‘Killer’ drug ecstasy to remain in class A

Government ministers have rejected the controversial views of their drugs advisers by deciding to keep ecstasy in the class A category of drugs.

The Home Office said ecstasy can kill and should remain in class A despite the recommendation of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) that the drug be reclassified.

The ACMD’s advice came despite its own extensive research showing that each year there are “several thousand” hospital admissions related to the drug and 30 deaths.

Professor David Nutt, chairman of the ACMD, claimed ecstasy was “harmful” but not as dangerous as other class A drugs.

Earlier this week the home secretary Jacqui Smith accused Professor Nutt of “trivialising” the harmful effects of drugs, when he suggested that taking ecstasy was no more dangerous than riding a horse.

In 2004, under advice from the ACMD, the Government downgraded cannabis from class B to class C. It proved to be a disaster and the Government reversed the policy earlier this year.

Professor Andy Parrott of Swansea University, who has spent more than 14 years conducting research into ecstasy, says Prof Nutt has significantly understated the number of deaths caused by the drug.

Home Office Minister Alan Campbell said: “Ecstasy can and does kill unpredictably. The Government has a duty to protect the public and firmly believes that ecstasy should remain a Class A drug.”

Ian Johnston, president of the Police Superintendents’ Association, said: “This is not some academic or scientific exercise, this is dealing with people’s lives. If we downgrade ecstasy, we are in danger of sending mixed messages out to young and vulnerable people.”

This news comes as separate figures show the number of 10 to 16-year-olds years convicted of drug offences by the courts increased from 1,212 in 1998 to 3,109 in 2007.