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Drugs Without the Hot Air: Minimizing the Harms of Legal and Illegal Drugs
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Drugs Without the Hot Air: Minimizing the Harms of Legal and Illegal Drugs

4.38  ·  Rating details ·  1,246 ratings  ·  97 reviews
From health to family to society, this informative exploration takes an evidence-based view of all the factors involved in drug use. Applying the same objective criteria to legal and illegal substances, an argument is made that legality is not a clear measure for harm. Tackling a variety of questions, such as Which is more harmful—Ecstasy or alcohol? Can addiction be cured ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published May 31st 2012 by UIT Cambridge Ltd.
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Harry Rutherford
Jul 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, science
David Nutt became somewhat famous in the UK when he was chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs [ACMD], the statutory body which is responsible for advising the government on drug policy, and specifically on the appropriate legal classification of different drugs.

He was criticised and eventually fired for being rather too vocal about the fact that the government consistently ignored the advice of the ACMD and allowed political considerations to trump the evidence, and for pointin
Jun 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Last week I was on a train with two guys sitting just behind me steadily getting drunk on beer and talking loudly. For the most part I blocked them out with headphones as I was reading, but what I caught of their chat was pretty entertaining. In an entirely serious tone, one guy explained that Nikola Tesla invented a machine to control the weather, which the US government stole and NASA now has. (Presumably NASA lost the manual, hence climate change.) Then they got onto the subject of cannabis a ...more
Aug 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
Having enjoyed a Hay-Festival talk involving David Nutt among others, which discussed the current attitude towards drugs, and whether the "War on Drugs" had failed, I immediately bought and read this book. In that one hour's discussion, I'd found that my attitude towards drug laws had changed significantly from supporting the current emphasis of strong prosecution and imprisonment, to the recognition that if drug abuse was thought of as purely a health issue, the world could be a much better pla ...more
Aug 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
Guess I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue.
Mar 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Several months ago I gave this book 4 stars. Since then, I've thought about it so many times and recommended it to so many people that I decided it must merit 5 stars.

The guy expatiates on all my favorite hobbyhorses--but, obviously, in a much more intelligent and insightful way than I ever do when I'm the one riding them. Since I'm not a biochemist, medical professional, or social worker, I can't really analyze his arguments, but they all seem intellectually responsible and on point. My only co
Simon Howard
Jul 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
This was first published in 2012 and has been on my “to read” list ever since. I think, but can’t be certain, that I’ve sat through a tall by the author at some point in that period—though it may have been someone talking about him!

Professor Nutt is best known for having been sacked as chair of the Government’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs in 2009. In a lecture, he made an evidence-based comparison between the risks of taking ecstasy and the risks of horse-riding. The fact of the comp
Laura Shrum
Nov 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
If you want a scientific and unbiased opinion on drugs and drug policy read this book. Actually since drugs impact all our lives in one way or the other I'd highly recommend reading this book. David Nutt breaks down the hypocrisy, the science, the actual health consequences and the political mess that surrounds drug policy in the UK, and wider world. I have a degree in public health so have decent knowledge on drug policy and learned loads from this book. To be fair it is written a bit like a te ...more
Chris Waterguy
Jun 21, 2012 marked it as to-read
Learned about the book through this review:
Nutt '...recount(s) a call he had with then-Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, who was furious that he'd compared horseback riding harms to the harms from taking MDMA. Smith says that "you can't compare harms from a legal activity with an illegal activity." When Nutt asks why not, she says, "because one is illegal." When he asks why it is illegal, she says, "Because it is harmful." So he asks, "Don't we need to compare
Nov 24, 2013 rated it liked it
Pretty much what the title says. An actual expert scientific investigation of alcohol/drugs and drug policy without a bunch of misleading morality-based bullshit. This is from the guy whose thoughtful and fairly comprehensive analysis produced a list of the top 20 harmful drugs:

Sep 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Completely rethought my view on drugs reading this book. Every claim is backed up by research, every point is well made, and the book flows like a dream.

