Drug War Hysteria

I’ve been peripherally following the hysteria the Brits have been having over mephedrone — a legal synthetic stimulant that started gaining some popularity with clubbers.

In March, two young men died (aged 18 and 19) and the media widely reported the cause of their deaths as mephedrone. This, of course, led to national hysteria (directly led by the media) and within a month the government (over the objections of its scientific committee) had taken action to ban the drug.

And now… the toxicology tests on the two teenagers have just come out and show that the youths had not taken the drug.

Professor Colin Blakemore, professor of neuroscience at the University of Oxford, said: “This shocking news should be a salutary lesson to tabloid journalists and prejudiced politicians who held a gun to the heads of the ACMD and demanded that this drug should be banned before a single autopsy had been completed. The only good that might emerge from this fiasco is a long-overdue review of drug control policy.

“The politicians talk about using drug classification as a way of sending ‘messages’ to young people. I fear that the only message that will be sent by the hasty decision on mephedrone is that the drug laws deserve no respect.”


One of the things that makes it hard for me to report on drug news from the U.K. is the tendency for the media there to make up the most bizarre names for drugs.

The use of “skunk” for high-potency marijuana was primarily a media invention, and the term for mephedrone is… “miaow miaow.” Yep, that’s right. miaow miaow. As Wikipedia notes, it was a term that UK newspapers started using in late 2009 — “a name that was almost unknown on the street at the time.”

It makes it really hard to take news reports seriously when everybody is bent out of shape over miaow miaow. Of course, then again, it’s really hard to take anything the Mail says about drug policy seriously.

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20 Responses to Drug War Hysteria

  1. Just me. says:

    The sky is falling…

  2. Jon Doe says:

    miaow miaow? As in the sound a cat makes? Why not just call it kitty? Why the reference to cats at all? Does the drug make you feel like a cat? Does it make you cough up hairballs? Is it secretly made from cat piss? Will forcing a male cat to spray his musk on my face give me the same effect as having taken the drug?

  3. Shap says:

    Unless anyone who reads this blog has never opened a UK “newspaper,” the front page usually is a summation of the previous evening’s Entertainment Tonight. News in the UK is pretty much hollywood gossip. The UK media might as well be “Showbiz Tonight” so it is no wonder that they completely screwed the pooch on this mephedrone nonsense. Our print mainstream media in America totally blows but it is nowhere near as fucked as it is in the UK. Once again, not shocking that the UK media (who know more about celebrity gossip than actual news) totally made things up with regard to the mephedrone “epidemic.”

  4. DEXtronaut says:

    Jon, the term derives from the chemical name itself. 4-Methylmethcathinone.

    The cat in cathinone is what caused the weird naming of this drug. I’ve heard the name cat, kitty, miaow miaow and other related terms for mephedrone before.

  5. Cannabis says:

    All to often the media leads and the politicians follow. That’s why the AP story US Drug War Has Met None of its Goals is so amazing. What direction will we go because of that story, and the others that will follow?

  6. claygooding says:

    Another CRS report on failed drug war:

  7. allan420 says:

    OT (to this post)… thank goodness for PBS.

    Not really watching Need To Know last night, it was just on in the background, and I heard some words that caught my attention – “money laundering” and “drugs” and “cartels” and “Wachovia.”

    Wachovia Settles Money-Laundering Case

    Wachovia Bank reached a $160 million settlement with the Justice Department over allegations that a failure in bank controls enabled drug traffickers to launder drug money by transferring money from Mexican currency-exchange houses to the bank.

    Under a deferred-prosecution agreement with federal prosecutors in Miami, Wachovia, which is owned by Wells Fargo & Co., “admitted failure to identify, detect, and report suspicious transactions in third-party payment processor accounts,” according to the Justice Department. Prosecutors said the bank processed $420 billion in transactions without using proper money-laundering detection.

    “Prosecutors said the bank processed $420 billion in transactions without using proper money-laundering detection”… wow.

    “Wachovia’s blatant disregard for our banking laws gave international cocaine cartels a virtual carte blanche to finance their operations by laundering at least $110 million in drug proceeds.”

