Free Minds & Free Markets

The Year's Best Drug Scares

Impossibly potent marijuana edibles, formaldehyde in e-cigarettes, pills of war, MDMA disguised as Halloween candy, and superhuman flakka zombies.

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3. Courage in a Pill

BBCBBCSoldiers have been using amphetamines to stay awake and alert since World War II. Captagon, a combination of dextroamphetamine, the main ingredient in Adderall, and theophylline, a stimulant in the same class as caffeine, was prescribed for decades as a treatment for obesity, depression, and hyperactivity. Yet this year sensational news stories managed to make the old and familiar new and scary by linking Captagon to Syria's civil war.

The Washington Post described Captagon as "a tiny, highly addictive pill" that is "fueling Syria's war and turning fighters into superhuman soldiers." The Post's Peter Holley claimed "Captagon quickly produces a euphoric intensity in users, allowing Syria's fighters to stay up for days, killing with a numb, reckless abandon." Drawing on anecdotes from a 2015 BBC documentary and a 2014 Reuters story, Holley left the impression that Captagon enables members of various armed groups in Syria to fight without fear, kill without hesitation or remorse, and resist brutal interrogation, literally laughing at the pain. The next day Washington Times reporter Kellan Howell parroted Holley's claims, using the same secondhand quotes and strikingly similar language.

Such breathless accounts do not reflect Captagon's properties so much as reporters' perennial willingness to believe outlandish claims about drugs other people take. Captagon is an "inferior amphetamine" whose effects are "nowhere near what the media reports have been talking about," Columbia University neuropsychopharmacologist Carl Hart told Live Science. "Trust me, if this drug produced a supersoldier, U.S. soldiers would be using it."

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Apparently these are the fast kind of zombies.


    And I'm sure not paying for a drug war just because you don't like that people use drugs. There better be a quantifiable societal detriment to drug use like fast zombies before I agree to it.

  • markskar||

    The author missed a chance to talk about how the bs formaldehyde in e-cig story led to the free market improving e-cig products. Despite the fact that study was fatally flawed, manufacturers started making temperature controlled devices that prevent an atomizer from ever getting hot enough to generate any formaldehyde.

    Manufacturers did this on their own because consumers wanted a safer product, and it was all done without any government intervention. This sort of innovation will come to a halt if the new, anti-ecig rules the FDA wants to implement are put into place. And the result will be a continuation of millions of tobacco related deaths as consumers go back to cigarettes.

  • macsnafu||

    The best scare stories come from people who don't understand what they're talking about! Especially if they're telling it to people who have no idea themselves.

  • CarolGuzman||

    Im making over $9k a month working part time. I kept hearing other people tell me how much money they can make online so I decided to look into it. Well, it was all true and has totally changed my life. This is what I do,


  • lovelydestruction||

    Wait...from your link; "That spike went all the way through, entering in his thigh near the crotch, exiting on the other side, through the buttocks." Maybe a better example is in order.

  • lovelydestruction||

    In NBC's report, for instance, a guy who got stuck while climbing the fence around the Fort Lauderdale police station last March becomes "users…impaling themselves on fences."

  • HannahRoberts||

    These headlines are ripped from a classic 'reefer madness' style drug scare, where anxiety and irrationality supplant knowledge and reason.

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