Drug Policy

New York Times Aghast that Wired Would Talk Honestly About Drug Use

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10 Zen Monkeys has the details on a dust-up between the Gray Lady and Wired magazine in which the former got a case of the vapors over a short piece in the latter that honestly discussed the benefits and drawbacks of "brain power" drugs like nicotine, Adderall, caffeine, cocaine, and methamphetamine.

I hope Wired has learned a lesson, here. Apparently, anything short of parroting ONDCP talking points about illicit drugs and off-label use of prescription drugs is irresponsible journalism. There's no room for nuance, truth, or honesty here. Only scorn and absolutism.

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  1. Hmm, I wonder how subscription rates are at Wired versus the NYT.

  2. I hope the puritanical, anti-substance use ethic will disappear along with the 4th awakening.

    And maybe the NY Times as well.

  3. It is irresponsible for Wired magazine to report taht judicious use of some drugs can improve some mental functions.

    The people must be protrected from these facts because the ignorant masses might abuse them.

    Knowledge should be regulated to prevent undesirable side effects.

    Sadly, you can find a shitload of folks who agree with the three previous sentences.

  4. It is irresponsible for Wired magazine to report taht judicious use of some drugs can improve some mental functions.

    The people must be protrected from these facts because the ignorant masses might abuse them.

    Maybe you haven’t had your mental improvement drugs yet this fine morning? πŸ™‚

  5. You guys are being too harsh on the New York times: its news articles tend to be poorly organized meandering around the issue being discussed often omitting to bring up major issues of facts. In other words, most NY Times articles read like something that a stoner who was taught good grammar would write while high on the weed.

    Their attack on Wired is probably aimed at an internal audience: a sign of a desperate attempt to resolve the personnel issues that have tarnished its reputation to the point that they are taken about as seriously as fany other tabloid.

    If Tierney still writing for that rag? If so, I hope he lands a gig soon at a serious, reputable newspaper.

  6. NYT: *takes Wired aside* You can’t talk about our drugs like that!

    Wired: We weren’t talking about your drugs… we were talking about ‘brain power’ drugs like speed and cocaine.

    NYT: Like we said!

    Wired: We mean drugs that aren’t skunked with something else.

    NYT: *sniff* But Lindsay Lohan told us these were the real thing!

  7. How dare they even suggest that there is even remotely anything possibly pleasant or positive about any drug! Burn them at the stake!

  8. Radley,

    There’s no way I’ll be able to get through your blog post without a cup of coffee.

  9. It’s absolutely scandalous to claim that drugs that benefit people with diseases/disorders would also benefit people without them! Everyone knows drugs only have negative effects unless used by the right people!

  10. All the news that’s fit to print…

    Plus, if Wired’s publishing of this information was irresponsible, isn’t the NYT re-publishing it even more so?

  11. Drugs are bad, M’kay?

  12. Maybe you haven’t had your mental improvement drugs yet this fine morning? πŸ™‚

    Was caffiene on the list?

  13. Was caffiene(sic) on the list?

    Yep, caffeine was on the list… or, as an ADHD-addled person calls it, “self-medicating”… πŸ™‚

  14. Caffeine got its own article, though.

  15. Er, ah, sub-article. One of my favorite drugs (next to alcohol, probably ‘the one’).

  16. I wonder what you’d find if you rounded up everybody in the Times’ newsroom, and took hair samples for analysis?

    None of those people would ever take drugs, would they?

  17. Mr. Balko and Tarran, are you irony-challenged? Read the Times piece again without guarding reflexes.

  18. “I don’t think Wired could influence anyone to take meth,”

    Translation: “We believe Wired readers are capable of thinking for themselves and don’t suffer from the delusion that the public needs to be spoon-fed what’s good for them from on high.”

  19. “Apparently, anything short of parroting ONDCP talking points about illicit drugs and off-label use of prescription drugs is irresponsible journalism.”

