students, £15 for others) and a more information can be found on this website.

Tags: David Nutt, drug research, drugs, faculty of biology medicine and health, recreational drugs, The University of Manchester

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