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Whooping Up Synthetic Drugs
Last week, I had the opportunity to attend a state-sponsored Synthetic Drugs Awareness seminar. I was not impressed. Candy, the seminar leader, was young, adorable, great smile, seemed comfortable in front of the room. Her expertise on the topic of synthetic drugs, however, left much to be desired. If she were really an expert, why were there so many inconsistencies, half-truths and errors of omission in her presentation? Actually, that part was impressive. In fact, during the seminar, experts who actually know facts about drugs, like Dr. Alexander Shulgin, were ridiculed. Did those learned conclusions not fit the narrative? After Candy mentioned Dr. Shulgin and his massive body of work, all the while shaking her head with a pitying smile, the social worker (according to her name tag) sitting across from me, muttered, "Idiot." Idiot? Really. Dr. Shulgin knows more in the tip of his pinky about drugs and their effects on human beings than this woman will know in her lifetime, particularly if all she ever learns is from state-sponsored seminars. And she calls him an idiot? Do I sound a tad peeved? You betcha. Who do you think is paying for all this? Not just the seminar but the salaries and benefits and pensions of every government employee in that room. The least they could do is a) get it right and b) have some respect for the truth even if it's inconvenient. Are synthetic drugs harmless? Nobody really knows. No studies have ever been done on them. As with alcohol, some users have had bad experiences, some life-threatening. A very few people have died. Thousands more die from alcohol use... but we tried alcohol prohibition, remember? It didn't work. Meanwhile, since 2000, tens of thousands of teens have used synthetic drugs with no negative side effects at all, making it safer than alcohol! No mention made of that. Why not? It's a FACT.
Picking Apart the Re-Education
Following are a few of the seminar's inconsistencies, half-truths and omissions which I discovered by doing a little research. Research Candy should have done.
"People who suggest that one can attain spiritual and intellectual enlightenment from drug use are crazies," Candy said early in the presentation. This is opinion, not fact. I'll skip mentioning the centuries of learned spiritual leaders who have used drugs for exactly this purpose.
According to her data, 13% of users who ended up in an ER said they had suicidal tendencies. Candy implied that synthetic drugs increase suicidal tendencies. However, there is zero evidence of this. There IS evidence that people who have suicidal tendencies tend to use drugs and alcohol. There is also evidence that "suicidal behavior among college students is lower where the price of beer is higher." Why not ban cheap beer?
She showed the frightening "crazy teen on bath salts" video, again implying that this behavior is possible for anyone using bath salts. Not true. Excited delirium occurs mostly with men who have a history of serious mental illness and/or acute or chronic drug abuse. That's hardly anyone.
Users experiencing excited delirium can exhibit "superhuman, unexpected physical strength." No proof of this either. "Superhuman strength" claims have been made about almost every illegal drug (see video below).
One slide read: "No legitimate use -- recreational drug." This justifies making it illegal? What are the legitimate uses for whiskey, donuts, and caffeine?
Another slide stated that we need to "understand the correlation between synthetic drug use and high risk behaviors in teens," high risk behaviors being sex, more drugs and DUI. Take away synthetic drugs then, poof, all that disappears? Of course not. Let's talk about what sugar and food additives do to a kid's behavior.
She showed this poison control chart but the data stops in June 2011. I was already surmising in my head that calls must have dropped off dramatically in 2012 or else she'd surely be parading them, when she explained that calls dropped off dramatically in 2012 "because now ER doctors know what to do and users don't have to call poison control anymore." Ah ha.
But now I'm wondering how teens knew this?
She showed this chart titled "Synthetic drug incidents on the rise" data ending June 2011. That was two years ago. How do we know it's still on the rise? Can we make decisions based on old, incomplete data? Isn't this mayhem important enough to keep tabs on?
Another slide showed that 11,406 users visited an ER in 2010... three years ago. So maybe people didn't just stop calling poison control, they stopped showing up at ERs. Where is that data?
One of her slides read: "Research has proven that MDMA [Ecstasy] causes permanent brain damage in as little as one use." Not only is this untrue, Ecstasy is being studied for it's therapeutic benefits.
