Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Everybody lies

By Libby

This is not a new idea. They've been testing rivers and even the air over cities in Europe for some time now but to my knowledge this is the first time they've tested directly at sewage plants.
Oregon State University scientists tested 10 unnamed American cities for remnants of drugs, both legal and illegal, from wastewater streams. They were able to show that they could get a good snapshot of what people are taking.

One of the early results of the new study showed big differences in methamphetamine use city to city. One urban area with a gambling industry had meth levels more than five times higher than other cities. Yet methamphetamine levels were virtually nonexistent in some smaller Midwestern locales, said Jennifer Field, the lead researcher and a professor of environmental toxicology at Oregon State.

Cities in the experiment ranged from 17,000 to 600,000 in population, but Field declined to identify them, saying that could harm her relationship with the sewage plant operators. She plans to start a survey for drugs in the wastewater of at least 40 Oregon communities.

She said that one fairly affluent community scored low for illicit drugs except for cocaine. Cocaine and ecstasy tended to peak on weekends and drop on weekdays, she said, while methamphetamine and prescription drugs were steady throughout the week.

Field said her study suggests that a key tool currently used by drug abuse researchers — self-reported drug questionnaires — underestimates drug use.

Exactly. Everybody lies, for a variety of reasons, but mainly fear of legal reprecussions. That's why it's so ridiculous when the ONDCP and the DEA try to justify their funding by touting successes as measured by self-reported declines in use.

David Murray, chief scientist for U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy, said the idea interests his agency. Two federal agencies have taken samples from U.S. waterways to see if drug testing a whole city is doable, but they haven’t gotten as far as the Oregon researchers.

I'll just bet it interests them as potentially useful data to justify continuing their failed policies. Just as in the Iraq war, the prohibition profiteers play from both sides. If they find widespread drug use, they claim there's an epidemic and they need increased funding and more extreme methods to combat the problem. If the data, by some miracle showed lower use, they would claim it's because their policies are working and they need more funding and ramped up operations in order to completely eliminate the problem.

Either way, they end up spending billions of tax dollars on strategies that have no effect on behaviors that are largely harmless in the first place and the instances where they cause harm to individuals that abuse drugs, the victims would benefit from a public health approach rather than criminalization and incarceration.

As it stands now, drug war policies not only cause more harm than the "danger" they seek to allay, they also cost far more for bogus studies that provide little more than just another avenue to pass out no bid contracts to cronies in order to paint failure as success. Why DHS needs to duplicate the failures of the DEA and ONDCP is beyond me.

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Blogger Peter said...

very well said.

10:22:00 AM  
Blogger Libby Spencer said...

Thanks Peter.

4:06:00 PM  

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