Friday, September 30, 2011

Fake Reefer Madness

A few weeks ago members of the Alabama Dept. of Public Health, Alabama Beverage Control and anguished parents who have recently lost kids to suicide came together in Montgomery to try and pin the blame for those suicides on what the media refers to as 'fake marijuana'. The products in question are also known under the brand names of 'Spice', K-2, Black Magic etc... and can be purchased legally in just about any convenience store and tobacco shop across the state. For the record I have not and do not use them and do not recommend that anyone else use them either. About the only point I agree on with those who are having this discussion is that we do not know enough about these substances to assume they are safe. That doesn't mean I want them banned. I contend that if marijuana were legal then there would be no fake crap on the market to begin with. But, that only counts if it is proven that the fake crap caused the suicides.

Now, yesterday the Anniston Star lead with the following story. Go read it.

Suicides raise concerns over legal compound

In this article the parents of the suicide victims make the claim that use of these products is the only possible explanation for the deaths of their children. The Alabama Beverage Control board is adding fuel to the fire by agreeing with them where no evidence exists to support the claim. And, of course, when I point out these issues and others I am threatened with physical violence, a little boy in blue attempts to intimidate me, I am called names and accused of being insensitive. But no real answers are put forth to my reasonable questions. Not surprising.Loretta Nall: I'm very sorry for this family's loss...however it needs to be pointed out that 1) correlation does not equal causation and 2) that if real marijuana, which is completely safe and a known quantity, were legal then there would be no fake marijuana on the market. It is very sad that this family, who is at the guilt phase of grief where they are looking for someone or something to blame for the tragic death of their son, is being used as pawns in the prohibition game. Shame, shame, shame, on Mike Reese of the ABC for using them to promote his political agenda when they are so incredibly vulnerable.

And apparently that just makes me wrong on principal according to commenter Jessica and all the other hysteria prone folks commenting on this thread. You'll have to read all the comments at the AS website. I'm only using the ones where the participants are at least making an attempt at reasonable discussion.

Loretta Nall: Jessica how exactly am I wrong? Wrong about what? If it were my child I would want empirical evidence as to why my child committed suicide. Not speculation, not knee-jerk reaction based on emotion. Cold hard facts. There is no empirical evidence here. It's time we stopped passing laws and restricting basic freedoms just because it makes someone feel better. There are a thousand possibilities as to why this young man took his own life. Only one possibility is mentioned in this article. 999 others are not. Shouldn't we examine all possibilities before passing laws? Doesn't anyone else want laws passed to be based on scientific facts and only after vigorous public debate, so that all our rights and freedoms guaranteed under the US Constitution are protected? Seems to me like the majority of people participating on this comment thread only want laws passed in order to make themselves feel they can think "well I did something" regardless of whether it was the right thing to do.

Emily Collinsworth responds with : We have evidence! .........

Loretta Nall: Emily what scientific evidence do you have that these products were directly responsible for his death? Many people use these products, yet the majority of them do not commit suicide. Why? What one thing is different in those who take their own lives and those who do not after exposure to these products? Now, if everyone or even a small majority of people who used these products started committing suicide then there would be more of a basis for these claims. But that isn't happening. Correlation does not equal causation. No matter how much one might want it to it does not add up to that. There are many reasons kids take their own lives. All of them horrible. I'm a parent of two teens and I can't imagine anything more devastating than that. But if one of them ever resorted to that I would want to know why...not grab on to the first thing that came to mind, although I admit it would be tempting to do so. In order to prevent suicides we have to know the real reasons it is carried out. In none of these cases do we know. Sure, we could go around and ban products because that's easy. What's hard is asking the tough questions of ourselves and doing the research necessary to come up with the right answer. I also want to know is why the ABC board is involved in anything to do with this fake crap to begin with. It isn't alcohol so why is the ABC involved? Not that they should be involved in alcohol either. IMOP they should not even exist. Additionally, I find it ironically sad that an agency whose sole purpose it to sell and make a profit from one of the deadliest drugs ever known to humankind (alcohol) is pointing fingers and making accusations against any other substance. It's pretty hilarious when you think about it. That very few others make the connection is plain scary. I wonder...did any of these kids who took their own lives ever once drink a beer with or without their parents knowledge? I'd put my money on yes. Yet, no one is blaming the ABC board or Budweiser. Why is that do you think?

