Misleading up to 100 Percent of Readers


According to the Canadian Press wire service, "Up to 50 per cent of users can be addicted after the first dose of crystal meth." The story, about a bill that would allow forced treatment of minors who use methamphetamine, presents this factoid without attribution. It's not clear what it means to "be addicted after the first dose." When someone who really likes a drug the first time he tries it eventually becomes a heavy user who has trouble stopping, it seems arbitrary to say that addiction began with the first dose, as opposed to the 10th or 100th. In any case, survey data indicate that the vast majority of people who try methamphetamine do not become heavy users. In the 2003 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, for example, about 6 percent of respondents who had ever used meth reported use in the last month, which does not necessarily equal addiction but surely is a minimum requirement. Strictly speaking, of course, "up to 50 percent" is consistent with fractions much smaller than a half. This estimate leaves so much wiggle room that it would still be literally true even if no one ever got hooked on methamphetamine.

NEXT: If You've Got Nothing to Hide (From Unmarked Cop Cars)

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. “Up to 50 per cent of users can be addicted after the first dose of crystal meth.”

    This IS misleading, since anyone with a brain knows that up to 100 percent of users CAN be addicted after the first dose of crystal meth.

  2. If you rephrase it as “under no circumstances does someone have a better than even chance of getting addicted to crystal meth on first use” it takes all the fun out of it.

    But I think that’s what it means.

  3. This estimate leaves so much wiggle room…

    A funny statement given that meth addicts have a funny wiggle-like dance.

  4. Rigorous investigation has shown that 79% of all statistics are made-up on the spot.

  5. Actually, the correct figure is “between zero and 100 per cent of users WILL be addicted after the first dose of crystal meth.”

  6. I guess it all depends on whether you’re a Bayesian or a Frequentist.

  7. Jacob,

    There is no such thing as “addiction” to anything. As far as drugs are concerned, there are only people who choose, or are forced to in the case of psychiatric patients, use drugs or those who choose not to use drugs. “Addiction” is a modern term for demonic possession and is part of this whole idea that individual persons are not individual actors with free will, but puppets. Somebody or something else is responsible for their movements and we’ll find who that somebody or something is. This idea of “addiction” after one hit of a particular drug is a good example of “drug addiction” as modern language for demonic possession. It’s like taking a dose of meth as the equivalent of playing with a quija board, or something other nonsense like that. Careful how you play with your quija board because you could get you “possessed” by the devil the first time you commune with it. Talk to any believer in “drug addiction” and they say exactly the same thing every believer mental illness says. Like the person accused of mental disorder, the person accused of “drug addiction” is believed to have “lost control” of him/herself after he/she starts voluntarily taking a drug, and is, therefore, not responsible for his/her behavior. They may choose to take drugs but at some arbitrary point, possibly the first hit of the drug, the user has lost his/her free will and “has no choice.” The drug user “can’t quit” without the assistance of a priest in a white coat. These are all notions that simply can’t be quantified scientifically for the obvious reason that the personal decision to not take, take or quit drugs are not a scientific matter. What drugs might or might not be doing to the body of a drug user is a scientific matter that can be measured by taking blood samples of the user, but the choice to not take, take or quit drugs is not.

    Your book “In Defense Of Drugs” is endorsed by Thomas Szasz. Szasz rejects the idea of “drug addiction” as much as he rejects the idea of mental illness. In his book “Liberation By Oppression” Szasz rightly rejects the idea of drugs that make a person into a diabolical killer and argues that the person who commits crimes while under the influence of drugs should be held doubly responsible for his criminal deeds, because it is the users responsibility to know that drugs can lower inhibitions. There is no other way we are going to be free to take, or not take, the drugs we want, or don’t want, if we aren’t prepared to be responsible for any bad behavior we might engage in after we start taking drugs. Paying deference to the idea of “drug addiction” and its “treatment” is a major detour in the wrong direction on the road to freedom.


  8. the person who commits crimes while under the influence of drugs should be held doubly responsible for his criminal deeds, because it is the users responsibility to know that drugs can lower inhibitions.

