The Drug Czar pulls more numbers from his cauldron

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

The Director of the ONDCP has an entire office full of trolls who never see the light of day, searching through various sets of data to come up with different combinations that might please His Worship. Then the Czar waves his wand over the numbers, mutters incantations and declares them to have…. meaning! He then assigns the meaning and reports it to the press, who dutifully record it in the sacred newspapers.

This time, he’s going after California with his bogus data analysis.

Today, ONDCP highlighted the fact that the percentage of Californians voluntarily seeking treatment for marijuana as their drug of choice was higher than that for the rest of the United States. The information was based on data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s 2008 Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS).

The findings show:

  • 51% of treatment admissions where marijuana was the primary drug involved came from non-criminal justice sources in California, compared to only 42% for the rest of the U.S. Referral sources included individual referrals, schools, substance abuse and healthcare providers, employers, and other community referrals.
  • 47% of people receiving treatment for marijuana in California were under the age of 18, compared to 28% in the rest of the country.
  • 65% of Californians who received treatment for marijuana began using the drug at age 14 or younger. This compares to 55 percent for the rest of the U.S.

ONDCP Director Kerlikowske cited the discussions of so-called “medical” marijuana, marijuana legalization, and downplaying marijuana’s harms as a significant contributor in sending the wrong message to young people about the health consequences of drug use.

All right. Let’s take a quick look at this.

First, the whole “admitted for treatment for marijuana” thing is pretty much completely useless for determining anything. So many people are referred by the criminal justice system that it completely undermines the data. Here, you see the Drug Czar knows that we’ve already shown that to be bogus, so in the first figures, he tries to claim that “other than criminal justice” equals “voluntarily seeking treatment.” Of course, that’s bogus as well, since it includes all sorts of other referrals. Even individual referrals don’t necessarily mean much, since attorneys often advise their clients to enroll in a treatment program so it looks better when they’re in front of the judge.

The marijuana treatment data is so meaningless, the Government figures themselves show that over 37 percent of those who entered treatment “for marijuana” had not used it in the past month.

Now I’ve done my share of digging through the cauldron of TEDS data. I’m not going to take the time to do it just to show the Drug Czar is playing loose with the facts. I don’t have to.

The first stat he uses certainly doesn’t show that more people are voluntarily entering treatment marijuana in California. There’s a lot of possibilities, given all the parameters of referral sources, but there’s no evidence of what the Drug Czar claims.

Let’s move to the second one:

47% of people receiving treatment for marijuana in California were under the age of 18, compared to 28% in the rest of the country.

Hmmm… sounds significant, doesn’t it? Ah, but what’s missing? Context. Those are internal comparative figures. Without knowing how they relate to the total population, there’s no way that they demonstrate the significance attached to them by the Czar.

At first glance, it appears that the data says that a significantly higher percentage of children in California enter treatment than in other states. But it doesn’t say that at all. It only talks about comparative populations.

Just for fun, let’s make up some numbers.

People Owning Widgets Under 18 years 18+ years
State A 30 20
State B 40 60

In this fictional set of numbers, 60% of the State A widget owners are under 18, whereas only 40% of the State B ones are children. And yet, as you can see in the figures, that doesn’t tell the story at all. The story is, in State A, adults are less likely to own widgets.

OK. Consider that California has medical marijuana and, as some have said, it’s pretty much de facto decriminalization for many adults. So it would actually make sense that a much smaller portion of the adult population of California would end up in situations where they were forced to enter treatment “for marijuana” (but without a corresponding reduction in youth susceptibility to criminal justice and school referrals). This would naturally make the youth portion seem larger in comparison. This would explain both points 2 and 3.

This, in fact, completely shoots down the Drug Czar’s argument that California liberalization of marijuana talk has increased the youth drug problem.

There may be other explanations for this data as well, if we cared enough to dig through the bubbling cauldron full of eye of newt and toe of frog, treatment admissions and tongue of dog.

The point is, that even in the relatively useless set of TEDS data (at least for analytical purposes due to the abuse of the treatment system), the Drug Czar comes up with numbers that can only superficially support his treatise. And even that support disappears like a wisp of dirty steam once you take those numbers into the light of day.

The Drug Czar is no true witch. He’s just a charlatan, playing with his trolls’ digits.

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25 Responses to The Drug Czar pulls more numbers from his cauldron

  1. tintguy says:

    Everyone was confused as to why Kerli was mum so close up to the vote but it’s obvious that he didn’t want the opposition to have time to properly clear the air of his propaganda bombs.

  2. kaptinemo says:

    More hackery and quackery…and for this reason.

    We’ve all noticed the prohib’s penchant for rather cultish behavior. A lot of that behavior has to do with attempting to emotionally defend the logically indefensible. And the more it becomes clear that they cannot do so, they louder and more shrill they get…just like that UFO cult mentioned in the above link’s book. But that usually is a hallmark of their own doubts growing…and their resolve flagging.

    So, Gil can throw around all the figures he wants, but that’s just more trying to shout down the doubts his own people have. They know the jig (and their gig) is up…

  3. kaptinemo says:

    And as to where he ‘pulls his numbers’ from, well, I think latex gloves are a requirement when handling said figures; the paper tends to be wetly brown-stained and smelling of methane…

  4. Just me. says:

    Damned trolls…cant keep them under the bridge!

    I concur on the latex glove thing Kapt.

    …and of course they are going to pull these numbers out of their arses so close to voting…not that it’ll help them any. Once known as a liar…always known as a liar.

  5. claygooding says:

    Isn’t it amazing,before the ink can dry on his signature
    on the authorization for some typist(you don’t actually think Kerli wrote this)to post this on the internet,it is rebutted.
    13 days Pete,,,,they are going to have to better than this,,,already posted this to spread the word.

