Thursday, January 29, 2009

Another population study negates moral panic about drugs

A large study of over 4,000 "crack babies" in the US has found very little evidence of any effect, reports the New York Times. Yes, effects are there but they are smaller than the effects of other things like alcohol, tobacco or poverty.

I am finding a strong pattern in the "science" around drugs, which is as politically loaded towards prohibition as it could be. While different critics are claiming that 50% to an astonishing 90% of "studies" end up being wrong, the more credible ones are population-based with large samples like the one quoted above.

Meanwhile two NSW children taken away from their parents by DOCS for 13 weeks because the parents occasionally smoked pot have been returned by the courts, reports The Australian today:

"Judge George Palmer said the children had been removed for "no reason whatsoever". Their parents were recreational smokers of cannabis but there was no evidence they had abused or neglected their children."

In another area, at least three population studies I have read about found no evidence that cannabis consumption increases car accidents. Yet small reductive studies of the kind that get people stoned, put them in front of a computer and measure reaction times show slower reactions and this is used as evidence that cannabis causes car accidents. Then there are studies of the kind that inject rats with pure THC to overdose levels and conclude that cannabis is toxic.

Prohibitionists quote these latter kinds of studies endlessly, creating a moral panic about drugs. Yet when I point out to them that all this terrible damage is happening under prohibition, so it is obviously no solution to such problems that do exist, they go silent...

The very conservative Beckley Commission concluded that cannabis did produce a slightly greater risk of car accidents -- about 15x less than alcohol, I recall.

So, are the fines for drug driving about 15 times less than for drunk driving -- just as the fine for exceeding a speed limit by 10k is a lot less than for 80k over the limit? No. 

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Bollards used for slander

Someone's been putting up posters on our wonderful new poster bollards claiming Kings Cross Police are again corrupt in a reprise of the "Police State" 1980s. It says $200 a week will buy heroin dealers immunity, while a little more will "stitch up yuppies" who complain about drug dealers with the "swear/resist arrest/assault-a-cop trifecta" or take out an Apprehended Violence Order. 

It also claims the courts play along, always believing Police evidence. It provides not a shred of evidence and names several police names, but gets the identity of the Kings Cross Crime Manager wrong, citing a long-gone holder of that position. The insertion of the word "(giggle)" between several of the paragraphs lends it a surreal air but no credibility. Very strange.

"Tell 'em Wayne M sent ya," it teases.

I got a photo of the poster but it is so defamatory I can't show it. Is this our first case of bollocks on bollards?

Someone seems really angry though, and has gone to a lot of trouble to produce the piece.

King of the Cross?

The SMH today ran a long colour piece about John Housain Ibrahim, apparently known as 'King of the Cross' and reportedly a powerhouse behind the district's popular nightclub industry. He seems to be a lot richer than me!

What I'd give for a long chat with him, to learn about the place from the top down instead of seeing it from street level. But it wouldn't be over a beer, first because I don't like it much and second because he claims to be a teetotaller. The Law seems to think he is a drugs and crime boss but they've never been able to pin a single thing on him in 21 years of trying.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Sugar as addictive as cocaine - let's get tough on sugar

"CORNFLAKES, biscuits and soft drinks may be as addictive as cigarettes," reports the Sydney Morning Herald this morning...

"Dr Thornley said evidence showed people who binged on high-carb foods experienced symptoms of addiction - loss of control, a compulsion to keep taking higher amounts to get the same buzz - and suffered withdrawal if they went cold turkey.

"And like those addicted to cocaine and alcohol, people with a higher body mass index had fewer brain pleasure receptors..."

Our hearts must go out to those poor people suffering the degradation of a life controlled by high GI foods. They face a future of obesity, diabetes, rotten teeth and constant ridicule because of their weight.

Obviously the government must immediately move to get tough on high GI foods, begin burning and poisoning sugar-cane crops, and jailing growers and dealers. We need mandatory biscuit searches at schools, airports and fast food restaurants using sniffer dogs and blood testing. Shut down any business selling these evil substances.

I look forward to a worldwide "War against Heavily Processed Carbohydrates". Obviously the lives of addicts would be further degraded by the prohibition, but you know you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs.

Then we might see fat people dealing in Pepsi and mugging others for the cash to pay for black market corn flakes, biscuits and soft drinks.