Jessica Cornwell: Loretta Nall I had a LONG response typed out to you but since Anniston Star's website apparently has some flaws it disappeared so instead I will say this..

1) YOU do not know as much about the ABC Board as you think. 2) Lt. Reese's only agenda is to SAVE LIVES. 3) You do NOT know either of these boys so you do NOT KNOW what they were like, or their lives were like. 4) Spice IS directly related to their deaths and the at least 6 others coast to coast I can name. 5) YOU had your chance to speak and listen to the "cold hard facts" on Sept 19th..YOU were NOT there.

YOU, Mrs. Nall, are assuming you know something about all of this, you do not. Since July this has consumed my life and I will continue to do anything I can to make sure it is banned!

To which I respond

Loretta Nall: Jessica all you have is conjecture. You don't know how much I know about anything. If you really believe that someone whose job it is to sell alcohol has strictly an interest in saving lives then I question your judgement. How is Spice directly related to the deaths of the kids you are referring to? So, they all took spice or similar products and committed suicide. That doesn't mean Spice or other similar products were responsible. They might all have drank milk that morning too or had a beer a few weeks ago, yet no one is looking at those things. There is absolutely NO empirical evidence that these products are responsible for the deaths of these kids. In order for it to be empirical we will have to rule out everything else. Things like home life situation, critical life changing events happening recently, mental illness in any of the family tree, depression (how many of these kids were on an anti-depressant?), was there a history of bullying at school and on and on and on. All of those things and many more would have to be ruled completely out and only spice or related products left before we can even begin to come close to proving that it was the cause. If it was the cause then how did it work? On what part of the mind did it work. How come the majority of people who are using this stuff aren't committing suicide? Can you answer that question? From what I have been reading in these cases it looks like maybe the kids were starting to exhibit signs of mental illness, quite possibly schizophrenia. That particular disease strikes mostly males and usually between the age of 18-25. No one knows what the trigger is for schizophrenia. All science knows is that people are born with it and that at some point in their life it triggers. Signs and symptoms are very similar to what is being described about the behavior of these kids shortly before they took their own lives.

Then Emily comes back with...

Emily Collinsworth: The symptoms of prolonged spice use are paranoia and hallucinations. This has been studied. Brandon was not bullied nor did he have anything wrong in his life. We would not blame it on spice if there could have been some other reason, but there aren't any other possible reasons. You are just being insensitive. Imagine if one of your kids died and you knew why, but there was some ingorant person trying to tell you there had to be something else wrong with them. That is insulting and completely untrue. Maybe you will understand better when this happens to someone in your life which is what WILL happen if people keep abusing this stuff. I bet you're feeding off of this stuff like you get some sick satisfaction out of letting people know everything you think. Well get this, you can't always be right. You aren't even worth all of this time and anger so this is all I am going to say. Just stop being ridiculous and trying to get your opinion out (not to supress it but you have already gotten your point across) and pray for us like any good person would do. That's all we want is prayer and support.

Loretta Nall: Emily, who studied the symptoms of prolonged use of Spice? What were the criteria for the study? Where are the peer reviewed published results? I am not being insensitive. I am being objective. We can't base our laws on the emotions of suffering parents whose children have committed suicide. That isn't how things work...or at least it shouldn't be. You can make all the baseless claims about me you want. That doesn't make them true. You can't argue your point effectively or answer my questions so you are trying to deflect. Please post peer reviewed studies published in credible medical journals which prove that prolonged use of spice and spice-like chemicals cause suicide, depression, paranoia, hallucinations. If it exists you will have no problem posting it for the rest of us to see.

And that is where this conversation currently is. I want facts, scientific proof that these products cause suicide. I want the media to be more objective in covering these types of stories. I'm sick of laws being passed just because it will make someone feel better. And I am sick of slick ass politicians using suffering, grieving parents as pawns in their prohibition games.

Is that to much to ask?

Feel free to join the conversation on the AS website HERE