#217 Doctors Try To Legitimize Failing Drug Propaganda

Date: Wed, 15 Aug 2001
Subject: #217 Doctors Try To Legitimize Failing Drug Propaganda

Doctors Try To Legitimize Failing Drug Propaganda


DrugSense FOCUS Alert #217 Wednesday August 15, 2001

Drug policy reformers have been much more successful than
prohibitionists at distributing accurate, persuasive information on
the Internet.

Some prohibitionists are rightly worried about this, but instead of
trying to check their facts or attempting to determine what makes a
web site appealing, they have simply resorted to attacking
reform-oriented web site. The New England Journal of Medicine recently
published a letter from some doctors who are concerned that “partisan”
sites are more popular than the allegedly impartial sites sponsored by
the federal government. This analysis completely ignores the
ideological basis of most government sponsored anti-drug sites, which
in turn unmasks the clear bias of the authors.

Please write a letter to the editor of the NEJM to let them know that
far from having a monopoly on drug truth, federal web sites are just
another tool in the endless propaganda campaign of the drug war.

Phone, fax etc.)

Please post a copy your letter or report your action to the sent
letter list (sentlte@mapinc.org) if you are subscribed, or by
E-mailing a copy directly to MGreer@mapinc.org Your letter will then
be forwarded to the list with so others can learn from your efforts
and be motivated to followsuit

This is VERY IMPORTANT as it is the only way we have of gauging our
impact and effectiveness.

Contact Info:

Source: New England Journal of Medicine (MA)
Contact: letters@nejm.org

Extra Credit

Reuters reported on this letter, and the story was picked up by at
least one newspaper – The Arizona Republic. The story started this
way: “Internet surfers are far more likely to come upon Web sites with
wrong and potentially dangerous information about illicit drug use
than they are to find more reliable, informed sites, a new study
shows.” Please send a letter to the Republic to challenge this
interpretation of the letter.

Title: US: Drug Web Sites Provide Harmful Information – Study
URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v01/n1469/a01.html
Pubdate: Wed, 8 Aug 2001
Source: Arizona Republic (AZ)
Copyright: 2001 The Arizona Republic
Contact: opinions@arizonarepublic.com
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/24
Website: http://www.arizonarepublic.com/



URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v01/n1473/a08.html
Pubdate: Thu, 9 Aug 2001
Source: New England Journal of Medicine (MA)
Copyright: 2001 Massachusetts Medical Society
Contact: letters@nejm.org
Website: http://www.nejm.org/
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/290
Authors: Edward W. Boyer, Michael Shannon and Patricia L. Hibberd


To the Editor: As part of our research on the relation between the Internet
and substance abuse, we have identified several Web sites that promulgate
information about illicit drugs. These “partisan” Web sites are easily
identified by common search engines if one uses the names of illicit
substances as search terms.1 With some pages viewed more than 160,000 times
per day, partisan sites appear to be effective in reaching adolescents and
young adults. In a recent study, 24 percent of college students used the
Internet to obtain information on illicit substances, and 27 percent of
Internet-using college students reported that Internet use increased the
likelihood that they would use drugs.2

The popularity of partisan Web sites may arise from their plausible
descriptions of the preparation, dose, administration, and
psychoactive effects of drugs ( Table 1 ). Partisan sites also offer
recommendations for management of the adverse effects of illicit
drugs. As one partisan site says, “it is up to the drug user to stay
out of [the physician’s] hands.”11 To evaluate the quality of such
information, we conducted a survey of seven partisan Web sites. With
high interobserver reliability ( kappa=0.81 ) between experts unaware
of the source of the information, we found that every partisan site
made potentially harmful recommendations for the management of the
adverse effects of illicit drugs. Information from partisan sites has
been linked to adverse outcomes: some partisan sites have described
their own role in the deaths of drug users and some have been
implicated in poisoning from 1,4-butanediol.12,13

Table 1. Features of Partisan Web Sites as of May 24, 2001. See URL:

