I’ve taken a break from debunking Daily Mail articles for a while, not because they have improved but simply because I don’t have the will to read them or the time to keep up with them. Due to popular demand however, I’ve done a brief swipe at their latest overblown, factually devoid, celerbrity inspired piece of trash.
From the Daily Mail’s recent article on laughing gas (Nitrous Oxide):
“An overdose can be fatal… The International Centre For Drug Policy charts deaths in the UK from volatile substance misuse, including the gas. Their most recent report, from 2010, notes that ‘in 2008 there were two deaths (three in 2007) associated with the inhalation of nitrous oxide, which had been obtained for non-medical purposes’. Finding more up-to-date figures is problematic, as the report is not currently active because of Department Of Health belt-tightening”
Never-mind more recent figures, lets just actually read the rest of the sentence..
‘In 2008 there were two deaths (four in 2007) associated with the inhalation of anaestheticagents. Both cases involved nitrous oxide, supplied for non-medical use as cylinders or as caplets designed to be employed with cream-whipping devices, and were the result of asphyxiation where the nitrous oxide had been inhaled using a plastic bag over the head.‘
I won’t go in to the rest of the unsubstantiated claims that the Daily Mail makes, such as that Nitrous Oxide causes strokes and chronic depression. Suffice to say that the drug is contained in every emergency ambulance and doctors surgery in the country and is deemed safe enough to be considered a first port of call emergency anaesthetic and is even provided for hours on end to women in Labour.
The Daily Mail does note one solitary useful point, that taking the gas straight from a cannister (i.e. without a balloon) can cause the lungs to freeze but this valuable information is buried so far in the sea of nonsense that readers will probably presume the Daily Mail made that up to. Which is precisely the problem with scaremongering nonsense such as this.
If you’d like to know more about Nitrous Oxide I’ve pasted the facts below directly from the BNF1. If you use laughing gas regularly, particularly if you are a vegetarian, take note of the fact that the drug depletes B-vitamins and get yourself a bottle.
Nitrous oxide is used for maintenance of anaesthesia and, in sub-anaesthetic concentrations, for analgesia. For anaesthesia, nitrous oxide is commonly used in a concentration of 50 to 66% in oxygen as part of a balanced technique in association with other inhalational or intravenous agents. Nitrous oxide is unsatisfactory as a sole anaesthetic owing to lack of potency, but is useful as part of a combination of drugs since it allows a significant reduction in dosage.
For analgesia (without loss of consciousness), a mixture of nitrous oxide and oxygen containing 50% of each gas (Entonox®, Equanox®) is used. Self-administration using a demand valve is popular in obstetric practice, for changing painful dressings, as an aid to postoperative physiotherapy, and in emergency ambulances.
Nitrous oxide may have a deleterious effect if used in patients with an air-containing closed space since nitrous oxide diffuses into such a space with a resulting increase in pressure. This effect may be dangerous in the presence of a pneumothorax, which may enlarge to compromise respiration, or in the presence of intracranial air after head injury.
Hypoxia can occur immediately following the administration of nitrous oxide; additional oxygen should always be given for several minutes after stopping the flow of nitrous oxide.
Exposure of patients to nitrous oxide for prolonged periods, either by continuous or by intermittent administration, may result in megaloblastic anaemia owing to interference with the action of vitamin B12; neurological toxic effects can occur without preceding overt haematological changes. For the same reason, exposure of theatre staff to nitrous oxide should be minimised. Depression of white cell formation may also occur.
Assessment of plasma-vitamin B12 concentration should be considered in those at risk of deficiency, including the elderly, those who have a poor or vegetarian diet, and those with a history of anaemia. Nitrous oxide should not be given continuously for longer than 24 hours or more frequently than every 4 days without close supervision and haematological monitoring.
