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Hi! - Tactical Ninja

Mar. 28th, 2013

11:03 am - Hi!

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Sorry, haven't finished saving the galaxy yet. I'll get onto that over the weekend, k?


The lecturer for the heroin course emailed me last night. After our talk on Tuesday I'd said I'd be happy to get together and talk about drug policy and harm reduction, and he's taken me up on it. Turns out he's also read my criticisms of his course here on my blog.

And here's the kicker. Instead of being upset about what I'd written, he's provided me with the references he used for a couple of the things I was questioning, and asked me to let him know if I had information to the contrary, and generally acted like a mature academic about the whole thing. Dialogue is now open and that's kind of cool. ;-)

Turns out one of the references (the one where the number of heroin addicts in the US supposedly dropped suddenly in the 1970s from 500,000 to 200,000) is a book I have*, so I looked it up. And yes, there it was. And it was referenced, too. To an article called "Turkey Lifts the Poppy Ban" by one J Cusack. Probably not this one:



So anyway, this guy's article was published in a journal called Drug Enforcement in 1974. The hard part is that the journal appears to no longer exist, and there's no evidence that I can find online for it ever having existed. Also, I can't find the article in question either, only people citing it. Bollocks. What this means is that I can't find out where Cusack got his info from. (note: if you happen to have a copy of this journal kicking around, I'd love to see it). [edit] The amazing-at-this-sort-of-thing bekitty has since found an archive for Drug Enforcement online, however wouldn't you know it, that issue is missing. ;-/

I do wonder how far down the source tree one is expected to go before just going "Fuckit, that'll do, I'll accept the figure." I've no idea. I know that if I could cite a reference in my essays, and the marker could look it up and see that the reference exists, they'd be happy. My OCD wants to know the truth, but I would also be a bit miffed if someone went to these lengths to question a reference I'd given. Yet... this reference does exist, but it tells me nothing about how the figure was come up with, and I can't find anything that corroborates this figure, so I'm still unsure of its validity.

What I did find was a reasonable amount of stuff that indicates a general downward trend in heroin use in the United States after 1973 (which has since reversed), and a whole lot of stuff about how estimates of actual numbers are impossible to verify and generally inaccurate because of the nature of heroin use. And a bunch of things about why the trend may have come about, relating to changes in drug of choice, availability, and targeted use-prevention/harm reduction initiatives. Nothing mentioning the Maharishi.

So it seems he's right that heroin use did appear to drop through the 1970s, but that the figure used is suspect, and that the possible causes are many and varied and it seems unlikely that the Maharishi theory will bear out.

So I've sent this information off to the lecturer, because helping get to the truth (or as close as possible) and therefore improving the course for the future sounds much more constructive than firing rockets from the sidelines and then forgetting about it. And the lecturer has indicated willingess to alter the lectures in line with what we discover - in fact, he's already done it in one case. Kudos to him.

* richdrich, this is actually your book. Your name is on the inside cover and it's been in my possession since Helix borrowed it off you in 2008. I'm happy to return it any time.


It's not the first time I've been surprised by who reads my blog. As you know, it's mostly public so anyone who wants can have a squiz at the latest Tome Of Extreme Opinionatedness. Despite occasionally going "Well gosh" when I find out someone's been reading it that I didn't know about, I'm not concerned about this either. I don't say anything I'm ashamed of here, and when I first decided to make it public 5 years ago, it was part of an exercise in integrity, in owning my words, and in making my public face as close as possible to my inner face. Thus, nothing gets published here that I'm not willing to have read by anyone who comes along. It's who I am.

It's not like you didn't know I played fast and loose with my opinions, now is it?

[edit] Oh, and in case anyone was wondering, I plan to head to Fidel's this evening after work cos it's sort-of Friday, right? OMG 4 DAYS OFF YAY!

Comments:

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From:tatjna
Date:March 27th, 2013 11:06 pm (UTC)
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Yes, but they were damn progressive hippies. At least, whatever you call a hippie that was born in the 1920s, anyway.. mostly I'm just lazy, and being that open keeps me honest, and honesty is way easier than any of the alternatives I know of.

