Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Hester Stewart and the drug they failed to ban

The story of the death of Hester Stewart is a very sad one. It appears that she died as a result of taking a drug called gamma-butyrolactone, but usually known as GBL. It also appears to be possible that she did not take the drug knowingly, and has been described by a friend as someone who would "never have knowingly taken this substance".

I know how I would feel if she was my daughter.

The interesting side of this is the fact that, according to the Telegraph,
"The Government announced plans to ban GBL in August and said at the time that the drug "can lead to dependence, unconsciousness and even death by intoxication". But a delay in the ban becoming law has meant that it is still legal today and freely available on the internet for as little as 50p a dose."
Miss Stewart’s mother has expressed anger that the Home Office, despite knowing that the drug was dangerous, did not ban it. She clearly feels that it should be banned. She did not actually say that if the substance had been banned, her daughter would still be alive, but she implied it. One cannot know this for certain. Banning dangerous substances does not mean that people will not obtain them. People do die as a result of taking banned substances.

But there is another issue. GBL is a toxic substance, and taking a sufficiently large amount can kill a person. Does it therefore follow that it should be banned? Well, most people would not say so. I have, in my house, various toxic substances - things like paracetamol and methylated spirit. It is possible to purchase a lethal dose of paracetamol quite legally. In other words, people also die as a result of taking substances that no-one seriously proposes to ban.

Alas, the goal of making Britain into a utopia where no one dies as a result of consuming toxic substances is unachievable. So should we ban every toxic substance, in the hope that every substance banned may save two or three premature deaths a year? I cannot see many people taking such a suggestion seriously. Most of us seem to manage quite successfully to avoid consuming toxic substances which are legal.

I am about as anti-drugs as it is possible to be. But I am wondering if there really is a sensible case for banning GBL - or other toxins.

[Note: There is, by the way, another issue raised by this case. The Telegraph, again:
Sources said that a party-goer had told police that he and Miss Stewart had taken the substance. The man has been interviewed under caution and not arrested. It is not an offence to take the drug or to distribute it.”
This would appear to conflict with the statement that Miss Stewart would never have knowingly taken this substance. If she took a toxic substance without realising that she was doing so, and died as a result, then the person who gave it to her should, I would have thought, be facing criminal charges.]


Anonymous said...

No sympathy for her ... medical students yeah rite .. i have botttles various cleaning materials in my house toxic but not band, would she off drunk them.

Anonymous said...

Don't take it out of context you disrespectful, self-rightous idiot