Surrey Advertiser 29th October 2010 15

Is this the beginning of the end for alcohol?
by Melanie Hall
SELLING harm-free alcohol to his audience at a Guildford pub would probably get the government’s former drugs adviser Professor David Nutt arrested. That was the assertion by the outspoken professor at a recent talk at the town’s Keystone Pub for Café Scientifique, where he discussed his synthetic alcohol, and why it may take years for it to become available because government support was lacking. Prof Nutt, who did not actually sell any of his synthetic alcohol on the night, was at the centre of a war of words between the scientific community and the government in October 2009. The backlash saw the former government drugs adviser sacked from his position after saying that cannabis was less harmful than alcohol and tobacco. At the talk, Prof Nutt was drawn on the fall-out from his challenge to the government’s policy on drugs. He remained vehemently against the Labour government’s stance, declaring their results, which apparently linked schizophrenia to cannabis use, as ‘spurious’. “There’s been a huge amount of misinformation by the last government,” said Prof Nutt. “There has been a 30-year increase in cannabis use and no rise in the number of cases of schizophrenia. So the idea that cannabis is causing it is extraordinarily misleading.” The scientist said that one of the ‘nastiest’ things the last government did was to take away the right of patients to grow cannabis for their own use. He said: “In this country, no parties, maybe apart from the Lib Dems, have the courage to have a moral debate about drugs, so they hide behind this smoke screen and that’s why they sacked me. I said let’s talk about the real issues, that we don’t like kids having fun. “I wasn’t prepared to go public and tell people lies about drugs.” Professor Nutt, who recently came 79th in the top 100 people in British science according to The Times’ Eureka magazine, said that it was very hard to justify criminalising people for using a drug that’s less dangerous than alcohol. “I don’t think you should be criminalised for something you enjoy,” he said. “I think most drugs should be available in a regulated fashion. But for more dangerous drugs like heroin and crack, I still think that you should take away penalties from personal use.” Another of the reasons he was sacked, said Prof Nutt, was that he said if alcohol was invented today, it would be illegal. He has pioneered an alcohol substitute that gives

Professor David Nutt talks to the Café Scientifique meeting at the Keystone pub in Portsmouth Road, Guildford. the feelings of tipsiness without the hangover, thanks to an antidote pill that mutes the effects of the synthetic substance on the brain receptors, allowing drinkers to drive soon afterwards. The synthetic alcohol will be featured on Channel 4’s The Acid Test next month. Professor Nutt said: “I don’t want to stop people drinking, but we want to reduce the cost of alcohol in terms of physical damage. “So why don’t we set that challenge to find a safer alcohol, guaranteeing that it would be sold alongside current alcohol. It’s something that science could easily achieve.” The main thing stopping synthetic alcohol from reaching the market is lack of political will, said Prof Nutt. “The problem is that if I were to sell it to you today, it’s very likely I would get arrested because I’m contravening either the Medicines Act or Misuse of Drugs Act,” he said. “That’s not a particularly appealing prospect. “No drug or drinks company is going down that route. But as soon as the government says yes, you can sell it, I think they will. “It’s a question of getting political and social impetus.” In a survey he conducted in 1995 of then politicians, of the 140 people that answered, about 70% said alcohol was not a drug. “All the time, you hear kids dying of alcohol poisoning, and the parents say, ‘Well at least they weren’t a druggie’,” said Prof Nutt. “But alcohol is a drug. There’s a complete lack of sensible thinking about what we should do with alcohol. “In 10 years’ time, more people will die of liver disease than heart disease because of alcohol. The costs to the NHS are enormous.” Prof Nutt said that the biggest problem was the cheap alcohol being sold in supermarkets, and said that the recent decision not to have a minimum price on alcohol in Scotland was absurd. Given his clear ideas on the drugs policy in the UK, would Prof Nutt like to become a politician himself? “I’m not sure I want to spend a lot of time with politicians,” he replied. “And what would I achieve? You spend four years with no one taking any notice of you. I’m a doctor, I treat patients, and I feel I have more influence as I am.” The scientist added that if the synthetic alcohol gets off the ground, it could slash Britain’s binge drinking epidemic. As he said: “It may be that this is the beginning of the end of alcohol.”

