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Drugs Expert Ridicules Mephedrone Press Hysteria

Reported by Jack Bridges TID on March 24, 2010

Danny Kushlick from independent drugs charity Transform downplayed the risks associated with mephedrone this week, after the British press splashed ‘hysterical’ stories linking five deaths to the increasingly popular and currently legal party drug.

The massive anti Mephedrone coverage bore striking similarities to the anti-ecstasy campaign which followed the death of British teenager Leah Betts who died in 1995 after drinking too much water after taking one  ‘apple’ ecstasy pill.

“There is a two pronged drug panic now in full swing, with the media calling for 'something to be done' about mephedrone and methadone (Always get the journalist to spell it before you start rabbiting on about the wrong drug...),” said Danny,

“As ever the call is being driven by hysterical media hype (for example, the Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail, the Sun and Guardian) about deaths of young people, none of which have unequivocally been linked exclusively to the use of mephedrone. Leah Betts anyone?” the respected drugs expert asked. [Leah Betts story in full]:

Fanatical anti-drug tabloid the Daily Mail characteristically led the hysteria labeling mephedrone ‘the 'death' drug we can't police’ and warning  ‘users are playing Russian Roulette with their lives’. The Daily Mirror instead said it’s ‘extremely addictive to use and can create a state of psychological dependence’, adding ‘common side-effects are severe nose bleeds, blood circulation problems, paranoia, fits and delusions.” The Guardian in contrast was relatively restrained though noted ‘some have reported heart palpitations, blurred vision and muscle tension’.

Danny Kushlick instead called for as much harm reduction information to be published as possible and pointed out that all drugs carry dangers associated with their use.

“Calm down,” he responded, “A knee jerk response to classify may in fact increase harms, rather than reduce them. Mephedrone is not a threat to humanity or even a significant threat to the lives of users (we would have seen far more deaths if that were the case, given the level of use). Reduce the threat level to the correct proportions and begin to explore options,” he urged.

“Recognise that the media massively over report 'drug' deaths, as opposed to drug deaths, such as alcohol and tobacco, whose dangers are well known and demonstrably kill many more than mephedrone has,” he added, (Danny Kushlick in full)  (Leah Betts (November 11, 1977 - November 16, 1995) was a schoolgirl from Latchingdon in Essex, England. She is notable for the extensive media coverage and moral panic that followed her death several days after her 18th birthday, on November 11, during which she took an ecstasy tablet, then collapsed four hours later into a coma, from which she did not recover. Subsequently, it was discovered that water intoxication while using ecstasy, was the cause of her death . . .’)

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