A few weeks ago, I noted that the Texas PTA was excitedly passing along rumors about "strawberry meth" that had been debunked by (among others) Snopes.com, the drug policy organization Join Together, and the Drug Enforcement Administration. In addition to explaining this online, I emailed the relevant links to the local PTA officer who had sent me the warning. Today she sent me the following "Correction re Strawberry Quick Methamphetamines":
Texas PTA works closely with Texas Crime Stoppers and Attorney General Greg Abbott. In December, at the request of Texas Crime Stoppers, Texas PTA released information about "strawberry quick," which generated several questions. As a result, Texas PTA consulted with Texas Crime Stoppers about your questions, and officials at Texas Crime Stoppers wrote an apology to Texas PTA with a correction found below.
Texas Crime Stoppers Response Concerning Strawberry Quick
A Texas Crime Stoppers internal investigation of a methamphetamine-laced drug being marketed to school age children in Texas called "strawberry quick" has found that it does not exist in Texas. Dr. Jane Maxwell, with the Gulf Coast Addiction Technology Transfer Center, University of Texas at Austin was consulted on the existence of "strawberry quick." She replied to this staffer that "strawberry-quick is a myth, and an urban legend." This office regrets the passing of information to our friends at the Texas PTA without investigating the validity of the information sent to us from a Juvenile Probation office in Central Texas….
Rumors about new drugs or drugs targeted to children can occur in this field, but the fact that "strawberry quick" is not present in Texas in no way invalidates the urge to caution and to be fully aware regarding drug and alcohol promotion or usage amongst our Texas children. Forewarned is forearmed.
In short, after trying to stir up a panic about an urban legend, the Texas PTA blames Texas Crime Stoppers, which in turn blames a juvenile probation office in Central Texas. That's a nice example to set for the kids: When you're caught prevaricating, shift the responsibility to someone else.
A quick visit to Snopes.com or a cursory Web search would have turned up skeptical treatments of this story (including mine). Even if no one at the Texas PTA or Texas Crime Stoppers has Internet access (unlikely, since they use the Internet to spread anti-drug hysteria), the tale told in the "Strawberry Quick" alert has the earmarks of an urban legend: lack of detail (children supposedly were rushed to the hospital after ingesting meth they mistook for candy, but we're not told when, where, or to whom this happened); implausibility (why flavor a drug that is typically snorted or smoked, let alone offer it in "chocolate, peanut butter, cola, cherry, grape and orange" as well as strawberry?); similarity to other urban legends (such as the old one about poisoned Halloween candy); and the closing admonition to "pass this email on to as many people as you can."
Note that Texas Crime Stoppers, even as it admits the story is a "myth," is still trying to salvage it by saying that "'strawberry quick' is not present in Texas," which implies that it might be a problem elsewhere. The 2007 Fox News story that the Texas PTA cited in its alert likewise said, "While Strawberry Quick hasn't made a big splash in Dallas, it is gaining ground in other [unspecified] parts of the country."
Crying "Strawberry Meth!" may not invalidate "the urge to caution and to be fully aware regarding drug and alcohol promotion or usage amongst our Texas children." But it does put parents on notice that they should not believe anything these organizations say about drugs, since they are so ready to trumpet any scary rumor they hear on this subject without considering its plausibility or making even a rudimentary effort to verify it. Forewarned is forearmed.