Alcohol facts
■ One person a week dies of alcohol poisoning in the UK. ■ In 2009, there were one million hospital admittances from alcohol. ■ Alcohol currently costs the NHS an estimated £20 billion per year, with the violence it causes costing £7 billion in police time. ■ Queen Victoria was a great advocate of cannabis.

SAD sufferers can fight winter blues
With the clocks going back this weekend and the evenings getting a lot darker, some of us may get a bout of the winter blues. Rebecca Younger speaks to a Guildford health practitioner about how to combat the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder.
WHEN the warm, light summer evenings are over and the cold, dark nights of winter set in, it is no wonder we tend to get a little bit down in the dumps. For most of us it is just a case of wrapping up warm and getting on with it, but for others it can be more difficult to deal with. An estimated two million people in the UK suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). They usually begin to feel the effects of the condition between September and November, but the symptoms can continue all the way through until spring. As well as feeling depressed, those who suffer with SAD can also have problems sleeping yet feel tired all the time, often over eat, particularly carbohydrates and sweet foods, suffer memory loss, irritability and anxiety. Mark Mathews, an alternative health practitioner at the Reve Pavilion in Guildford, knows too well the symptoms of SAD as he sees an increasing number of patients coming into his clinic as we progress deeper into the winter months. “The word emotion comes from the word motion. What moves us is our muscles. We experience our feelings through our bodies,” he said. “If you change what you do with your body, you change how you feel. “That is why you can get a good idea about people’s emotional state by the expression on their face brought about by the use of different facial muscles, and by the way they stand, sit, move and breathe. “This gives us a clue to one powerful way of overcoming the condition. “It is easier to change what you do with your body than it is to directly change your mood.” Mark recommends a number of tips on how to avoid SAD over the winter months. 1. During the winter month’s people tend to be less active and stay inside for more of the time. Getting involved in any kind of aerobic physical activity can do wonders to lift your mood as it induces your brain to make more endorphins which give you a good feeling. “Dancing, yoga and sports of any kind will not just raise your level of health and fitness but can also change how you feel,” Mark said. “Whatever kind of sport or physical activity it may be, doing it with friends, makes it a positive social occasion and will enhance the uplifting affect.” 2. Exercise is a natural way to relieve stress. If stress is not released it tends to build up inside and reduce our sense of well being. “When stressed, the adrenal glands produces more adrenaline. In an emergency this can help us to survive,” explained Mark. “The adrenal glands also produce your own natural cortisone which together with our immune system helps to protect us from bacterial viruses and other causes of inflammatory conditions.” 3. Get enough sleep. “We have not changed in a biological sense for thousands of years. We have only had electric lights in our houses, let alone central heating for less than one hundred years. “People used to sleep a lot more during the winter months but now we carry on as if it was summer time and wonder why we more easily get out of sorts. Make sure you get enough sleep. That is when your body recharges its batteries and heals itself naturally.” 4. Your brain as well as your skin responds to the light. Traditionally we spent a lot more time outside. The skin manufactures vitamin D, which is valuable in protecting us from a long list of diseases. Vitamin D is also a valuable brain hormone. A large proportion of the UK population is short of vitamin D. “Supplementation with a good quality D3 Supplement can be a valuable defence against SAD and the development of many other chronic illnesses,” explained Mark. “Vitamin D is also naturally contained in oily fish which are a valuable source of good proteins and essential fatty acids needed to build your brain and intelligence.” 5. The lighting in your house is seldom full spectrum light and will not give the positive life enhancing good feelings that natural sunlight does, but you can now purchase full spectrum light bulbs. Use them in places where you spend an amount of time every evening or first thing in the morning to give your brain chemistry a lift. 6. The atmosphere that triggers your brain to make hormonetype substances that affect your moods is also affected by sound, so play some bright uplifting light music to boost the atmosphere. 7. Being indoors for most of the time has resulted in us being more reliant on home entertainment to keep ourselves occupied. Why not make sure that you avoid watching depressing stressful programmes. Get tuned into or get in a stack of light hearted uplifting comedy films to watch. You know that laughter really is the best medicine. 8. People often forget that we are made up of about 70% water. All our biological life supporting processes occur in an aqueous medium. Living in centrally heated environments it is easy to become dehydrated without realising it. This can have significant affects on our moods and mental functioning. Eight glasses a day will keep you chirpy. 9. Stimulants such as caffeine and alcohol will not raise your spirits other than in the short term. In the longer term, they make things worse. For a start, they are diuretics that cause you to become more dehydrated. Secondly, they stimulate the adrenal glands to produce more adrenalin which in turn releases more sugar from the glycogen stores in the liver to give you a temporary high. In time they have the opposite effect. The adrenal glands become run down and will not be able to support your good feelings. “This effect, together with the depressed cortisone levels, will further weaken your immune system as described above and bring you down,” Mark warned. 10. Reduce your sugar intake – it is an instant source of empty calories. You end up with a lower nutritional status after eating sugary foods than you did before, because you use up valuable micro-nutrients to be able to digest it. “There is something else you need to know about the sugar connection. In the short term it will give you a quick lift, only for the pancreas to produce more insulin which then reduces it again only to make you feel woolly headed, tired and depressed for the privilege of then turning it all into fat which does your self-image no good” said Mark. 11. While we are on the topic of food, do not forget that you are what you eat. All the biochemical pathways in your body that regulate the whole of life as well as your moods are mediated via enzymes. For enzymes to work, they need enough of the right ingredients. As well as having enough of the right raw materials: good quality proteins fats and carbohydrates, the enzyme systems need the right cofactors (minerals) and co-enzymes (vitamins). In the winter, we tend to eat soggier fatty, carbohydrate laden foods for energy, warmth and comfort. These are not nearly so well stacked up with all the