    A phrase that also caught my ear from the program: “the largest violation of bank secrecy act in U.S. history”… and its’ tied to drugs…

    Must be another of those indicators of Prohibition success!

  8. denmark says:

    Appreciated reading what commenter malcolmkyle said at the site Pete provided.
    Also appreciate Professor David Nutt’s comments near the end.

    It’s all so darn insane to those of us who understand this hideous drug war. Some times my jaw drops, sometimes my head moves side-to-side with NO, and other times it’s a nod of agreement. A nod of agreement that I’d like to see political leaders get in line with.

    Good catch allan420, that’s basically how I listen to the news too, poised to hear key words before they get my entire attention.
    Compliments of Texas, here’s one that’ll crack you up:

    “Students for Sensible Drug Policy. The Mayor of El Paso, TX, who vetoed a city council resolution calling for a debate on legalization to curb violence in Mexico after it passed unanimously, just bailed out his graddaughter on marijuana charges.”

    Mayor John Cook bails out granddaughter held on pot warrant


  9. claygooding says:

    Success for sure,if they paid our government 160 mill,what did they make from the laundering? Apparently if you go big enough and pay enough,you can do anything,laws or no laws.
    I wonder who was responsible for that 160 million. Was the money reinvested in the WOD or just go into the congressional party fund?

  10. Ned says:

    So the moment British politicians heard about a new drug, the first thing they wanted to do was GREATLY INCREASE ITS VALUE? Why rush to incentivize the black market for something you want to not be available? They might as well advertise that a new high profit product is now available for interested black marketeers. I really can’t think of a better way to market a new drug.

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  12. “drug war hysteria” — that’s redundant.

  13. allan420 says:

    @brian… straight from the Department of Redundancy Department… and ONDCP stands for the Office of No Drug Control Policy.

  14. truthtechnician says:

    Now I’m interested in giving this “miaow miaow” a try. Sounds like fun.

  15. allan420 says:

    Thanks to Bradley Jardis for this one:

    Woman: Police Burst Into Wrong Apartment, Pointed Gun At Son

    “My son was sitting right here doing his homework, and when I came in the kitchen, the cop was pointing his gun at) my son,” Middlemiss said.

    Middlemiss said Franklin police treated her family like criminals, and she now wants the Police Department to apologize.

    “I just want them to admit that, ‘Yes, we made a mistake, and yes, we’re sorry,'” she said.

    Middlemiss said police kicked open her apartment door and took her to the floor.

    “They threw me on the ground, put my hands behind me, told me to get on the floor, and they wanted to know who I was,” she said.

    She said she thinks police meant to enter the apartment upstairs. She said that when she showed officers identification, they backed off.

    “They just walked away like it was OK for them to make a mistake, and when I asked them how do I explain to my 10-year-old why there was a gun in his face — what do I tell him — all they could say was, ‘Oh well. It’s not our fault. This is the address we were given.'”

    But it’s “for the children”…

  16. Duncan says:

    allan420, it’s ludicrous what constitutes money laundering. Ed Rosenthal was charged for money laundering because he bought 2 money orders worth about $1800. Back in the ’80s I recall a merchant who sold legal merchandise (clothing) to a large scale drug dealer was charged and convicted of money laundering.

  17. Bruce says:

    10 dead in aid convoy massacre.

  18. Harry Longbags says:

    Newspaper=bird cage lining, emergency toilet paper. Our midas touch government (the best money can buy!) will soon bailout the newspaper industry.

  19. BruceM says:

    Such fictional journalism makes it hard for educated people like US to take it seriously, but having the “journalists” (I use that term loosely) come up with wacky/crazy/shocking/ludicrous purported “street names” for the substances they have decided to claim is the “epidemic” of the moment (“many times more dangerous and addictive than crack!”) is not only an extremely viable strategy to sell newspapers and generate hysteria, but the more hysteria there is the quicker scumbag pandering politicians will jump on the bandwagon to ban the substance with the wacky crazy street name.

    After all, the only thing worse than children dying from using drugs is children dying from using drugs with wacky “street names” (and “street names” reinforces the fact that it comes from the streets).

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