    The upside of methamphetamine?! They may have taken that too far.

    If they’d printed a chart of infamous death marches, and they showed the upside of the Trail of Tears, I might have called them out for it, or I might have thought, “They must be kidding!”

    Sure, everything has shades of gray–including calling people out for making more than they should of the various shades of the stuff.

    …and the upside of meth is a really dark shade of gray.

  20. Mr. Balko and Tarran, are you irony-challenged? Read the Times piece again without guarding reflexes.

    I’d like to think that could be true; but I’m sticking with my interpretation that it’s just more condescending bullshit from the limosine liberals’ newspaper of record.

  21. “limousine”

    stupid keyboard

  22. It can cure obesity and treatment-resistant depression, as well as all manner of illnesses that lead to low energy. In pill form, as opposed to snorted or smoked, it absorbs more slowly and hence has less abuse-potential. Most of the problems with it are associated with it being illegal.

  23. “Most of the problems with it are associated with it being illegal.”

    I’d agree that most of the violent and property crime associated with it are associated with it being illegal. I’d agree that the access kids have to it is largely a function of it being illegal.

    …but the adverse health effects being a function of illegality? c’mon!

    I’m not saying it should be illegal. I’m saying that shade of gray is so very dark…

    Even if meth were legal, I’d strongly caution my friends and family not to use it unless it was under the guidance of a competent health professional. I’d say the same about PCP, Heroin and a plethora of other substances too, which in no way means I think those substances should be illegal.

    …but I’m sure you can appreciate the nuance that just because a person doesn’t like the Drug War, doesn’t mean he thinks listing the upside of methamphetamine use isn’t ridiculous.

  24. …but I’m sure you can appreciate the nuance that just because a person doesn’t like the Drug War, doesn’t mean he thinks listing the upside of methamphetamine use isn’t ridiculous.

    Maybe if it was listed exclusive of the downsides. But it wasn’t. Did you RTFA? I’m not understanding your criticism of what Wired printed.

  25. …drugs like nicotine, Adderall, caffeine, cocaine, and methamphetamine.

    The piece doesn’t discuss caffeine or cocaine. Please assure me this was some kind of cosmic alignment induced error, that won’t occur again for another trillion years. Finding out Balko doesn’t fact check could send me on a decade long bender.

  26. “Maybe if it was listed exclusive of the downsides. But it wasn’t. Did you RTFA? I’m not understanding your criticism of what Wired printed.”

    I didn’t explicitly criticize the Wired article–I defended the NY Times piece as maybe not being entirely off base.

    The Trail of Tears, by the way, very well may have been an atrocity, but some people did profit from seizing their assets and resources.

    …why mention the upside? I don’t know.

  27. Warren, caffeine has its own sidebar (look for the link on the upper left).

  28. I find it interesting that someone would criticize the black and white thinking of the New York Times with:

    “Apparently, anything short of parroting ONDCP talking points about illicit drugs and off-label use of prescription drugs is irresponsible journalism.”

    Seems like fighting fire with fire, and speaking as someone who’s most certainly against the Drug War and has been for a long time, I just thought I’d point out that there seems to be plenty of black and white thinking on both sides.

    And I admit, I’ve got this picture in my head…

    I was up at Venice Beach one time, and there was this booth there of people trying to get people to support legalizing marijuana. And I’m watching this white kid with dreadlocks who looked like he slept under the pier explaining to tourists about how hemp can be used to weave baskets and make rope…

    I suspect he was aware that it could also be rolled up and smoked. …and that the other uses really weren’t what people were trying to prevent by supporting the Drug War. …but no, he’s gonna sell the legalization program like he was a used car salesman…

    So methamphetamine has some potential health benefits, huh? So what?

  29. I’m curious, how many who have commented here have actually done the drugs they’re discussing?

  30. I’m curious, how many who have commented here have actually done the drugs they’re discussing?

    I have. Your point?