If you value truth in what you know, then this book is a massive step in the right direction, but be warned, your assumptions about drugs will be challenged.
Giang Nguyen
Yep, it's a textbook for my course but one of the best textbooks ever! I'll totally recommend it to everyone, students, and non-students alike. You will get a glimpse into the scientific, social and political factors surrounding DRUGS.
Antonio Nunez
Aug 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
David Nutt brings to the matter of drugs a wealth of scientific knowledge, personal experience on how states manage them and also an ability to write succinctly and clearly, in a lapidary style. Having been kicked out of an advisory committee to the UK government for having publicly contradicted the government line, he has been personally bruised by a subject that refuses to go away. Since Nixon declares a war in drugs in 1970, the matter has not gone away, instead it became entangled in a more ...more
Wendy Wallflower
Jun 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: college, 2017
The best 'textbook' I've ever read. Truly enjoyed.
Jun 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Interesting and extremely important book. This should be the textbook for drug education. Nutt clearly cuts through the propaganda and gets to the facts about the real dangers and benefits of various different drugs from an unbiased scientific perspective (oh and that includes alcohol, tobacco and nicotine too!) When read from cover to cover it probably isn't a particularly enjoyable read-especially for someone who's familiar with a lot of the info in here-but when read section by section (each ...more
Janice Liedl
Apr 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Nutt made headlines a few years ago when his scientific approach to the question of relative harm of legal and illegal drugs put him into conflict with officials in the UK government. Sacked from his advisory post, Professor Nutt continued to pursue scientific truth over political comfort. Here's a book that sums up in easy-to-read prose the latest insights about the real impact of dangerous substances. Alcohol comes in for a hard look, Nutt also shares an amusing history of cannabis use. My fav ...more
Adam Golden
Jan 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: drugs, non-fiction
An insightful and accessible glimpse into the world of drugs; including two of the most common, tobacco and alcohol. As a drug user myself, most of the information in this book was common knowledge, but it's still an important read if you or anybody you know lives a lifestyle which includes taking drugs. All of his findings are backed by mountains of evidence, and covers a wide variety of topics, ranging from addiction and safety measures to common misconceptions of drugs and their diverse
Sep 01, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: mir
"...smokers of cannabis are about 2.6 times more likely to have a psychotic-like experience than non-smokers. To put that figure in proportion, you are 20 times more likely to get lung cancer if you smoke tobacco than if you don’t: there is a relatively small risk that smoking cannabis will lead to psychotic illness compared with quite a substantial risk for smoking tobacco and developing lung cancer".
Sep 02, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This book is far too sensible an approach to drugs for any politician outside of a Scandinavian country to pay attention to. If we followed Nutt's vision we might actually take care of people and reduce harm rather than use the "war on drugs" to fight proxy wars and put minorities in jail. Really interesting to find out what drugs are pretty much totally safe and which are extremely dangerous.
Mar 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2010s, 2012, 21st-century
A great introduction to the history, make up and effects of the various most popular drugs on the black market (and of course alcohol and tobacco). This book contains the kind of knowledge any adult citizen should have, especially those with children, and I'd recommend anyone with an opinion on drug use, public health or medicine to read it.
Jan 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: law
Do not read this book if you have convinced yourself that drugs are completely bad, prohibition is the only answer and discussion is for wimps, do-gooders and left-leaning trendies.

But, if you've ever wondered why so many senior police officers and politicians have a complete change of heart once they are out of office, then you might find an explanation in these pages.

If you've ever wondered why Nixon's war on drugs, carried on by each president and British prime minister ever since has resulte
Ozy Frantz
Mar 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: government
A very good, evidence-based review of the ways in which modern drug policy is irrational.

