Providing straightforward information pertaining to drugs, drug use & drug policy. The Grey Pages promotes drug-related literacy and advocates a system of viable and tolerant drug policies. This is my personal collection of commentaries, essays, tid-bits, and other such writings on everything ranging from drug use, drug policy and drug-myths, to drug-science, addiction, human behavior, and the workings of the human brain. I started this blog with a particular focus on opioids, and over the past year have found my interest gravitate toward the intriguing, ever-changing world of designer intoxicants (i.e. "research chemicals" or "designer drugs").

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Lessons In Propaganda (Collection)

Primer on Statistical Manipulation:

Technique 1: Blurring the line between Correllation and Cause

All suspects or criminals testing positive for opioids (or any drug) when arrested are represented by propagandists as "narcotic related crime", regardless of what the crime actually is. Cases where subjects show traces of narcotics upon their death or an ER visit are manipulated to represent "opioid related ER visits or deaths". If a drug user runs out into speeding traffic with opioids in the system, the deceased is often represented as "a victim of opioids not accounted for in statistics". Meanwhile, not all arrestees who previously used alcohol are counted toward "alcohol related crime"; and no deaths in which the deceased was gay, or currently STD positive are counted as "homosexuality related" or "sex related deaths".

Technique 2: Flash & Trash (A common form of emotional statistical trickery)

Flash and Trash is a statistical technique which is intended to delibrately mislead the public. It is used in the war on doctors & drugs by law enforcement, prosecution, public health officials, as well as anti-opioid crusaders (who often dub themselves "activists").

Example: (Courtesy of Ian M. of Pain Relief Network Forum)

Dr. Paul Volkman was accused of drug trafficking in 2007. Prosecution, with the aide of the media, shocked the public in claiming that Dr. Volkman "[distributed] more than 1.5 million doses of pain pills between 2001 and 2006"

In this case, law enforcement knows that to the general public, such a number SOUNDS staggering. They play on the public's ignorance, presenting this claim, which is riddled with the baseless

assumption that such a quantity is obscene and inappropriate by any standard. It usually works, when no one (not even the media) decides to do the math...

1.5 mill pills / 5 yrs = 300,000 pills per year

1 pill every 6 hrs = 1440 pills per patient per year

300,000 / 1440 = 1.75 patients per day getting 4 pills a day

To imply this is an excessive number of pills or patients is fucking obsurd.

Some Facts to further consider:

"Merely prescribing 4 pills/day to 2 chronic pain patients/day is more than 1.5 million pills over 5 years" (Ian M. - PRN Activist)

Some Numbers to further consider:

Tobacco use: Seventy-eight deaths each day, or 28,400 annually.

Alcohol use: Seventeen deaths each day, 6,205 annually.

Prescription drug "abuse": Seven deaths each day, 2,555 annually.

This is not an epidemic by any means, much less a communicable "virus"; and these numbers are from Florida, the purported "Ground Zero" of this "epidemic"....

For more information regarding flash & trash propaganda: http://www.doctordeluca.com/Library/UWOD/UWOD6-FlashTrash.htm

Common Anti-Drug Propaganda Techniques

Frankly I don't care if someone wants to drink themselves into an oblivion & self destruct, as long as it's not on the road that is. But while a "narcotic" user would like that same tolerance and courtesy; to ask such a thing is met with irrational outrage and one line rhetoric. In our culture of fear & superstition, many people are simply greatly concerned with the personal habits of strangers; such as the way they manage their pain, the extent to which it is managed, and perhaps most of all their personal preference for recreational drugs.

What must be most disturbing about such attitudes is the implication that society is morally obligated to sacrifice easy access to those who want or need it, in order to prevent adult problem users from harming themselves. This nonsensical notion would likely have absolutely no substance or merit even to the most simplistic, weak minded of sheeple without the superstitious belief that drugs are in fact capable of controlling & enslaving the user - As I've passionately stated before, this is the primary belief upon which society's drug problem (i.e. prohibition) as a whole, is based.

In the last several years there has been a crusade to demonize prescription opioids. To restrict or in some cases eliminate their availability, even further. This crusade is led by emotion-oriented citizen groups, the department of justice, and those who rally for the prosecution of doctors, banning of medications, criminalization of liberal prescribing, increasedd monitoring of patient prescriptions, and reduced opioid access; not only for therapeutic use but also, obviously, for personal use.

Let me share several consistencies among the anti-narco party line:

Many of the more "dedicated" or passionate crusaders call themselves activists; they are seemingly of the mindset that they are humanitarians fighting for a noble cause not unlike that of the peace corps. Most of the serious 'activists' I've noticed are middle aged to menopausal women, very eccentric, emotionally unstable, lonely, lacking of any real purpose or identity, and have far too much time on their hands. Many have had a son or daughter sent to prison for a crime, or pass due to an overdose.

Masquerading pseudoscience, conjecture, opinion, assumption, logical fallacy, guess, and propaganda as some type of enlightenment or "education".