  31. I think it’s hard to understand the dangers (or lack) unless you’ve actually experienced various drugs. K. Shultz would strongly caution people against using Meth. If he did so because it’s a rather unpleasant drug I would agree. If it’s due to fear that they will become dependent I would strongly disagree.

  32. StupendousMan,

    If meth did present a danger of dependency, to your mind, would you still support legalization?

  33. So methamphetamine has some potential health benefits, huh? So what?

    You apparently believe that the cost/benefit ratio skews so heavily towards the cost side that it’s unworthy to even point out the benefit. While your perception of the ratio may be accurate (I’m not going to comment on that), that’s not the central point of the Times piece. The Times piece is criticizing the Wired article in it’s entirety, and I think is quite obviously taking a “All drugs are bad, we shouldn’t even be talking about the upside!” position.

  34. I’m curious, how many who have commented here have actually done the drugs they’re discussing?

    I have. Your point?

    Same here. But only under controlled conditions, never for entertainment purposes. I suspect Episiarch’s experiences were likewise responsible.

  35. Same here. But only under controlled conditions, never for entertainment purposes. I suspect Episiarch’s experiences were likewise responsible.

    Ha, good one J sub.

  36. K. Shultz,

    Definitely.

    Actually I do think it presents a danger of dependency, after a little effort from the user. Like heroin, cocaine, etc. I’m not concerned about it, if someone wants to become addicted to a drug have at it.

    Nicotine is my drug of choice.

  37. Looks to me like the NY Times piece was calling out Adderall and meth specifically and gave a fairly balanced account of what’s in Wired’s chart.

  38. addition-

    Becoming addicted to a drug is far from the worse thing that could happen to someone. Now getting an ARM for a house you can’t afford…

  39. Well then, StupendousMan, I’d just argue that maybe we’d be just as well off, when making the case to others, that even if it is addictive, it should still be legal for other reasons.

    Recreational drug use can be a terrible thing. So can alcoholism. Doesn’t mean it should be against the law.

    We can make that case without always looking for the pony even when it’s about meth. …makes it easier to point out that the other side is only looking at the horse crap.

  40. I’m sorry, are you equating recreational drug use with alcoholism?

    Pony?

    maybe I shouldn’t have taken all those pills…

  41. So methamphetamine has some potential health benefits, huh? So what?

    Ask the parents of any kid with ADHD.

    ALL amphetamines are identical in their method of action, although they may have slightly varying potencies and rates of metabolism. That’s right. Adderall (a racemic mixture of amphetamines), Dexedrine (dextrarotary amphetamine) and methamphetamine all are essentially the same damn drug.

    Don’t confuse these with the methylphenidate based medications however, like Focalin, Ritalin or Concerta. These replicate cocaine in their mechanisms of action.

  42. Looks to me like the NY Times piece was calling out Adderall and meth specifically and gave a fairly balanced account of what’s in Wired’s chart.

    Looks can be deceiving. It referenced all six prescription medications, using Adderall only as an example, and also referenced nicotine and meth. In other words, it didn’t single out anything.

    The piece was griping that all of the drugs listed were unlikely to be suited for a discussion of their effects on mental agility. c’mon…just take a look at the opening paragraph…

    Yes, its name is a double entendre, referring both to technology and to being high. But does Wired magazine really mean to promote drugs?

    No. Wired, the magazine title, does not “refer…to being high”. Maybe she’d like to believe that, but there’s nothing in the magazine’s stated image that suggests that.

    And a word with two meanings in and of itself is not a double entendre. It’s the usage that matters.

    And the question “promote drugs?” exposes the bias of the article. Because why would you ask that unless you though promoting drugs was wrong?

  43. And a word with two meanings in and of itself is not a double entendre. It’s the usage that matters.

    What? Are you saying that the New York Times isn’t in the timekeeping business?