But no worries, we can mount propaganda campaigns that associate this behaviour with the substance and so cement public opinion behind a prohibition approach.

We could come up with studies that show sugar leads to illicit drug use - 100% of people studied would have consumed sugar before trying harder drugs such as cannabis, cocaine and ecstasy. In fact those drugs would probably be sold by illegal ANZAC cookie dealers who might also lace their cookies with other drugs as there would be no regulatory control.

"Soft on sugar" advocates might promote rehabilitation facilities with a saccharine substitute program and optional liposuction. On the other hand we might see radical abstentionists forming groups such as "Heavily Processed Carbohydrates Free Australia". Doesn't quite have that "ring", does it.

OK, the tongue's in the cheek here but in fact all the points made above are serious and valid comment on our approaches to illicit drugs, and would stand up in a debate. Those who simply brush them aside as 'ridiculous' are, in my opinion, being dishonest to themselves.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Daily Terror mangles the truth again

Propaganda rag The Daily Telegraph continues its campaign against the Medically Supervised Injecting Centre with a story by one Kelvin Bissett, an "Investigations Editor".

Bissett reported on 5 January:

"THE Kings Cross safe injecting centre made no difference at all to overdose death rates in its local area in its first five years of operation.

"Statistics show death rates from drug overdose in the area around the injecting room are no less than in other areas across NSW.

"The report assessed overdose deaths from heroin, morphine and other opioids in those postcodes - 2010 and 2011 - near the injecting centre and concluded that deaths rates fell at the same rate they did elsewhere in NSW."

Ah, statistics. Simply by combining the two postcodes Bissett creates a convenient distortion that obscures the truth.

Consider other statistics I recently published in The City News -- ones that Bissett also had access to:

" deaths from 2,476 overdoses at the Centre is a pretty good score. Before the MSIC the area averaged two deaths per week. Between four and ten per cent of overdoses elsewhere result in death. Draw your own conclusions."

Simple maths, based on the most conservative measure of 4%, indicates 100 deaths probably averted. 


"There were 355 ambulance call-outs to ODs in the Kings Cross strip alone in one year before the Centre opened. Now, while the heroin drought has reduced ambo callouts generally, they have dropped 80% in the MSIC’s 2011 postcode but only 45% in neighbouring 2010."


"the MSIC... has made 7,500 referrals to treatment facilities."

Parts of 2010 postcode are several suburbs away from the MSIC, and a junkie who is hanging out for the next hit does not walk several suburbs. At their own peril! Edgecliff in 2027 postcode is closer to the centre than much of 2010. Where are the Edgecliff stats, Mr Bissett?

But statistics obscure the human truth. In the words of one worker at the centre: "When someone is on the ground turning blue and you bring them around, you know you’ve saved a life.”

Another fact Bissett and his ilk ignore is that the centre is closed every night so its services are available only half the time.

Bissett needs to do a bit more investigation and a little less reporting.

Pictured: Recent fallout from an illegal injecting den in a Kings Cross back lane -- the sort of thing we would see a lot more of if the MSIC did not exist.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Beckley Commission to push cannabis legalisation at UN

New Scientist has reported on the Beckley Commission's (BC) push to legalise and control cannabis, calling it a 'radical alternative'.

They quote figures that illustrate the irrationality of prohibiting it:

"Despite the undoubted dangers associated with marijuana, the Beckley report concludes that it is far less harmful to users and to society in general than other illicit drugs such as heroin and cocaine, and far less damaging than the legal drugs tobacco and alcohol. There have been only two documented deaths from marijuana overdose, the report notes. This contrasts with 200,000 deaths from all causes each year attributed to other illegal drugs, 2.5 million deaths annually related to alcohol and 5 million to smoking."

That's 7.5 million deaths annually from the legal drugs and only two ever from cannabis (although most sources claim zero deaths).

The prohibitionists assert that legalised control would produce "a nation of dopeheads". In doing so they ignore swathes of evidence to the contrary even though it is served up in easy-to-read bites by the BC. This is one of the sure signs of spin.

By contrast, the BC fully recognises the dangers of cannabis -- in my view exaggerating them considerably. But even so, they demonstrate that the harms of prohibiting it are greater than those of using it.

See previous post on the BC here.