One demonization technique frequently used is to spout off a laundry list of adverse side effects associated with the use a given drug. Though most of these effects in many cases are so very benign in nature, they are not emphasized that way, and for the average commonfolk, this technique is very misleading. With this technique, one can even make marijuana sound like a highly toxic and dangerous poison (crusader Larry G. has done this many times with pot). However when we examine such tactics closer, we can easily see the absurdity in it - As when we examine any substance imaginable; from caffeine, to alcohol, over the counter pain relievers, and prescription drugs - the laundry list of minor side effects is essentially similar in severity & length, but can easily be conveyed in a way to effectively demonize a perfectly legal substance.... (these adverse effects are even worse in many cases such as alcohol, tobacco and anti inflammatory medications; yet we're officially supposed to believe that "euphoria" or "altered mood" produced by marijuana or a narcotic is an adverse effect, more serious than the stomach ulcers or stroke caused by anti-inflammatories & alcohol.

Crusaders are usually consumed with superstition, sometimes even religious fanaticism, and typically insist (and they actually believe it) that the forces of "good" are on their side, and only the forces of "evil" question or hinder their efforts. Creating a 'hero vs villain' or an 'opponents at war' mentality is a classic propaganda technique dating back ages - used aggressively by politicians, bureaucrats, and media outlets such as Fox News - It's effective as well. It worked great for both Stalin & Hitler.

Discounting the ideas or insight of others whenever such views contradict official propaganda; Those who disagree are labeled "phony's", "drug mavens", or "addicts in denial". Some like myself have been characterized as doing the work of the "drug industry" - i.e. the "guilt by assumed association" technique. Childish personal attacks and accusations are made, aimed at destroying the opponent's credibility; another timeless technique.

Many obvious yet pitiful attempts are made to denigrate the reputation and legitimacy of narcotics as medications - Some crusaders cite the inconclusive evidence of the value of opioids for pain, falsely representing this sparsity of data to be contradicting evidence that "REJECTS" the practice; or suggesting they are not as effective as originally claimed, or are less effective than other drugs; Yet all in the face of countless reports from actual patients who have themselves found and are positively convinced that opioids provide the most effective relief of their pain, and improve physical function and mood - Such obvious benefits are never acknowledged, and are shrugged off by crusaders due to their non-study status (hell, forget the fact that this is real life experience). These attempts to denigrate the reputation of opioid treatment have also appeared as an attack on 'pain patients' in general, involving the stigmatization of such patients as a vulnerable, unstable, neurotic, addict population of hypochondriacs.

Changing of the past. This involves rewriting the facts of history with fictions, omissions, or manipulative half truths which collectively suit the official propaganda. For instance; Anti-opioid crusaders are now suggesting or flat out insisting that purdue pharma had marketed OxyContin as completely "non addictive". This is 100% bullshit; Purdue never suggested anything of the sort. The company did suggest that the product was a long acting version of a long available product (oxycodone) which may have a lesser liability for abuse and addiction than a fast acting product; due to its gradual pharmacokinetic profile which would lead to a less degree of euphoric reinforcement than seen with rapid & immediate onset. Another example is the claim that this drug was originally approved only for cancer or otherwise terminal patients in a 'hospice' or 'death bed' setting. This too is a blatant lie.

Statistics are generally the most widely used tactic by anti-narco propagandists due to their ability to be interpreted in almost whatever way suits ones current needs. It is also possibly the most dangerous & subtle of such tactics, which I feel obligated to point out in order to let it be better identified: Crusaders will invent "cause" out of petty cultural or social correllations. All suspects or criminals testing positive for opioids (or any drug) when arrested are represented by propagandists as "narcotic related crime", regardless of what the crime actually is. Cases where subjects show traces of narcotics upon their death or a hospital visit are represented as "opioid related ER visits or deaths", again regardless of the actual reason for the visit. If a drug user runs out into speeding traffic with opioids in the system, he/she is often referred to by commonfolk as a victim of opioids not accounted for in statistics. Meanwhile, not every arrestee who had previously used alcohol is represented as "alcohol related crime"; and no death in which the deceased happened to be gay or currently STD positive is counted as a "homosexuality related" or "sex related death" - Most would realize the lunacy in this, yet when this is done with narcotics it is consistently overlooked. This would be no different than stating that women with big sexy tits are a leading cause of STD's in men or a leading cause of divorce. One more example: a crusader might claim "How can you lobby for legalization of pot when two thirds of criminals test positive for marijiana?!?" - This statement, without any basis whatsoever, pushes the assumption that marijuana use causes 2/3rds of criminals to commit crimes. This is by all means analogous to stating: "3/4ths of criminals are black. Therefore, being a negro causes 3/4ths crime".

Speaking for others, to speculate on behalf of the opinions and mindset of other individuals, such as drug users and "addicts". For instanct, one might say - "Us protesters are speaking doe all those who can't speak for themselves!" or "We would have much more support in our rally against oxy if these many addicts had not died" - Implying that such individuals would undoubtedly rally against their own drug of choice.

Alcohol use is "alcohol use", antidepressant use is "antidepressant use", yet heroin use is "heroin abuse" and cocaine use is "cocaine abuse"; always, and without exception.

A twisting, stretching, and redefining of words or phrases whenever convenient. For instance; a mindless drug crusader may cite the libertarian notion of "individual freedom", and manipulate it in a way to suggest that we should crack down on drug use, by reasoning that drugs "enslave the user into a life of dependence", and that "slavery to drugs is not freedom". - One would have to be devoid of any capacity for intelligent reasoning, not to to be struck hard by the punguent scent of voodoo-science and trash-logic at play here.

The nonsensical suggestion that pharmaceutical companies profit from illicit street sales. This is especially ridiculous to believe that drug diversion or shrinkage somehow "benefits the company". Additionally many suggest that physicians are given "kickbacks" or somehow profit by prescribing a particular drug or brand. To suggest that pharmaceutical and medical profit is blood money is idiotic.

Convincing and pressuring patients to challenge their doctor; this crosses many lines, and may constitute offering medical advice without any credentials or qualifications to do so. Even more disturbing however, it promotes a disregard for the extensive training and knowledge of physicians, to the extent of suggesting that the physicians is easily fooled by a drug sales-rep (whose clinical knowledge is basically limited to the drug's main selling points); this is an insult to the wisdom/intelligence of the Medical Doctor, and sends a message to many that doctors are basically laypeople, and carry no actual knowledge of the drugs they utilize in practice, that they depend on "education" from the drug rep who is not much more than a glorified car salesman.

Accusations of sinister motives, phoniness, or corruption; directed toward any individual or group who is inactive in these anti-opioid crusades, or toward those who question their efforts. This includes the "guilt by association" rhetoric; where the propagandist suggests or identifies some type of relationship or mutual interest between the group/individual and big pharma. In such cases, a single 'resister' who questions or discredits the hysteria is often quickly accused of being an "agent for big pharma".

Constant use of religious, sensational, or superstitious terms to refer to opioids. Phrases include; "evil in pill form", "this pill is the devil", "the work of satan", "my child has become a slave", "this demon of a drug", "it destroys your soul", "it steals your soul", "morally defunct doctors", "incomprehensible demoralization", "stop the msadness", "it possessed my child", "it stole my child", "in it's grasp", "jail, insanity & death", "murderous pill", "sent directly by satan", "drug/pill from hell, the list goes on.

Use of false analogies; for instance, where the propagandist compares a) allowing mass use of a [traditionally useful] drug which has the potential to cause harm under a certain circumstance, with b) allowing mass use of a chemical such as anthrax which is inevitably harmful under any circumstance. Another example is the Manatee analogy used in florida: "if we had 7 manatees each day washing up dead on our shores we would not let it continue, but we have seven humans dying each day from narcotics, and allow it to continue". Major difference; most likely the manatees are unsuspecting victims of an ocean bacteria, chemical spill, etc, while the floridian people are merely suffering the demise of their own willful self indulgence or lack of regard.

Constant mention of "the children", "our children", etc; the suggestion that a tolerant approach to pain treatment or other such opioid use is tantamount to a disregard for our children, or to the condemnation of today's children to a future of turmoil, or even to directly encouraging children to abuse drugs. This is a form of judgement clouding through emotional appeal; Literally ANY place one reads the word children in an article regarding narcotics, RUN the other way, or just take all which follows with a grain of salt.

Some will go so far as to conceptualize chronic pain as an unavoidable & trivial aspect of the human condition which we all experience to an extent, and that most of "us" don't require opioids and learn to live with it.

From those crusading after the loss of a loved one, there is typically an implication that "only when one's loved one dies of an overdose will they truly understand" the evil of such drugs, and the need to dictate society's use of narcotics. This is a subtle way of suggesting that the loss of a loved one grants one divine insight to the true evils of narcotics, and those who question the propaganda are not capable of thinking rationally on the issue.

Simple deflection & Manipulation of Opponent's Principles. Take the notion of personal responsibility which is used by people such as myself, which basically implies that for individuals who use drugs either by doctor's order or illicitly, there is a responsibility for becoming familiar with the substance, its effects, the risks, safety, etc, and an assumption of accountability for any unintended/intended consequences of use. Some propagandists have completely deflected this 'personal responsibility concept' directly to the distribution end, claiming that prescribing doctors, drug companies and suppliers must take "personal responsibility" for their "complicity" in the addiction and/or death of patients and users. In such deflection, the principle of freedom & responsibility is turned on its head and distorted to imply that doctors or distributors are criminals for supplying a product with the intended purpose of relieving pain (or whatever other non suicidal use), which is safe when used appropriately. This deflection completely shatters the social legitimacy of doctors to prescribe in good faith, and disregards the vital principles of capitalism & free market as well - Supposedly it's now immoral & criminal to offer/provide any commodity which might pose any potential hazard when manipulated or used incompetently or even suicidally; this most definitely includes cars, guns, mcdonalds, knives, snowboards, alcohol, and swimming pools.

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