Saturday, May 1, 2010

Drugs and the public truth

Notes from a drug use workshop I am running tomorrow

At some point one needs to remove your Parent ego state and have a Adult ego state look at drugs. There is nothing intrinsically wrong or bad about drugs. It is fine to have your Parent ego state views but one must be very careful not to have an Parent contamination of the Adult when working with drug users.

Drug policy and law in Australia is based on political decisions not health reasons. As a result of this the government has to then go about demonising drugs so as to pretend that they made drug laws based on health reasons and not for political expediency.

This results in public health officials stating that drugs are bad and dangerous. As they are on the government payroll at least to some extent they have to give the government line rather than the cold hard facts. They most often do this by telling the truth but not the whole truth.

For instance they will say that taking XTC is dangerous because you are taking something that you have no idea what is in it and it is made in backyard labs. All this is true but it is not the whole truth. What they don’t say is that taking XTC is rated low risk.


This comes from Newcombe and Woods (2010), from the Centre for Applied Psychology at Liverpool John Moores University have been developing a risk assessment model. Mortality risks in the United Kingdom in the 1990s.

A summary of their risk assessment model is shown below.

Very high risk

Tobacco, methadone, injecting drug use, BASE jumping, grand prix racing, cancer, heart disease, space travel

Quite high risk

Heroin, Morphine, barbiturates, alcohol, hang gliding, parachuting, motorbike racing, sudden infant death, working in mining, asbestos poisoning, strokes, prostrate cancer, shaking of babies, off shore oil work

Medium risk

Solvents, benzodiazepines, motor sports, water sports canoeing, diabetes, skin cancer, influenza, suicide, giving birth, helicopter travel. liposuction. working in farming, being in police custody, working in construction

Quite low risk

Ecstasy, MDMA, speed, cocaine, contraception pill, GBH, fighting sports, snow sports soccer & rugby, Asthma, AIDS. meningitis, cervical cancer, food poisoning, air travel, being murdered, chocking on food, electrocution, drowning, passive smoking, factory work

Very low risk

LSD, magic mushrooms, viagra, fair ground rides, swimming, riding sports, food allergies, syphilis, malaria, appendicitis, pedestrian crossings, clothes catching fire, falling out of bed, vaccination, abortion, storms, terrorism

Extremely low risk

Marijuana, cannabis resin, indoor sports, playgrounds, peanut allergy, measles, insect stings, copulation, starvation, dogs, lightening, nuclear radiation, police shootings

Negligible risk

Caffeine, nitrous oxide, ketamine, computer games, masturbation, small pox, leprosy, sharks, cats, meteorites, executions, volcanoes


This comes from the official Australian Government website called the National Drugs Campaign. Its gaol is to inform the public about the facts on drugs, licit and illicit. It would have been put together by scientists who are researchers on drugs most likely from universities. They would be paid by the government

“Problems using Ecstasy

In the short term, ecstasy can produce increased heart rate and blood pressure, overheating, jaw clenching, teeth grinding, tremors, nausea, enlarged pupils and anxiety.

Taking ecstasy in a hot or humid environment, like a dance party or nightclub, can also cause dehdydration and raise the body’s temperature to dangerous levels. This increases the risk of the body heating up to levels that cause organs to fail, breakdown and eventually causing the heart to stop.

There is also a risk of serotonin syndrome or toxicity, which is an excess of the neurotransmitter serotonin (brain chemical) typically caused from mixing ecstasy with various, but not all, antidepressants or simply taking an overdose. The symptoms include agitation, confusion, headache, tachycardia, hypertension, hyperpyrexia, muscle twitches through to coma and death.

There are a number of psychological problems associated with ecstasy including the ‘hangover effect’, depression that can last for days after using ecstasy. This is because serotonin in the brain is reduced by ecstasy use. Research in animals shows that this serotonin loss is long lasting (up to 3 years) and may even be permanent.

There is a greater risk of physical and psychological harm as a result of taking ecstasy for those with the following conditions: heart disease, diabetes, epilepsy, liver problems, hypertension, panic attacks or a history of mental illness.

At this stage longer-term effects of using ecstasy are inconclusive, but potential problems include cracked teeth through clenching and grinding, high blood pressure, memory and attention impairment, lethargy, decreased emotional control, severe depression and possible nerve cell damage.” (end quote)

The first thing that is interesting is there is no mention of a XTC induced psychosis. This must mean that the research is now that conclusive that the evidence for XTC inducing a psychosis simply is not there. If there was any there they would certainly mention it.

The other thing about it is I could not write it. My conscience would not let me. Yooohooo! I have discovered I do have a conscience. In the statement they talk about XTC possibly causing death. That is the truth but not the whole truth. No where do they say that the risk of death by XTC is low. On a par with death by food poisoning or being blown up in an aeroplane by a terrorist. They simply omit to say it and in my view it is a significant fact for the public to know.

If a politician got up and said it or even the press say it then that is OK because they are being honest about who they are and one then knows the facts will be modified to suit their agenda at the time. However this is produced by people who consider themselves scientists who claim to deal in the cold hard facts. They present themselves to the public as that and they know the public will assume they will tell them the facts and ALL the facts. They haven’t. They have lied to the public by omission.

I couldn’t do that. It may even make me have trouble sleeping at night because I have misrepresented myself in a way which fools the public. Surely the truth and the whole truth still has some meaning to some one.



  1. Oh Tony!

    I've popped in to day g'day, but after reading this post... i'll be back!


  2. Ill be honest I didnt read the post....I was too eager to say....YAY, hello haoppy you came to say hi....dont be a stranger now....ill read your next post:)
    Keep safe....hugz

  3. Hello Roses,

    See you when you get back

  4. Hey Etain!

    Thanks for dropping by. Speak with you soon


  5. Dear Tony,
    you showed no conscience telling that there's something you know but won't tell us about, though :)

    I wonder if the risk rates are "per user" or "per population" - if the latter is the case then they tell us little about an individual risk, maybe can be a helpful guide in practicing social policy (e.g. encouraging masturbation in place of copulation :)

    If the former, then I am happy to learn that my drinking coffee is more innocent than e.g. vaccines which I suspected for some time.

  6. Hi Zbig,
    They simply went though the official causes of death and added up the totals I think.

    And yes it is amazing what can kill some people!!!


  7. Tony,
    I was going to argue with you, but i couldn't be bothered. So, instead, I'll just say g'day and hope you had a lovely dinner last night.

    Cheers... roses