Unfortunately, Internet-based efforts to prevent drug use may not
deflect visitors from partisan Web sites. We performed five separate
searches using identical key words ( “GHB” [[]-hydroxybutyric acid],
“ecstasy” [methylenedioxymethamphetamine or MDMA], and “psychedelic
mushrooms” ) over a period of 10 months. Our first two searches listed
8 partisan and 2 federal antidrug Web sites in the top 10 results. The
third search identified nine partisan sites and one federal site,
whereas the final two searches identified eight partisan and no
federal sites. In all searches, antidrug sites from the federal
government failed to appear as often as the partisan sites, which
dominate the search results. Moreover, sites of the Federal Website
Initiative, part of a billion-dollar multimedia program for the
prevention of drug abuse, did not appear in any of the search results.
These data suggest that the U.S. government, despite extensive and
costly efforts, currently does not provide effective alternative
sources of information about drugs on the Web, where partisan sites
still get the attention of both search engines and users.

Edward W. Boyer, M.D., Ph.D. Michael Shannon, M.D., M.P.H. Patricia L.
Hibberd, M.D., Ph.D. Children’s Hospital Boston, MA 02115

(See http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v01/n1473/a08.html for


Dear Editor:

As the Executive Director of DrugSense and MAP, both very popular drug
policy information web sites, I have seen tens of thousands of
articles on drug policy issues. I would consider many either biased or
inaccurate but, of all of them, possibly the most misleading and
biased I have ever witnessed was the letter to the editor (disguised
as a meaningful “study”) in the latest issue of the New England
Journal of Medicine. (“Web Sites with Misinformation about Illicit
Drugs” by Boyer, E. W. and Hibberd, P. L. NEJM 8/9/01)

To refer to hundreds of valuable and informative web sites that urge
sensible alternatives to our failed drug policy “partisan” while
simultaneously insinuating that the web sites provided by the federal
government are accurate and supposedly unbiased, is mind numbing in
its incredibility. Such a view could only be reached by those who have
either never made a serious study of such sites or who have a hidden

I defy any objective observer to analyze the content and accuracy of web
sites such as Drug War
Facts http://www.DrugWarFacts.org or The Media Awareness Project (MAP)
and compare them for accuracy and content with the silliness at sites like
the Partnership for a “Drug Free” America, which takes funding from the
pharmaceutical (drug) industry. See: http://www.drugfreeamerica.org/

Look at the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP)
http://www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov/ or their “youth” site Freevibe
http://www.freevibe.com/ there is simply no comparison between these
weak and misleading sites as compared to the best of the drug policy
reform information sites. The federal government sites are inaccurate
and, all to often, appear to be intentionally so. Instead of drawing
this conclusion, the authors of the article sought out obscure quotes
from sites such as http://www.erowid.org. While this site archives
thousands of pages of valuable information, it demonstrates less than
half the popularity of the MAP web site http://www.mapinc.org
mentioned above for example. Any of these sites can be objectively
evaluated and compared for relative popularity (which is a fairly
reliable indicator of accuracy) by utilizing independent web site
popularity evaluation sites such as http://www.marketleap.com/
Invariably the drug reform oriented sites out perform the government

The MAP site above is the most popular drug policy information web
site in the world. This can be verified by a truly unbiased and
accurate study that DrugSense developed last March comparing relative
popularity of web sites generally supporting existing policy compared
to those suggesting sensible alternatives. It can be viewed at

The “study” referred to got this point correct. Reform sites dominate
the Internet. There is no contest. Why are these sites so popular even
though they encourage an end to our insane and failed drug policy? It
is really quite simple. They tell the TRUTH. The government, to put it
as politely as possible, has been lying about drugs, drug policy, and
the “effectiveness” of current policy for decades. The Internet has,
at long last leveled the playing field so that the public can finally
have access to some accurate information on the damage our existing
drug policies have caused to our nation.

Finally the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) web site has
numerous web pages similar to those disparaged in the table in this
article as “partisan.” The DEA even offers step by step directions for
growing marijuana http://www.usdoj.gov/dea/pubs/intel/01001-intellbrief.pdf
. This is precisely what the article accused the “partisan” web sites
of doing.

If you hope to continue your long and prestigious reputation as a
publication who strives towards objectivity and solid science, I hope
and expect to see this letter published in your next issue.

Mark Greer
Executive Director
DrugSense (MAP Inc.)

contact info


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Prepared by Stephen Young – http://www.maximizingharm.com
Focus Alert Specialist