British Medical Association and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain (2009). British National Formulary BMJ Publishing Group, 58th ed
Last month, Mail Online was declared the most read news source in the world. We should celebrate this with some of the things that the Daily Mail lack: wit, humour and a first class bit of script. The script locally (i.e. your browser only – nothing criminal) hijacks the Daily Mail’s frontpage and injects it with randomised headlines. The script will remain installed until you remove it from the extensions menu (under options). Every single time the Daily Mail website is loaded you (or your unsuspecting Daily Mail enthusiast) will see the day’s Daily Mail homepage as normal except with randomly scrambled headlines. The result is a unique, computer generated satirical masterpiece, every single time you press refresh. The script is otherwise invisible and will work with Chrome or Firefox (sorry IE users).
The script doesn’t require any programming knowledge at all. If your target is using chrome it’s a one-click operation. If you’re using Firefox you’ll need to install Greasemonkey first (also a one-click installation). After you run the script you’re free to leave the scene, shutdown the computer and wait until your target loads the dailymail.co.uk all by themselves. You can refresh a hundred times and you’ll still be laughing (or crying).
PS: Hashtag #OccupyMailOnline
If you’re worried about running an unknown script, read the code for yourself in a text reader, it’s comedy gold.
Neurobonkers is not responsible for what happens when you use this script or the consequences when your friend, coworker, or (if you’re very brave), boss finds out.
Check out my article in the New Journalist. I have decided to publish this piece with TNJ because they aspire to work under the three principles that the Daily Mail lack so severely, “accuracy, honesty and integrity”. See you after the jump.
Update (03/03/2012): More evidence that the Daily Mail can ruin your life from Thursday’s Daily Mail letters page:
To sum up the past couple of days:
- Nature, Time, the BBC and just about every other science publication and news outlet covered Dr. Nutt’s latest research and it’s promising findings for possible clinical use of psilocybin, provoking academic debate on the restriction on study of illegal drugs for clinical use.
- UK law took a small yet definitive step forward, reducing sentences for medical use of drugs, small time users and drug mules (Telegraph, Guardian, Sky, sentencingcouncil.judiciary.gov.uk/guidelines/forthcoming-guidelines)
- Richard Branson gave evidence at the Government’s select committee on drugs (Guardian, video – skip in about three minutes for the start, Branson’s blog).
- The legal developments are based on evidence emerging from states such as Portugal who have successfully decriminalised drug use and are reaping the benefits (rigorous, balanced analysis of the stats here).
So what did the Daily Mail run with today? This time my commentary is not even needed. I’ve simply taken the liberty of literally highlighting the blindingly obvious flaw in this ridiculous excuse for a news article.
Hughes CE, & Stevens A (2012). A resounding success or a disastrous failure: Re-examining the interpretation of evidence on the Portuguese decriminalisation of illicit drugs. Drug and alcohol review, 31 (1), 101-13 PMID: 22212070
“There are 15 references, but they’re all about sex, not cancer.”
The paper makes the case that sexual frustration can result in genetic mutation but fails to provide any evidence to support the claim. The paper is a perfect case study of how not to do science. There are of course references, they just fail to be present for any of the fundamental arguments the paper makes, instead appearing to support those sentences that state the bleeding-obvious and the barely relavent.
I’ll wager a bet that this completely speculative research will be reported uncritically, as dramatic “findings” and of course, without a proper reference when the story is covered by the tabloids. It will be interesting (perhaps interesting is the wrong word) to see how the Daily Mail covers this story, in their ongoing quest to “classify inanimate objects in to two types: those that cause cancer, and those that cure it”, the Daily Mail have claimed cancer is caused by (amongst hundreds of other things): blowjobs, sex and of course.. teenage sex. I’m fairly sure they won’t turn down the opportunity to report a “shocking new finding” that turns the story around and throws breasts and nuns in to the mix!
Apologies to those of you who read my blog at work… this article is sooo never going to get through your web filter. Oh and I should probably add that there is certainly no conflict of interest here, I believe sex is great, cancer is terrible, and sexual frustration is, erm, most definitely best avoided. I wish I could write a piece championing this research, I really do. The science is just too, damn, bad.
Stuger, J. (2011). An Essay on Sexual Frustration as the Cause of Breast Cancer in Women: How Correlations and Cultural Blind Spots Conceal Causal Effects The Breast Journal DOI: 10.1111/j.1524-4741.2011.01206.x
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