Reason put together its five favorite drug scares of 2013. These are real gems because they demonstrate that 99 percent of what we’re told about unpatentable drugs is bullshit. Out of the list my two favorites were the e-cigarette:
Last September the CDC noted with alarm that the percentage of teenagers who had tried electronic cigarettes doubled between 2011 and 2012. “Many teens who start with e-cigarettes may be condemned to struggling with a lifelong addiction to nicotine and conventional cigarettes,” CDC Director Tom Frieden worried. In a Medscape interview a few weeks later, Frieden suggested that fear had already materialized, asserting that “many kids are starting out with e-cigarettes and then going on to smoke conventional cigarettes.”
The CDC’s data, which came from the 2012 National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS), did not support that claim. In fact, nine out of 10 high school students who reported vaping in the previous month were already cigarette smokers, suggesting that the increase in e-cigarette consumption might signal successful harm reduction. Last month the CDC reported additional NYTS data that further undermine Frieden’s claim, showing that smoking among teenagers fell as vaping rose.
Of course none of this matters because the media will latch onto the fear in the hopes of netting some ratings. Speaking of fear mongering let’s discuss krokodil:
Recently various media outlets have been hyping a drug that cuts out the middleman and does the flesh eating all on its own: krokodil, a homemade version of desomorphine that originated in Russia as a heroin substitute. Last September health officials in Arizona reported two cases of krokodil use there, which gave USA Today an excuse to recycle accounts of the drug’s icky side effects under the headline “Flesh-Rotting ‘Krokodil’ Drug Emerges in USA.”
The effects described in these accounts are not caused by desomorphine, which was patented in 1932 and marketedas a painkiller in Switzerland under the brand name Permonid, with nary a report of rotting patients from the inside out. Rather, the abscesses and necrosis are caused by a combination of caustic contaminants and unsanitary injection practices. What drives Russian heroin addicts to take such risks? According to USA Today, “krokodil became popular in Russia because heroin can be difficult to obtain and is expensive.” Meanwhile, codeine, the opiate used to produce krokodil, is relatively cheap and available over the counter there.
Since neither of those conditions holds in the United States, where heroin is plentiful and codeine can be legally purchased only with a prescription, why would krokodil ever gain a following here? It almost certainly hasn’t. One krokodil sighting after another has proven to be spurious.
It’s amazing the type of bullshit the state will drum up in order to eliminate competition to patentable drugs. What’s even more amazing is that media outlets go long with the state’s bullshit because they believe ratings are directly correlated to fear. In actuality more people are turning away from traditional media outlets and it doesn’t matter how much fear they drum up, viewers aren’t coming back.