Nutt has ranked many commonly taken drugs by how much harm they cause. The five most dangerous are alcohol, heroin, crack, methamphetamine, and cocaine; the five least dangerous are ecstasy, khat, LSD, buprenorphine, and mushrooms. Unfortunately, it was unclear whether he controlled for number of users, which makes an otherwise interesting and informative chapter marred by a possible methodological flaw. He
Aug 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
'Drugs Without the Hot Air' should be required reading for parents, teachers, and, perhaps most importantly, politicians who are making the ridiculous, ineffective laws that are fueling, not stopping, the worldwide issues surround drugs. The book is more of an overview, but it's an excellent overview.

This book provides a no-nonsense assessment of our current knowledge about the spectrum of drugs that humans use, and yes, alcohol and tobacco are definitely on that list, not in their own special c
Feb 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
I think this should be a must read for high school kids. Of course, since the research evolves the contents of the book will become outdated, nevertheless the main message will stay the same - let's not be scared to engage in conversations about drugs. Only if we are open and try to understand their effects (scientifically based!), we can avoid opportunity costs, empower humans and avoid fuelling mistrust in law, regulations and harming the society by alienating ourselves from existing problems. ...more
Teo 2050


Nutt DJ (2012) Drugs Without the Hot Air - Minimizing the Harms of Legal and Illegal Drugs


01. Why I had to write this book
• Who this book is for

02. Is ecstasy more dangerous than horse riding?
• Go compare
• Equasy
• What is ecstasy?
• Does ecstasy kill?
• What are the other harms of ecstasy?
• Ecstasy in the media
• Ecstasy: a moral issue
• Why measuring drug harms frightens politicians
• Ecstasy and post-traumatic stress disorder

03. How can we measure the harms done
Lewis Lockwood
Jul 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
The title doesn't lie. This book is none stop information (and coming from a trusted source). Even though Prof. Nutt is an academic by trade this book is as page turning as a NYT best seller and in its difficulty doesn't read at all like a textbook despite the fact that the information is (or at least seems) on a technical level advanced. The only bad thing I *can* say about this book is that with every other sentence being an interesting fact/ perspective/ statistic etc it can sometimes be over ...more
Beth Clydesdale
Mar 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Comprehensive book containing information on a wide range of drugs including alcohol, cocaine, cannabis, LSD, psilocybin, ketamine, tobacco. A must read for individuals working within policy / drug-related fields. Prof Nutt covers everything including the War on Drugs, UK drug policy, psychopharmacology, drug-related harms and harm reduction, addiction, and the therapeutic potential of illicit substances. This book is scientific and factual with a lot of good references yet remains very engaging ...more
Mar 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
David J. Nutt is a neuropsychopharmacologist who specializes in the study of drugs and how they affect the human body.In this book he has described the affect of different types of drugs like tobacco,cocaine,alcohol etc.on our brain and body.The book's chapter consist of -is alcohol more harmful than heroine?Side effect of drugs,why do people get addicted,can drugs increase our brain performance,what are psychedelics etc.
This book contains basic information.The writer has also provided some URL
Owen Daniel
Feb 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Amazing book, ram-jammed full of facts, stats and logic. A book to be ignored by those in power for the foreseeable future I do not doubt. We live in hope that one day our archaic drug legislation may be based on science, harm-reduction, and research, rather than emotional political whims. A must read for anyone vaguely interested in the subject - or the ludicrous laws that surround it.
Dan Tasse
Oct 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
A pretty good overview of the research behind that comprehensive UK report that showed alcohol is the worst drug (then heroin, crack, meth, etc.), and that we should really revamp which drugs are legal in what forms and which are super-illegal. I mean, I'm already sold, so, ok. But this was pretty easy to read and addressed a lot of issues across the board, so I'd recommend it.
Michael Bruno
Apr 14, 2020 rated it liked it
I would have given the book four stars had the author refrained from engaging in his obvious vendetta against alcohol. This bias detracted from the anti-prohibition/decriminalisation/laissez-faire message the author was trying to convey regarding other drugs. Aside from this, the book is a fascinating look at drugs through a biological, social and political lens.
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