Mark Mathews, alternative health practitioner at the Reve Pavilion in Guildford. essential vitamins and minerals that we need. As a general insurance policy, it is a good idea to make sure that you take some quality multi-mineral and multi-vitamin supplements to keep all your enzyme systems and all the living processes that they control in tip top condition. 12. Remember, the best defence against SAD depression, failure and disease is to be healthy. Mark added: “When people are balanced integrated and well, they feel good, they perform well, achieve much more and to get on much better with others.” ■ For more details contact The Rêve Pavilion Natural Health Clinic on 01483 579500 or visit

Officer in line for national police award
WELL-known local police officer PC Pete Harris is in line for a top national award. Having served as beat officer for Aarons Hill and Ockford Ridge for 15 years and now also responsible for Godalming town centre and Busbridge, he has been nominated for ‘Community Police Officer of the Year’. PC Harris was singled out for his determined pursuit of a burglar as part of his nomination in the 2010 Jane’s Police Review Gala Awards. The winners in the various categories will be announced on November 4 when the home secretary Theresa May will also give a keynote speech at the awards evening in London. “Having worked in the area for almost 20 years, most recently as a neighbourhood specialist officer, PC Harris knows several generations of families,” his nomination stated. “His local knowledge came into play when the area suffered a series of burglaries. PC Pete Harris. “When PC Harris heard of the most recent spate in the area on his radio, he attended the scene and secured a description which he recognised. PC Harris secured the man’s address and went straight to his home. “The man was found to have a significant amount of stolen property and was later given a substantial prison sentence.” PC Harris, who is also Waverley casualty reduction officer, is involved with many local groups and in particular the Go Godalming Youth canoe club, which he also got up and running.

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