  44. Maybe it’s a double entendre for being part of a drug sting operation. It all comes together now…

  45. I’d agree that most of the violent and property crime associated with it are associated with it being illegal. I’d agree that the access kids have to it is largely a function of it being illegal. …but the adverse health effects being a function of illegality? c’mon!

    Absolutely. Think of alcohol: right now, if I drink it I can certainly get myself into a position where I dare not drive a car or operate machinery. I can drink to the point where I throw up. I can even get alcohol poisoning and die, if I’m dumb enough to drink a HUGE amount in a short time, to the point where I overwhelm my body’s ability to handle it. In other words, the only alcohol-related problems I need fear are problems related NOT to alcohol consumption, but to excessive levels of alcohol consumption.

    But here are some things I do NOT have to worry about: that one single drink of alcohol will strike me with permanent blindness or brain damage, or that the bottle of booze I just bought contains poison wood alcohol that’ll kill me sure as cyanide. No, THOSE health threats vanished when Prohibition did.

    As for meth, I’ve never tried it. But in pure form, isn’t it just another form of amphetamine? Under the right circumstances, I wouldn’t mind possibly trying some meth made by a reputable pharmaceutical company, but there is no way in HELL I’d try meth that Cletus made from common household chemicals in the bathtub of his double-wide.

    Remember the lye-burning scenes in Fight Club (which I finally saw for the first time last week)? Even SOAP can be dangerous under the right (or wrong) circumstances, but I’ve never, ever had to risk getting a chemical burn in order to make myself clean. But if the government outlawed soap, that would change overnight.

  46. Um … we all know what “a case of the vapors” actually means, yeah? Do you really mean to say that Wired made the NYT flatulent? What a mental image of “the gray lady” THAT conjures.

  47. Don’t confuse these with the methylphenidate based medications however, like Focalin, Ritalin or Concerta. These replicate cocaine in their mechanisms of action.

    So that’s why methylphenidate is so much better when crushed and snorted instead of taken orally. The high is very similar to cocaine.

  48. Do you really mean to say that Wired made the NYT flatulent?

    Apparently, it did.

  49. Recreational use of methamphetamine wouldn’t be good for you if it was cut with Flintstone chewables.

    Regardless, I hope you see my bigger point.

    Among them, when people go about proclaiming the health benefits of meth use, I can’t help but wonder if it makes people take legalization less seriously.

  50. Recreational use of methamphetamine wouldn’t be good for you if it was cut with Flintstone chewables.

    How does it compare to recreational use of alcohol? Assuming in both cases you have access to high-quality stuff, not some bootlegger’s rotgut product.

  51. I’m not arguing that recreational drug use should be illegal. Somebody up there was asking about how I compared alcoholics to recreational meth use, and I think they are similar in that they’re both bad for you and they should both be legal.

    Smoking is bad for you. Shouldn’t be illegal. Riding motorcycles is dangerous, especially in Los Angeles. Shouldn’t be illegal.

    Yes, drugs would be of better quality if they were legal, but heroin, PCP, meth, crack, there may be problems with the additives, but that ain’t the half of it.

    And I think it gets kinda crazy when I see people get so damn contrarian that they start ascribing positive attributes to things that, used as directed, can be so destructive. Yes, the illegality makes a bad situation worse, but let’s not pretend that being a tweeker isn’t a bad situation.

    It gets silly.

    “It can cure obesity and treatment-resistant depression, as well as all manner of illnesses that lead to low energy.”

    Yeah, I’ve heard it cures people suffering from strong teeth, not having acne and never having had an anxiety disorder. Oh, and apparently it helps people rid themselves of hair in their nostrils too! It’s like a miracle cure!

    In fact, we should have a Tweeker Awareness Month to recognize all the great contributions tweekers have made to Western culture. Maybe then people will start appreciating how beneficial drug addiction is to society.

    Seriously people, we can make our case without trying to persuade people that destructive substances aren’t destructive.

    P.S. Doesn’t mean it should they should be illegal.

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