On 30 October 2009, the home secretary in the UK asked David Nutt to resign from his post as chairman of the government's advisory council on the misuse of drugs. The previous day, the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies at King's College London had published Nutt's paper, 'Estimating drug harms: a risky business?'. This is an edited version of his Eve Saville memorial lecture, delivered at Kings College in July 2009. The paper points out that ecstasy and LSD are less dangerous than alcohol. He had previously clashed with the home office over his editorial, 'Equasy - an overlooked addiction with implications for the current debate on drug harms', published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology in January 2009. This reflects on the reality that ecstasy is overall less harmful than riding. The home secretary was not amused, and the relationship between academic publication and scientific advice to government was cast into the limelight. David Nutt is now chair of the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs.