Alcohol laws must change, says prof

SARAH HARVEY
Last updated 05:00 03/11/2013

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A UK drugs expert who once claimed ecstasy was "no more dangerous than horse riding" has praised New Zealand's "world-leading" stance on legal highs but criticised our lack of action on alcohol law reform.

Professor David Nutt made the comments as he prepares to head to New Zealand to make a speech to the University of Auckland's new Centre for Addiction Research.

Nutt was famously sacked from his role as chairman of the Home Office's Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs after saying ecstasy, cannabis and LSD were less harmful than alcohol.

Nutt is now a professor at Imperial College London.

In an academic journal he said taking ecstasy was no worse than the risks of "equasy", a term he had invented to describe an addiction to horse riding.

Nutt, who will make the speech to the centre in December, said New Zealand's Pyschoactive Substances Act, which came into force in July and regulates the importation, manufacture and supply of psychoactive substances, was "world leading".

"I think it's a game changer, you should take a lot of credit for this approach."

The act is still causing controversy because it allows testing of drugs on animals.

Labour MP Trevor Mallard has proposed an amendment to the act that would outlaw the testing of psychoactive substances on animals.

But Nutt said New Zealand had "slipped back" after missing opportunities to change laws surrounding alcohol.

The Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 took force in December 2012 concluding a four-year debate but opponents said Parliament missed a chance to raise the minimum purchase age from 18 to 20.

Nutt said we were also "slipping back" in terms of the blood alcohol levels allowed while driving.

Labour MP Iain Lees-Galloway's Land Transport (Safer Alcohol Limits for Driving) Amendment Bill was drawn from the ballot in September.

If passed, it will lower the blood alcohol limit from 80mg per 100ml of blood to 50mg per 100ml of blood, the same as Australia, and the adult breath alcohol limit from 400mcg of alcohol per litre of breath to 250mcg.

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