On another slide: "Psychosis reported in approximately 14-40% of cases in a UK Emergency Room study." Wow, what a distortion of the truth! The 40% comes from a study of 35 visitors to a Michigan ER. That's 14 people in a single ER. Hardly an epidemic. Meanwhile, the 14% comes from a study of 157 phone calls to the UK's NPIS. So 36 users out of hundreds of thousands worldwide provides reliable data on which we'll base public policy? Wow again. Saying this data represents "14-40%" of cases for any purpose at all is so misleading, it's practically a lie.
Synthetic mj was accidentally discovered by a compassionate Clemson professor who was looking for treatments for MS, AIDS and chemotherapy. His slide was practically booed! Wow.
She said that most synthetic drug deaths occur after police have used restraints and tasers. Sadly, true.
She called melatonin-laced brownies "frightening" and said that "melatonin mixed with alcohol is very dangerous and can be fatal." Zero evidence of this anywhere. I'd call that a gross exaggeration.
On Criminalizing Melatonin
Apparently, the FDA is looking into regulating melatonin. How ridiculous! Melatonin is a harmless substance sold OTC in every drug store, superstore, grocery store and vitamin store in the US, whether brick and mortar or online.
"Melatonin is a natural, non-addicting hormone supplement that assists with sleep." -- Dr. Oz
Melatonin is not addicting, not harmful in anyway. In fact, it is believed by many experts -- including the National Institute of Health -- to have healing properties. Good, because I take 3mg almost every night for long stretches at a time and have for years. When I run out, I don't suffer.
"At relatively large dosages (75–80 milligrams) it appears to produce an increase in total sleep, along with a decrease in daytime sleepiness. This is all without hangover. It appears to be a sleep catalyst at modest levels, and a soporific at higher levels, where it can be administered chronically (75 mg/day) for a couple of weeks. with satisfactory effects. There is a paucity of reports at intermediate dosage levels. Another study has shown melatonin to be very protective of the DNA in human white blood cells from gamma irradiation, even at very low concentrations. This may be due to the strong anti-oxidant properties of melatonin." -- PiHKAL by Dr. Shulgin.
No matter that melatonin is not harmful and possibly healthful, says Dr. Shulgin:
"In the name of drug control, melatonin will eventually become illegal, and it will then pass totally out of any semblance of control."
Candy was laying the groundwork for this in her seminar. Why? Either she is terribly concerned about the imagined dangers of melatonin -- which can be dispelled with 15 minutes of research -- or, like a lot of people in today's world, she's terribly concerned about job security. Drug warriors need a few drugs to be illegal so they can keep their jobs. And they need you and me to be terribly frightened so we will go along with the game. I don't doubt Candy thinks what she is doing is moral and righteous. It's not.
Not a negative word said. Not one. Because it's no longer possible to make pot out to be a menace to society. Marijuana is not only harmless, it has medicinal qualities. The government's own studies prove this. Another government study proved that marijuana is not a gateway drug. Inconvenient truths, but you can't argue facts.
What will happen when marijuana is legalized?
Synthetic drugs will go the way of bathtub gin, of course. Why not just legalize pot? In fact, I'm wondering how synthetic mj sales are doing in Washington and Colorado these days. Kids are a) going to get high and b) believe they are immortal. Dangerous combo. If we cared about teen users, we’d educate them and the adults around them with facts. Why aren't we?
P.S. Local Head Shop Gets A Mention
At the end of her seminar, Candy asked if anyone had heard of The Botany Bay? A few people, me included, raised our hands. She said the Bay is "raided like monthly" and that it "writes it off as a business expense." I would call that slander. The Botany Bay has been raided exactly two times in the past 3 years. I suppose the $300,000 these two raids have cost the owner would be considered a business expense. Unless you call it what it was: being vandalized, stolen from, harassed and intimidated by government thugs, then being shamelessly extorted when it looked like she might get away with running a legal business. The facts of this matter -- like all the other facts in all the other matters above -- can be confirmed with a quick internet search. It seems only fair that Candy be required to get her facts updated before she is allowed to lead another one of these training sessions at tax payer expense.