Nicotine v magic mushrooms: what a topsy turvy world

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Thomas Whitham sixth form, in Barden Lane, is employing current drug addicts as role models to guide its sixth form students!

Put this way, it sounds shocking. The fuller story, at first less shocking, is that the addiction is “merely” to tobacco and nicotine, and the role models are a few of the ordinary staff and management. Residents of Barden Lane observe them smoking, perfectly legally, in public places around the college in view of students. Some of the residents are upset about it.

It should shock us all. Nicotine is addictive and tobacco is dangerous. According to NHS statistics, smoking still kills 100,000 people annually in the UK. We do not want the next generation copying that harmful behaviour.

Yet the use described here is entirely legal.

Contrast the legal position of tobacco with that applying to psilocybin, an extract of magic mushrooms. Scientific research is very hard to do as it is a Class A controlled drug. What limited research has been done suggests it is a potential treatment for a range of mental disorders, notably depression. It is also in clandestine but broadly safe use by those wanting to develop their spirituality or explore the nature of consciousness. It grows wild in the hills around Burnley, is non-addictive, low-risk and has no long-term effects.

Encouraging a teenager to smoke - legal. Harvesting a wild, magic mushroom - the maximum penalty is life in jail.

What a topsy turvy world we live in.

Darren Reynolds