Government drugs chief criticises Channel 4 show

The Government’s chief drugs adviser has heavily criticised a Channel 4 programme showing volunteers taking ecstasy.

Professor Leslie Iversen, chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, said the programme may “glamorise” drug-taking as a “form of entertainment.”

The Oxford University professor made the criticisms in a letter to The Daily Telegraph.


He said: “Viewers were repeatedly told this was groundbreaking research that had never been done before.

“However, a search of scientific literature reveals that there have been no fewer than 68 human studies of Ecstasy using brain-imaging techniques.”

The programme showed 25 volunteers, including a former MP, being given an MDMA tablet (pure ecstasy) or a placebo. They then underwent tests including a brain scan.


Almost 2 million people watched the programme, and campaigners accused the show of being an advert for drug taking.

Mary Brett, of campaign group Europe against Drugs, said: “You do research quietly, conduct it on lots of people, you write it up and publish it in a journal that is peer-reviewed.

“The whole thing was just an advert for taking ecstasy.”


The programme was billed by Channel 4 as a chance for scientists to research the effects of ecstasy on the brain.

Professor David Nutt, one of the scientists, said this project is “unique and ground-breaking in many ways.”

A Channel 4 spokesman defended the show saying the aim of the programme was to “cut through the emotional debate” surrounding the drug.

The spokesman also said the research results could be useful in the treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and the programme does not “glamorise drug taking” and reflects both the “positive and negative aspects” of using MDMA.