Mephedrone did not kill youths, tests reveal

Toxicology tests on two teenagers whose deaths triggered a nationwide scare about the dance drug mephedrone have shown they had not taken the drug.

Louis Wainwright, 18, and Nicholas Smith, 19, from Scunthorpe died in March. But tests have found no traces of mephedrone in their blood. Further tests are being carried out to determine what, if any, drugs they had taken.

The deaths sparked unprecedented alarm about the perils of so-called "legal highs" – chemical and herbal preparations sold on the high street and over the web – and led to demands that mephedrone be banned.

The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) recommended a ban on 29 March which was announced minutes later by Alan Johnson, the former home secretary. But the decision was heavily criticised for being politically rather than scientifically driven and led to the resignation of the ACMD's Eric Carlin, the eighth member of the council to leave in five months in protest at what was seen as political interference.

Mephedrone has been associated with more than 20 deaths but there has been no post mortem confirmation that it has caused any deaths so far.

Yesterday, Leslie Iversen, chairman of the ACMD, defended the council's decision to recommend a ban and denied it was prompted by the deaths of the two teenagers.

"Any death is a tragedy but that was not the reason we gave the advice we did. We shouldn't be surprised with a new legal high if we get some false positives. More than 100 deaths are linked each year with amphetamines [to which mephedrone is related] yet in less than half it turns out to have been the culprit. Even so, about 50 deaths are confirmed linked with amphetamines.

"It takes six months on average for coroners' courts to reach decisions. It is far too early to say whether there have been any deaths from mephedrone."

Professor Iversen, a former pharmacologist at the University of Oxford, said he was "not embarrassed" by the decision the committee had taken and was "very proud" of it.

Professor Colin Blakemore, professor of neuroscience at the University of Oxford, said: "This shocking news should be a salutary lesson to tabloid journalists and prejudiced politicians who held a gun to the heads of the ACMD and demanded that this drug should be banned before a single autopsy had been completed. The only good that might emerge from this fiasco is a long-overdue review of drug control policy.

"The politicians talk about using drug classification as a way of sending 'messages' to young people. I fear that the only message that will be sent by the hasty decision on mephedrone is that the drug laws deserve no respect."

If mephedrone had been put in a pending category while evidence was collected, as recommended by the UK Drug Policy Commission, "this embarrassment would have been avoided", he said.

Professor David Nutt, the former chairman of the ACMD, said: "If these reports are true, the previous government's rush to ban mephedrone never had any serious scientific credibility – it looks much more like a decision based on a short-term electoral calculation.

"This news demonstrates why it's so important to base drug classification on the evidence, not fear, and why the police, media and politicians should only make public pronouncements once the facts are clear," he added.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
tv
Sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Voices
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
art
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine