Sunday, 7 February 2010

The Result of a Quiet News Day? - It’s Not Pretty

Ecstasy Tablets Kills More Australians
By Lisa Mayoh
January 2010

MORE than 100 young Australians have died after taking ecstasy in the eight years to 2008, The Sunday Mail can reveal.

A ground-breaking report into the use of the drug, whose scientific name is MDMA, shows it claimed 82 Australian lives over five years from 2000 – and fatalities are increasing.

Conducted by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, the study into MDMA-related deaths in Australia is the biggest and most comprehensive analysis to date, and has prompted calls for further research into its prevalence.

Additional figures obtained by The Sunday Mail show another 23 people died from 2006 to 2008, which is considered to be an "under-representation" due to many cases still under investigation.

Of those, 10 deaths were reported in 2006, seven in 2007 and six in 2008, with 65 per cent of victims aged between 20-29 and more than 70 per cent male.

More than 80 per cent of the deaths were unintentional and 15 of the 23 victims took other drugs along with the MDMA, including cannabis or alcohol.

In the earlier cases examined by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, 91 per cent of the deaths were directly caused by drug toxicity and MDMA was the sole drug involved in a quarter of cases. It also contributed to a number of drownings, cardiovascular conditions and car accidents.

Funded by the federal Department of Health and Ageing, the report found the median age of fatalities was 26, with the youngest victim aged 17 and the oldest being 58.

"While reports of MDMA-related death are far less common than those of opioid, amphetamine and cocaine, the number of MDMA-related deaths appears to be increasing," the study said.
Always keen to publish a good scary drug story, the CourierMail pounced on a report from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) into the increased use of ecstasy(MDMA). With the report disclosing drug related deaths, the frenzied journalist knew she had a scorcher on her hands. So out it came, chock full of statistics about how dangerous MDMA is. The headline screamed - Ecstasy Tablets Kills More Australians.

A closer look though revealed some interesting abnormalities.
... and MDMA was the sole drug involved in a quarter of cases...
... and 15 of the 23 victims took other drugs along with the MDMA, ...
So, MDMA alone wasn’t responsible for 100 deaths over the last 8 years to 2008 but about 25 or so. That’s 3 deaths per year which pales into insignificance when compared to alcohol that kills about 3,300 per year. The mortality rate for MDMA exclusively is less than Asprin, Panadol, falling out of bed, falling off a ladder, disease of the middle ear, drowning in the bath tub, riding a bike or horse etc. With millions of pills taken each month, there is bound to be some who are allergic to or have a bad reaction to MDMA so the annual rate of about 3 deaths is very low for a drug this popular. Added to this is the unknown dose that was taken. They could all be overdoses from taking several pills at once.

And something else was amiss. Why does the NDARC report only represent the years 2000 - 2005? Where did the “Additional figures obtained by The Sunday Mail” come from? Where is the original NDARC report and what is the title?

Trying to find the ground-breaking report was no easy feat without a title. It must be somewhere because the article hinted that there was imminent danger with a warning that MDMA had taken 82 Australian lives over five years from 2000 – and fatalities are increasing. Where was this important report that prompted an article in the CourierMail? Where do I look? Searching NDARC and the Federal Department of Health and Ageing websites for something that had no name was not getting me anywhere fast and Google was bringing back millions of results. Then I finally found a link to the report at the NDARC website. At last!

I received this error:
General Error
HTTP Web Server: Lotus Notes Exception - Entry not found in index

After a while, I eventually found the report at a science journal but it required a paid membership or subscription to read the full text. No wonder the CourierMail didn’t name the report: Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA)-related fatalities in Australia: Demographics, circumstances, toxicology and major organ pathology. [link]

Luckily, an abstract was available which gave me some insight into the report. My conclusion ... why did the CourierMail publish an article in January 2010 when the report came out in July 2009? This wasn’t a recent report at all and was submitted for peer review 12 months ago. To top it off, it only covered 2000-2005. WTF?

I’m really interested to know why the author, Lisa Mayoh and the CourierMail went to so much trouble to produce only 5 sentences about this obscure report? The fact is that the CourierMail article relied on additional information to provide the bulk of the statistics. So the question still remains ... why was this article printed in January 2010 when the ground-breaking report is a year old relating to data from 2000 - 2005? Was it a quiet news day or just another attempt by the CourierMail drudge up a scary drug story?

Funnily enough, I happened to find the link via a search on the same page as other NDARC articles from Jan Copeland and Paul Dillion, both from the National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre (NCPIC). In case you don’t know, NCPIC is part of NDARC and also a prohibitionist mouthpiece for the government trying to maintain the public scare campaign on cannabis. If you read the abstract, you will see the similarities.

On a side issue, whilst searching for the elusive report, I did come across other studies that were much more important and news worthy than a report giving statistics 5-10 years ago. I suppose, scary drug stories are the forte of Murdoch’s trashy media enterprise so there’s not much chance of a rational, positive article being published about the report below?
Is Ecstasy A Drug Of Dependence?
October 2009
This paper examines the evidence for an MDMA or “ecstasy” dependence syndrome. Animal evidence suggests that MDMA may be a less potent reinforcer than other drugs, but that it does have dependence potential. This suggests that (a) ecstasy dependence might be less likely than dependence upon other drugs; and (b) factors related to the behavioural and psychological aspects of reward and dependence may make a relatively greater contribution for ecstasy than for other drugs, where physically centred (and better understood) features of dependence may be more salient. Human evidence supports this proposition. Some people report problems with their use, but the literature suggests that physical features play a more limited role than psychological ones. Tolerance is apparent, and withdrawal is self-reported, but it is unclear whether these reports distinguish sub-acute effects of ecstasy intoxication from symptoms reflective of neuroadaptive processes underlying a “true” withdrawal syndrome. Studies examining the structure of dependence upon ecstasy suggest it may be different from drugs such as alcohol, methamphetamine and opioids. Consistent with studies of hallucinogens, a two-factor structure has been identified with factors suggestive of “compulsive use” and “escalating use”. Regardless of the nature of any dependence syndrome, however, there is evidence to suggest that a minority of ecstasy users become concerned about their use and seek treatment. Further controlled studies are required to investigate this phenomenon.

Is Ecstasy A Drug Of Dependence?
Louisa Degenhardt - National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, University of New South Wales
Raimondo Bruno - School of Psychology, University of Tasmania
Libby Topp - Centre for Health Research in Criminal Justice
Available online 15 October 2009.

Related Articles:
Did They Really Say That? Part 1 - The Media
CourierMail - Cocaine Hysteria Thrives in Trash Media
Will The Daily Telegraph Writer Who Wrote This Crap Please Own Up
Drug Reporting in the MSM - They Just Get Sillier and Sillier
CourierMail - The Media Scourge


Anonymous said...

... when were those killer bees coming?

If only other people went to such an effort to critique capital-interested media. Unfortunately drugs are a popular news story - and lets not let the facts get in the way of a good story! I often wonder if they have enough of a conscious to realize that their bullshit stories actually cause harm.... more harm than MDMA!

Your blog just keeps getting better and better.

Terry Wright said...

Thanks Anon.
Great point about the harm caused by bogus reporting. The biggest travesty in the fight against drugs is the carnage caused in the process. Any other issue and there would be a public uproar over the collateral damage.

Thanks for the compliment too.

Firesnake said...

Nice work.

@ndy said...

G'day Terry,

I saw part of a doco, 'Ben: Diary Of A Heroin Addict', on ABC2 last night and thought of you.


Anonymous said...

I often think that you put alot more effort into resarching a story then the writers of the article do..

It perplexes me, why do our local papers put so much bias into drug related storys?? Vestested interests? Does murdock traffic with his paper deliverys or somthing? Protecting his market? Id like to know the connection, thats for sure!

Chiropractic Marketing said...

Drug Addiction is now a global problem. This social cancer has spread its poisonous claw all over the world. Frustration is the cause of this Addiction unemployment problem, political cataclysm, lack of family ties, lack of love affection etc gives rise to frustration. Again this addiction gives rise to social crimes. When the addicted can’t afford to buy drugs, they commit many kinds of social crimes. Like hijacking, looting, plundering, killing, robbery etc. Drugs bear a terrible effect on human body. They kill them slowly but surely. No physician can stop the changes that take place in the body of a drug addict. Drug addicted people feel drowsy, lose appetite and sleep. The skins of their bodies began change it’s color. Drugs also damage the brain and all internal function of the body.
However this curse shouldn’t be allowed to go on unchecked. At any cost we must get rid of this social cancer by highlighting its dangerous effects on human body and society. The remedy for drug addiction is not very easy. Greed of drug traders has grasped the whole world. Drug business should must be is punishable and the highest punishment is death sentence in any Country. This law must be enforced immediately. Our young generation must be aware of the dire consequence of drug abuse. Parents must be careful of their treatment to children. Feelings of security under loving parents may hinder children from being victims of drugs. Religious and social values must be taught from early childhood. When each and every person is sincere to drive this curse of drug addiction from the society, human beings can get rid of it.

Firesnake said...

Nay! Harken dear Fake Doctor - demon spawn of Naturale` Nonsense. Take thee and thy very own crappola spam comment and thy medal for longest hyperlink, with thy bullshittery and flee to the farthest corners of thy flat earth.

Why, you say? Glad you asked. Drugs are medicines. In short - they work. Moral panic over how other human beings behave is like a Happy Meal. Up close, it's crap.

Notions giving birth to your hysteria arise from ignorance, fear, bigotry and ceaseless lobbying from "drug free" advocates/moral puritans.

Chiropractic is a "gateway pseudoscience" to real harms. Your moral panic is offensive, given the fact your industry promotes rejection of evidence based medicine in favour of moonbeams and the promotion of conspiracy theories all to make a dollar. Worse, your waiting room reading urges boycotting of preventative medicines, vaccination, flouride in water, medical research and critical thought.

Why are you calling for death sentences, when "natural" is marketed as all smiles and happiness? I'd just send the most Evil Pot Smoker to a chiropractor and they'll suffer a far worse fate.

Whatever you "natural" dudes are on, the effects are plainly manifest.

Anonymous said...

great article. I would love to follow you on twitter.

Anonymous said...; You saved my day again.

Terry Wright said...

Chiropractic Marketing said... "Religious and social values must be taught from early childhood. When each and every person is sincere to drive this curse of drug addiction from the society, human beings can get rid of it."

LOL! This website exposes your lot so many your spamming department need some training.

Thanks Firesnake for setting us(and them) straight.
A magic description of them BTW.

Terry Wright said...

Thanks @ndy
I'm sorry I took so long to reply.

I have only seen 5 minutes of it but there are some great reviews floating about. I think the main message is that it can happen to anyone and there is no easy solution.

In my view, having to deal with the illegality of it just adds to one of the biggest dramas someone will ever experience.

Your thoughts?

Terry Wright said...

Hi Anon
"I often think that you put alot more effort into resarching a story then the writers of the article do.. "

Thanks. It isn't a big deal considering that most journalists do FA research into drug stories.

The Murdoch link is mainly money. Right wing, red necks buy his papers so he keeps the crap coming. Murdoch is also a conservative old twat so he has no problem with his editors spinning for conservative political parties. Just look at his head writers ... Bolt, Akerhead, Janet etc.

Again, I'm sorry for the delay in responding.