I have thoroughly checked out the UNODC website, and it seems their online drug reports only go back to 1997. Certainly they provide good details about their methodology for what info they have available, but.. not back far enough.

When you think about it, the UN Conventions that created the need for such data were only signed in 1971, so while they probably did collect data straight away, chances are the first few years were sketchy anyway.

There's also the US National Household Survey of Drug Abuse, which started in 1974 - but the data from then isn't availalbe online, only this sort of thing and it tends to talk about incidence of first use or 'last year use' rather than addiction. It's.. unfortunate.

Then there's articles like this one, that looks at how heroin use is estimated (starting p61, gets interesting p70), uses a fair bit of complicated maths involving registered users vs arrests vs who might be not represented in those stats, and concludes that getting an accurate figure is really, really hard.

Also, yes. A couple of the things I looked at mentioned that soldiers returning from Vietnam who tested positive for heroin were simply discharged with no follow-up, adding between one and two thousand addicts a month to the US totals while it was happening. The end of the Vietnam War would certainly have affected the rate of increase in reported addiction.

Also, lack of availability (the French Connection), targeted interventions (methadone programme for example), and the fact that the population was starting to use more cocaine.

Edited at 2013-03-27 11:06 pm (UTC)
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From:bekitty
Date:March 27th, 2013 11:18 pm (UTC)
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Here's a link to an online version of Drug Enforcement, but you'll need to scroll through for a bit before you find the article.
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From:tatjna
Date:March 27th, 2013 11:32 pm (UTC)
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That is fantastically awesome that you found that - I will definitely pass it on. Unfortunately, the Fall 1974 edition (the one in question) is missing. Still, it may have some other articles that shed some light.

Choice one. ;-)
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From:tatjna
Date:March 28th, 2013 01:07 am (UTC)
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Possibly, although first we have to find a library that has a copy of the right issue of the journal.

It seems that today, I can't find my arse with a torch. So, you know..

Also, there's the question of how far one will go to find out a particular facts, and at what point it becomes more about 'solving the mystery' than about knowing the truth.
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From:tatjna
Date:March 28th, 2013 07:44 am (UTC)
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They being the same they that hide the socks?
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From:pundigrion
Date:March 28th, 2013 03:54 am (UTC)
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I dunno, sometimes the quest is much more fun than the grail at the end!
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From:bekitty
Date:March 28th, 2013 09:52 am (UTC)
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The NZ Police Library in Porirua has it apparently, as does the Robert Stout Law Library at Otago University. If you go through Vic, they could probably get it for you.
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From:sophiawestern
Date:March 28th, 2013 03:44 am (UTC)
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I can request it via inter library loan when I go to work tomorrow. They usually will email a PDF in 24 hours or less.
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From:tatjna
Date:March 28th, 2013 07:43 am (UTC)
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How does an inter library electronic loan work? Forgive my ignorance, I've never had to do that before.
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From:bekitty
Date:March 28th, 2013 09:29 am (UTC)
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You or somebody else requests the article through your local library, which doesn't necessarily hold the item in question. The library then sends a request to a library that DOES hold the item. Somebody at that library then scans the article and emails it to the first library, who then email it to you (or the person who made the original request).

You don't need to return the PDF to the library afterwards. Not sure why it's called a "loan" when it's electronic.

I used to do the late-90s equivalent of scanning documents (in this case, photocopying articles) back when I worked for the National Library. :)
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From:sophiawestern
Date:March 28th, 2013 05:00 pm (UTC)
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Can you send me the full citation (including journal number, etc?) I can't even find a citation for the article.
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From:c_maxx
Date:March 28th, 2013 11:57 pm (UTC)
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500k to 200k all of a sudden?

Mark Twain opined that there are three kinds of lies: "lies, damn lies, and statistics."

This kinda has the whiff of Category 3, do you think?
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From:richdrich
Date:March 29th, 2013 10:29 pm (UTC)
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Glad to see my book's proving useful - they're for reading, not making my library look full...

I've been at a psy-trance party in the South Kaipara, so no Fidels till next week..

I suspect the drop in heroin consumption came from a realisation that it led to tedious, self-obsessed ass-scratching music like Frampton comes alive and four disk concept albums about dwarves.
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