Channel 4’s ‘Drugs Live’ aired last night, bringing the results of a study into ecstasy to a studio audience where Jon Snow presided over what turned out to be a surprisingly dull affair.
I guess nothing could live up to the prospect of watching an ordained minister, a former SAS soldier and the author of ‘We Need To Talk About Kevin’ high on ecstasy. (Sounds like the intro to a strange joke; so, a vicar, SAS soldier and author take drugs and then Channel 4 film it…) And that did turn out to be the highlight.
The show promised much, with Professor Nutt – famous for being sacked by David Blunkett for daring to bring science to bear on government drugs policy – acting as one of two experts arranged to guide us through the evening, whilst the hour and a quarter run time seemed like it’d give us plenty of time to really sink our teeth into the subject. Or not, as it turned out.
In fairness it did provide some good science about the whats and hows. There were some videos about how ecstasy came to be, what it does, an interesting light-up brain which Prof Nutt talked us through and Jon Snow leant on between ad breaks. Unfortunately, we also had our fair share of the audience giving their enlightened vox pop.
Whilst watching people high on drugs is most entertaining – Lionel Shiver’s vivid descriptions and regret her husband wasn’t present so she could tell him he was right that they weren’t given a high enough dosage, being the highlight for me – it didn’t really provide much more insight into the drug than a weekend with some Fresher students would.
Prof Nutt was on hand to tell us what specifically was happening to the brain and why, but the questions most people seemed to want answering, never really were. The line ‘we’ll be dealing with that on our next show’ always seemed to crop up whenever anyone mentioned anything interesting. If tomorrow’s episode (I didn’t at first know there were going to be multiple episodes, wondering just how much mileage you could get out of making people take ecstasy and then film the results) isn’t fantastic then I’ll be very disappointed.
The most perplexing thing of course, is why the usual suspects in the media were so aghast at the programme in the first place. Yes, yes, they have to be for appearance’s sake, but still… this was hardly anything radical.
Anyway, what did we learn? Well, ecstasy is really nice for most people, but occasionally – like with the former SAS soldier – in can turn into a bad trip evoking anxiety and bringing with it a really bad comedown. Again, there are 18-year-old students with more insight than this programme provided. As to whether ecstasy causes harm – and specifically – long term harm to the brain, well… apparently it may not, as both the experts attested in a hurried response to a question sent in – but that Jon Snow nevertheless said would be answered more on the next show (so why read it out on this one…?). We did have a professor from ‘the other side’ arguing ecstasy does cause harm, but his arguments were somewhat sketchy and there was no time to hear any proper debate on them. Apparently, maybe 4% of people who take ecstasy can be prone to violence, so therefore… yeah…
Its good Channel 4 have funded this research and are bringing a more scientific approach to discussions about drugs. I just wish they could lose the attempts to spice it up. Does this really need to be shown live, for example? Can we hear more from the experts, and more debate from the experts and less from people whose sentences seem to contain the phrases ‘you know what I mean’, ‘that’s just my view’ and ‘so like’ at least a half-dozen times. The ad breaks were also irritating. It felt like whenever they were really beginning to say something of interest, suddenly they had to dash off for an ad break. Filming in advance could hopefully avoid such problems.
Anyhoo, snobbish rant over. Kudos for the idea, shame about the execution.