  6. Ben Mann says:

    If we don’t miraculously come out with a big-money TV campaign, I fear Prop 19 is doomed. As we get closer to Nov 2, and every single politician and local council in the state comes out against Prop 19, the old rhetoric is clearly resonating with the public. We can’t get our message out.

    Where is Soros when we truly need him?

  7. Rhayader says:

    It’s also important to keep in mind that a very large percentage of “voluntary” treatment for those under 18 occurs because it is forced by parents — meaning it’s not voluntary at all. Tragically, it seems like a lot of parents think it’s appropriate to react to the poorly rolled joint in Little Jimmy’s sock drawer by shipping said Little Jimmy off to a for-profit “rehab” mill, where he’ll be introduced not only to a collection of hard drug addicts and criminals, but to a culture of self-victimization and abdication of personal responsibility.

  8. permanentilt says:

    So true Rhay, I knew kids who were sent to rehab for marijuana who had never even smoked before. Their parents were just paranoid and crazy, they’d show up at home one day with red eyes from allergies or contact issues and their parents would KNOW they were smoking pot.

  9. allan420 says:

    “Cauldron” is such a polite term Pete…

    Just f’in’ once will some journalists ask this man some relevant questions!? Like:

    “What would happen Deputy Droopy, if we gave the same scrutiny to Cannabis Prohibition? … considering the founding ‘facts’ for this Prohibition is there any truth to your drug policy opponents’ claims that it’s all a fraud?”

  10. caj says:

    Well, I didn’t read the linked article, but all that are presented here are percentages. These can be revealing, but sometimes the underlying numbers can be just as revealing. For instance, if the 47% of people receiving treatment for marijuana under the age of 18 amounts to a couple hundred people in the most populous state in California, then who cares? Even if it’s a couple thousand, that’s not a significant number of people in a state with 36,000,000 inhabitants.

    But as Mark Twain reminds us, there are lies, there are damn lies, and then there are statistics.

  11. claygooding says:

    There was an article by Paul Elam in August about when your child smokes pot and rehab. He worked in the drug
    treatment field for 20 years and it is very telling of the real live damages done by prohibition:

    When Your Kid Smokes Pot

  12. Bruce says:

    Stay calm folks. Imagine being a firefighter sliding down the pole enduring a harrowing full throttle journey and arriving on scene to find panicked people yelling “Theres a fire!”
    Well,,, duh!

  13. Rhayader says:

    @Clay: Yeah I remember reading that Elam piece, it’s definitely a worthwhile read for anyone interested in that issue. Parents should really think very long and very hard before shipping their kids off to a place like that.

    @permanentilt: Wow, everyone I know who was sent to rehab by his parents was at least busted holding or dropped a positive urine test. You really have questionable judgment as a parent if you send your kid to rehab because of red eyes.

  14. darkcycle says:

    “Figures never lie, but liars figure” I can only speak for myself and the people I know, but liar’s fatigue set in a long time ago (about thirty-five years ago, actually). New “facts and figures” from the ONDCP are met with an involuntary, reflexive rolling of the eyes.
    Pete, you did a great job of stripping those numbers bare. One of the biggest confounders of any statistical analysis comes when a researcher, knowingly or unknowingly, includes a number of dissimilar things together under one definition. The category may be too broad to be useful in the analysis (as with the numbers claimed for ‘voluntary’ admissions including every admission not ordered by the courts directly), or it may be arbitrary or meaningless in the first place. Like “addiction” ask ten people, get ten definitions. But as was pointed out to my amusement a couple of days ago here (I don’t remember where and I can’t find it now…) psychological addiction breaks down in practice to nothing more than the statement “I want”.
    Well, we knew it was coming. Now we find out if liar’s fatigue is a general malaise.

  15. Cannabis says:

    If you think that Gil Kerlikowske is running the ONDCP you are sadly mistaken. Kevin Sabet is the person who is really running things. I wish that I had a picture of the two of them together that I could link to online.

  16. ezrydn says:

    I remember telling you that this would pop up as we got closer to the vote. It’s no surprise at all. And with 11 more days to go, it’s frequency will rise. Be ready to pounce. Cruise the other blog/boards more frequently to find hidden lies to dispose of. We’ve got them on the run. Now we have to keep on top of their lies to the Public.

    Only Reformers care about the People and the Children. I’m sitting on the troll, L. Taylor’s site most all day to keep her “in tow.”

  17. claygooding says:

    Justa cruisin,,,,,justa cruisin,,,,
    Ol Kerli is gonna lie some more
    and we’ll be waitin at the door,,,,,
    Justa cruisin,,,,,,Justa cruisin….

    If you think it sounds bad here be glad your not with me!!!

  18. Chris says:

    From the onion:
    Huge Quantities Of Primo Shit Incinerated By Feds,656/

    must be in response to the recent 100+ ton seizure in Mexico.

  19. Bruce says:

    Zero personality Tories playing fast and loose with rule-by-decree here in Canada.
    Gonna jail everyone. I admire the Mexicans courage in fighting back and fear the same darkness will descend on our society as well with these twits lording Uber Allus./

  20. Dragan Vojnovic says:

    Just a little note (I don’t comment very often):

    Even if those numbers had the meaning the ONDCP is trying to push forward, it is happening during a time of harsh prohibition. Regulation and educational campaigns would actually reduce teen use if age limits are enforced.

    Either way, Girly-Cow-Ski fails, as usual.

  21. Benjamin says:

    What would this have to do with medcine? People using marijuana for medical purposes wouldn’t check themselves into a rehab….

  22. Pingback: Can you hear us Mr President? | Silence isn't the answer

  23. Ireland says:

    That addresses seaevrl of my concerns actually.

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