Equasy – a dangerous new addiction?

Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7876425.stm ; http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1138567/Taking-ecstasy-dangerous-horse-riding-says-Governments-drug-advisor.html; http://www.thisisbristol.co.uk/homepage/Ecstasy-row-Professor-says-sorryarticle-687632-details/article.html


Read the actual journal article Equasy a harmful addiction with implications for the current debate on drug harms’  here: http://jop.sagepub.com/cgi/reprint/23/1/3


Professor David Nutt (Chairman of the Home Office advisory council on the misuse of drugs (ACMD)) sparked controversy last month after comments in the January edition of the Journal of Psychopharmacology where he suggested that riding is at least as dangerous as taking ecstasy, if not more so!


Indeed Professor Nutt argued that taking pleasure from riding horses was a ‘harmful addiction’ and led to ‘Equasy’ (Equine Addiction Syndrome). Furthermore because this syndrome was associated with ‘groups engaging in violent conduct’ and ‘serious adverse events every 350 exposures’, it would appear to be more harmful than ecstasy. Although much of the data to support Professor Nutt’s arguments was taken from a previous medical journal on riding incidents, it seems spurious to link all aspects of riding with hunting violence, or early onset Parkinson’s Disease, as was suggested on p.4 of the article.


Speaking later, Professor Nutt defended his comments: “I did not intend to offend anyone who had suffered from friends or family being harmed by either riding or ecstasy. However, people should have access to the facts about the harms of whatever they do so they can make informed decisions about taking those risks.”


The ACMD also distanced itself from the article, while Jacqui Smith (Home Secretary) strongly criticized the professor in Parliament for trivializing the dangers of drugs and showing insensitivity to the families of victims.


While the main thrust of the article was to highlight that riding and other dangerous sports carry inherent risks (often not fully appreciated by participants or spectators) and that these risks are tolerated by society whereas other statistically less dangerous activities are restricted, ultimately this message was drowned by the all too foreseeable headlines. This is a shame as the identification of Equasy raises some interesting questions. At least, I know though that my desire to throw myself around and somersault off various objects is not irrational, but rather a symptom of a deeper psychological illness! Maybe one day there may even be a cure for me…….

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About Kris

Associate Professor in Sports Law, Staffordshire University; British Gymnastics Senior Coach

View all posts by Kris

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