The “Green Party Drugs Group website is being updated” following critical HolfordWatch post

Yesterday, I posted criticisms of suggestions for supplement usage on the Green Party of England and Wales Drug Group’s website. Later on that day, I noticed that the pages I criticised were inaccessible. This website now states that

The Green Party Drugs Group website is being updated.

There are – as far as I can see – now no suggestions re supplement usage. Instead, the site just reports Green Party drug policy. I have no idea whether my post played any role in this, or whether the timing was coincidental.

I am, anyway, pleased to see that various unfortunate suggestions and claims have been removed from the Green Party website. Hopefully, they will now be able to lay out and advocate an evidence-based approach to harm reduction and drug policy.


Filed under Green Party, Green Party of England and Wales

9 responses to “The “Green Party Drugs Group website is being updated” following critical HolfordWatch post

  1. Pingback: Green Party: the supplement suggestions don’t work « Holford Watch: Patrick Holford, nutritionism and bad science

  2. I feel I should defend the Green party on the drugs front. Firstly their drug policy is pretty good – rational and unafraid of engaging in the reform agenda that remains taboo for many in mainstream politics. They have looked at the evidence for the drug war, seen that it does not add up and advocate for something likely to deliver better outcomes; ie a rational expoliration of the alternatives including legal regulation.

    If they recommend some supplements for drug users, and I understand the advice is some years out of date, then Im sure that they have done this with the best of intentions, sincerely believing that some drug side effects might be lessened for drug users. If their analysis of the research is less less than 100% thorough tthen i think thats an opportunity to engage and improve matters. They certainly are not promoting tese things top make money like certain nutri-quacks we could mention.

    I know a few people in the Green party drugs group and they are dedicated, sincere and principled; certainly not averse to science and would welcome our help improving their messages and evidence base.

    • Just to be clear, Jon didn’t criticise their stance on drugs policy reform.

      As for the rest – meaning well and having good intentions are neither here nor there to some extent when the stakes are high. I’m sure that the more zealot members of JABS would fulfil both of those criteria and sincerely believe that their anti-vax advice is well-grounded – advice that they offer with no obvious profit motive. Jon was engaging with the Green Party – the change to their website is some indication of that.

      It may be true that the advice was last reviewed in 2005 but if it is current on their website then that is their organisational issue, and not something that should be accounted for by the casual reader – it wouldn’t be acceptable for a large business, it shouldn’t be acceptable for those who aspire to govern others in a formal political capacity. How many times have we heard a spokesperson attempt to discount the findings of a report with, “Well, that’s outdated. Things have changed since then” – it is rarely acceptable.

      Lots of people would welcome free advice and consultancy on improving their message and evidence base (let’s ignore the maxim that people value advice according to what it cost them). However, it would behove a political party that is publicising a policy to have done this research before publicising said policy and looking flaky. Nonetheless, kudos to them for realising that something was amiss and that Jon’s criticism was on point.

    • Thanks for the comment. My point in that post wasn’t to criticise Green drug policy, and I have no idea why they were making the unfortunate supplement suggestions they did: I’m sure they weren’t doing it for the money. I would still stand by my point, though, that the supplement suggestions made were not supported by good evidence and did not appear to be based on good research.

      Not sure of the relevance of that section of the Green site being ‘out of date’, to be honest. There was plenty of cause for concern re the suggestions made back in 2005, too: for example, the Cochrane Review I linked is from 2001, and the ATTRACT answer 2003. Unless what people are hinting towards is that Green research is better now than it was then?

  3. TBF the green party drugs group is a small, largely independent sub group of the political party and run entirely by volunteers on a zero-budget basis, so im not sure the comparisons with business are very fair. The comparisons with JABS are completely unwarranted and inappropriate.

    The Green party supplement advice was based on word of mouth knowledge widely circulated on the party scene at the time (like much drug harm reduction information is) in a situation where real public health concerns existed in an emerging drug culture but in which there was almost zero serious research (partly because of its newness, partly because of the intrinsic difficulty in researching illegal behaviours) and correspondingly little useful information. It is an environment in which anecdotal evidence is likely to have more traction – and the idea that certain supplements might relieve some after effects of some drugs isn’t implausible. As far as it goes, the number of users who follow this advice is by all accounts, vanishingly small.

    Along with some campaigning, most of what the green party drugs group do is support and harm reduction at events. They are not science bloggers any more than they are pill peddlers.

    Im not saying you don’t have a point re the science – I agree that stuff is not useful or supported by evidence. They will however listen to what informed people have to say and seem to be doing that. I just think you should cut them a break, and maybe pick more worthwhile targets. Like that Holford bloke perhaps.

    • Everyone thinks that someone other than somebody they like is a better target for critical scrutiny.

      Jon’s criticism was fair. People with aspirations to political office and influencing legislation that affects millions of people should be under no illusions that anecdote is not sufficient.

      This probably seems harsher than I intend but this is on top of the BCA trying to claim that it is a small, under-funded organisation so can not really be expected to monitor evidence about the efficacy of chiropractic for a range of health conditions. Nonetheless, their feeling and that of chiropractors is that chiropractic is effective and that is probably what the evidence says.

      To some extent, the Green Party have an equal amount of responsibility to use appropriate sources as the BCA does.

  4. You’re still misunderstanding what the green party drugs group is. It is essentially one volunteer – who has a full time job – and a few of his friends, who are interested in drug policy and do harm reduction work when they can. Yes, they help put together the Green Parties drug policy together – they are obviously affiliated to the Green Party, but they are not ‘the Green Party’ anymore than the the Conservative Student group is ‘the Conservatives’.

    The harm reduction work they do and information service they provide is the main element of their (very intermittent) work – the Green Party really just being a common cause that brought them together. In this context talking about ‘aspirations to political office and influencing legislation that affects millions of people’ seems very misplaced.

    Just like the equally ridiculous comparison to JABS, they are absolutely nothing like the BCA which is large organisation and professional body with, I believe, a budget of over 1 million a year, staff, offices etc – the sole purpose of which is to regulate and promote some (almost) totally bollocks CAM quackery. In both cases they are founded on total wrongness despite claiming the mantle of science – being wrong is the core of what they do.

    The GPDG has, by contrast, has done a great deal of useful and positive work, but, amongst a large amount of useful information they provide included a few ill-informed recommendations re supplements for drug users (I would argue not implausible to non-scientists on the party scene, and emerging in a difficult public health field with little or no real research to draw on) and from which they were not making or seeking to make any profit. To repeat – you are right about the science, but wrong to place the GPDG alongside Holford and the wider quackosphere.

    • Steve – glad to here that GPDG does useful work.
      I did not claim that GPDG had any kind of nefarious motivation (I’m sure they are, at a minimum, well-intentioned). I’ve got no particular brief to attack GPDG (I wouldn’t have bothered with a 2nd Green-related post if Stuart Jeffery hadn’t suggested that previous coverage was insufficiently wide-ranging).

      Even if this was a non-specialist volunteer with zero budget, I would still argue that some of the suggestions were poor. Re the lack of research on harm reduction, and a reliance on word of mouth info – the supplements discussed have been researched (albeit largely in different contexts), and health risks like serotonin syndrome are known.

      As to whether there are other things we could write about – certainly. We write about lots of other topics. I don’t get paid to write this blog, though, and will write about what I choose. If you feel that other topics deserve more attention, we’re happy to consider appropriate guest posts.

  5. dont get me wrong – I love holfordwatch, and think you do a brilliant job.

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