    This segment contradicts your argument that there can’t be a thing such as ‘addiction’. If you accept that drugs can lower inhibitions, then you accept that drugs can affect mental functioning. Addiction, or compulsive craving, is just another output of the brain. Now, to what extent, are any drugs addictive? To what extent, is addiction a result of the environment rather than some inherent expression of drug consumption? These are valid questions, whose answers have been twisted and tangled, so to as mislead. But that’s a different story than your rejection of the concept.

  9. Rick’s and anondamide’s comment show that the term “drug addiction” has been made useless. That’s why you’ll often see a term like “chemical dependency” used when discussing alcohol “addiction”. For example, the body does become chemically depended upon alcohol, as the “addict” can die without it. But we should never forget that the alcohol addict made choices that led to the addiction, so the element of free will is there at the beginning. It is also there through the entire “life of the addiction” as the user could, at any time, gradually reduce their drug usage to end their chemical dependency. The problem is that most drug “addicts” want to get high, so they use more not less. This is obviously free will in action. The user chooses to be more high than less (as I know from my own personal experience).

  10. What am I smoking?

    comment s/b comments,
    depended s/b dependent,

  11. “This segment contradicts your argument that there can’t be a thing such as ‘addiction’.”

    No it doesn’t and I know this from simply living my own life. Drugs “CAN” lower inhibitions, if the drug user ALLOWS them to, but no chemical works on a person in this demonic way the purveyors of “addiction” say they do and “makes you” do things against your will. Ever taken something just see what would happen? Yes, drugs can alter a person’s biochemisty. So what? I’ve done and said things under the influence of drugs I would rather not have done because I made the willful choice to do and say those things while under the influence of drugs. I knew what I was doing was either wrong or annoying to the people around me. I have behaved perfectly “normal” while under the influence of drugs. Behaved in a way that would lead the people I’m talking around me to not suspect I’ve taken anything. I behaved in a way to hide the fact that I was under the influence of a drug I had willfully taken.

    Personal responsibility means we don’t pick and choose the behaviors we’re responsible for. People love to say “I wasn’t myself” when they were behaving in a way that might have been personally embarrassing or simply bad. They were “addicted” to drugs or sex. They were “possessed” by the devil after playing with a quija board, and have since been “saved” by Jesus. They were mentally ill have since been “saved” by psychiatric treatment. They were listening to Marilyn Manson and other evil rock n’ roll lyrics, and have since become born again. Anything but a simple act of the will can be used to “explain” anything these days.

  12. Drugs “CAN” lower inhibitions, if the drug user ALLOWS them to

    So, analogously, are you saying that if I dose you with 300 mics acid, you can WILL your way into no psychoactivity from the acid?

  13. Unlike with “demonic possession,” the person called a “drug addict” actually has something in him he might like to remove. Of course, much of what we call “drug treatment” has nothing to do with removing the drug from the person, but actually involves switching the person from taking one drug to another. In other words, switching the person from taking an unholy illegal drug he gets without a doctor’s prescription to a legal doctor prescribed legal drug, like from heroin to methadone. This can only interfer with the removal of the previous drug and actually increase its presence in the users blood stream, if, say, the heroin user hasn’t gone through with withdrawal long enough.

    There are simple things that can be done to remove toxins from our bodies. One is giving our livers a break by getting aquainted with sweating. I’ve gone from a state of drukenness to sobriety after a half hour and half gallon of filtered water in a steam room. Our sweat pores are an exit root for toxins and I seldom see the adovocates for coerced drug treatment mention this. The other thing is the taking in of nutrients with toxin busting qualities. There is a reason why orange juice and other Vitamin C containg products have been restricted in most of the healthy subject clinical drug trials I’ve participated in. Quit taking your drug of choice, find your way to a steam room once a day and fill up your stomach with fresh squeezed orange juice every morning and you’ll be on your way to expelling whatever demonic drug is “possessing” you right now.

  14. Rick:

    You are a brave man challenging the religious beliefs of so many. I am always amused by those who decry the superstitions of christianity but will cling to every kind of pseudo-science and faddish psychology. My question is how can libertarianism exist with so much resistance to the notion of free will.

    As for my fellow dope fiends, my favorite kick in the ass is Stanton Peele’s “Diseasing of America.”

  15. An interesting debate (Thomas Szasz included) I read a while back…

    “Do Drugs Cause Addiction?”

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.