Drug Policy

Just Say Neigh


Writing in the Journal of Psychopharmacology (which he edits), University of Bristol neuropsychopharmacologist David Nutt, who chairs the British Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), sounds the alarm about the dangers of equasy:

What is equasy? It is an addiction that produces the release of adrenaline and endorphins and which is used by many millions of people in the UK including children and young people. The harmful consequences are well established—about 10 people a year die of it and many more suffer permanent neurological damage as had my patient. It has been estimated that there is a serious adverse event every 350 exposures and these are unpredictable, though more likely in experienced users who take more risks with equasy. It is also associated with over 100 road traffic accidents per year—often with deaths. Equasy leads to gatherings of users that often are associated with these groups engaging in violent conduct.

Dependence, as defined by the need to continue to use, has been accepted by the courts in divorce settlements. Based on these harms, it seems likely that the ACMD would recommend control under the MDAct perhaps as a class A drug given it appears more harmful than ecstasy.

Have you worked out what equasy is yet? It stands for Equine Addiction Syndrome, a condition characterised by gaining pleasure from horses and being prepared to countenance the consequences especially the harms from falling off/under the horse. I suspect most people will be surprised that riding is such a dangerous activity. The data are quite startling—people die and are permanently damaged from falling—with neck and spine fracture leading to permanent spinal injury (Silver and Parry, 1991; Silver 2002). Head injury is four times more common though often less obvious and is the usual cause of death. In the USA, approximately 11,500 cases of traumatic head injury a year are due to riding (Thomas, et al., 2006), and we can presume a proportionate number in the UK. Personality change, reduced motor function and even early onset Parkinson's disease are well recognised especially in rural clinical practices where horse riding is very common. In some shire counties, it has been estimated that riding causes more head injury than road traffic accidents.

The whole journal article, including a table comparing equasy to Ecstasy (MDMA) using a nine-point scale designed to measure drug-related harm, is here (PDF).

Speaking of horses and highs, check out Cracked's list of "7 Species That Get High More Than We Do," featuring locoweeded horses, drunken elephants, and lichen-licking sheep.

[Thanks to Mattias Svensson for the tip.] 

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  1. Mandate saddles with seat belts and airbags.

  2. I’m really concerned about what we could do to eliminate all these deaths! Maybe Congress could mandate a maximum horse height. If you fall off a pony, your noggin wouldn’t take such a beating.

  3. I hate when u guys link to Cracked. Their lists are so often filled with bullshit

  4. I presume they don’t have rodeo in England

    Somehow it doesn’t fit with the culture, although rugby shares some of the same hazards.

    Some years ago, I saw a stat that the average lifespan of an ex-NFL football player was 58, but that insurance experts said it was actually lower, in the low 50’s. Maybe they won’t let the NFL come over any more.

    Then there’s high altitude mountaineering, with one person in twelve having a serious medical complication.

    Climbing K-2 is statistically speaking, extremely dangerous. One out of three who summited died trying, with the descent being the most dangerous.

    The least Parliament could do in the U.K. is ban its citizens from climbing K-2.

  5. Drunken pachyderms are utterly terrifying.

  6. The general public, especially the younger generation, are disillusioned with the lack of balanced political debate about drugs. This lack of rational debate can undermine the trust in government in relation to drug misuse and thereby undermining the government’s message in public information campaigns. The media in general seem to have an interest in scare stories about illicit drugs, though there are some exceptions (Horizon, 2008).


    A telling review of 10-year media reporting of drug deaths in Scotland illustrates the distorted media perspective very well (Forsyth, 2001). During this decade, the likelihood of a newspaper reporting a death from paracetamol was in per 250 deaths, for diazepam it was 1 in 50, whereas for amphetamine it was 1 in 3 and for ecstasy every associated death was reported.

    I nominate David Nutt for drug czar.

  7. Thank you Jacob, I have to share this with my riding instructor.

    Solly, are you serious? It is a website for Cracked, were you trying to use it for thesis citations?

    Then again, I did use Reason as a footnote a few times in law school so who am I to judge?

  8. Fucking pussies. I’m going to retire to my well ventilated plastic box before something resembling life happens to me.

  9. Narcotic Centiped is actually on the list.

    Paging Dr. Benway.

  10. you don’t have to ride a horse to suffer the effects of equasy. i experience equasy at the parimutuel window.

    one of my dearest friends is one of the northwest’s horsiest women. she owns a horse ranch, boards, trains, teaches kids and has invented two new pieces of horsegear. i have no doubt that if someone tried to take her horses away, she would shoot them and bury them in the scrub pines.

  11. I can’t tell whether this is a joke or not. It reminds me a lot of a fake poster someone in my high school made warning about the dangers of “Di-Hydrogen Monoxide.”

    Is Nutt actually making a point about creating too many phony syndromes? Or is he actually against riding horses?

  12. J sub D

    Do tell us about your drug use. When did it start? Did it embarass you to start your rehab at age 12? How many brain cells came to mourn when your last brain cell died?

    Would you rather have Michael Moore or Ozzie Osbourne act as spokesman for Drugs Now!

    Hope, change, free drugs!

    1. How about you fuck on down off your paternalistic cloud of bullshit?

      I am 22. I have smoked weed since I was 18. I did coke everyday for a year. I drink almost constantly. I have done acid twice, mushrooms over 40 times, mescaline once, morphine, uppers and downers. I even snorted Oxycontin twice.

      I majored in psych and have minors in animal behavior and Germanic studies. My gpa in in the 3.5 range. I lived in Germany for a semester and got As and Bs over there, while taking classes in German. I just signed a contract to teach English in Korea for a year.

      I have not fucked my life up because of my drug use. Rather, I have (especially with the hallucinogens) enhanced my mind by going in new and different places, forcing my mind to step outside of itself and what most people consider “reality.”

      So shut the fuck up. Do not condescend people for life choices that don’t fucking affect you.

      Oh wait, shut the fuck up. Again. It seems necessary.

  13. Curious George,
    f*** off.

  14. @Curious George:

    Are you just trying to flame the forum, or are you serious?

    You seem to think that all of us who oppose the drug war are drug addicts ourselves. I hate to break it to you, but that is simply not the case. Some of us just dislike misinformation and harmful prohibition.

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