Two years ago Oxford University neuroscientist Prof. Dorothy Bishop established the Orwellian Prize for Journalistic Misrepresentation for the worst misrepresentation of a scientific article in a national newspaper, judged according to the number of factual errors in the piece.

Paul Dacre Daily Mail Winner of the Orwellian Award for Journalistic Misrepresentation1 Daily Mail Editor Paul Dacre Wins Orwellian Prize for Journalistic Misrepresentation over Just One Cannabis Joint Can Bring On Scizophrenia

This year, my nomination of the Daily Mail’s article “Just ONE cannabis joint ‘can bring on schizophrenia’ as well as damaging memory” won the award! The prize, normally reserved for the journalist authoring the piece, was awarded to Paul Dacre, editor of the Daily Mail, because of the number of errors in the headline which is the responsibility of the editor and is normally not written by the journalist writing the piece.

This allows the Daily Fail to continue to spew out complete nonsense without risk of reprisals, only last week publishing a piece misappropriating a death to cannabis, that the coroner explicitly stated was not due to cannabis.

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Professor Nutt The Lecture You Were Never Meant to See (UNCUT)Professor David Nutt is a qualified Psychiatrist, Psychopharmacologist, researcher, and famously, the former chief government drugs advisor sacked for giving a lecture. In this (never before filmed)  lecture, recorded at the end of last year at Oxford university, David covers the material in the lecture for which he was censured and describes recent findings that confirm all of his original statements.

Unfortunately Oxford University have censored some slides “for copyright reasons”. This is pretty regressive to say the least because the slides are clearly covered under the principles of fair use and criticism (Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988). I’d expect Oxford University to stand up for this principle in an academic context, particularly because most of the censored material is David’s own work (although publishers hold the copyright). Not to worry though, I’m prepared to stand up for this principle and have included the key censored material (or an artists impression) and more importantly, the censored references below. (To be updated as more information becomes available)

Live Update: 27/01/20 (02.17)

Prof. Nutt has replied that Oxford University were authorised to censor slides of celebrities.

My reply: It appears that much more than that has been censored, I have listed timestamps below. Some of the data slides are very clearly digitally smeared after the event. I guess there’s an outside chance that some of the other blurred and overexposed data slides are due to very bad camera work but the scale of the slides affected seems to suggest that the cameraman has been instructed to blur slides containing data or citations. Apart from the segments affected, the majority of text is displayed in high clarity even when wide camera angles are being used.

03.44 Copyright notice: “some images are blurred for copyright reasons”.

13.51 Image of the Prime Minister (Public domain, surely?)

14.20 Drinks industry data “but this is the truth”

21.47 European Brain Council data (visible for a split second but then the exposure is shifted)

22.14 Hospital admissions (images digitally swirled)

22.40 alcohol consumption has doubled – as the real costs have halved (lense shifts heavily out of focus)

23.28 The rise of liver deaths: Standardised mortality rates, “the most chilling data of all”
(lense taken out of focus)

24.09 Drunk Exxon tanker driver crash slide (data digitally swirled)

24.35 Drunk pilot report (data digitally swirled)

28.12 Drug related deaths (lense taken out of focus)

40.20 Reporting of drug related death (camera pans away from slides)

49.16 Placebo citation
(digitally swirled)

49.30 Placebo data (digitally swirled) “this data is rather distorted” (oh, the irony)

50.16 Normalised data “he changed the statistics there.. a very very nice analysis showing how they had distorted the data” (data digitally swirled) – The irony, it’s killing me.

50.26 Regulator data (data digitally swirled)

50.35 Anti-depressant graph (data visibly digitally swirled)

56.59 Times quote (blurred and audio muted)

58.22 Daily Mail quote (muted)

63.30 This is why this is such a heartbreaking, cruel irony.

NB: I’m not suggesting malintent, it appears that copyright fears are out of hand, to the point that from the video it’s impossible to determine the source or even the nature of the majority of citations. As the youtube comments make clear this is a pretty big deal for public viewers who even if they can track down the source themselves, can’t view journal papers without a subscription – nowadays normally approaching thousands of pounds for a basic sub. Without a sub, non-academics and third world academics are typically looking at £20 plus a day for 24 hours DRM restricted use of a singe article, on a single computer.

By the way, a massive thanks is due once again for all of your hard work, especially taking so much time to deliver public talks and for making so much of your work available without a paywall, a near impossible feat for todays researchers it now seems.



Censored Material (To be updated as more information becomes available):

David Cameron The Lecture You Were Never Meant to See (UNCUT)

“I ask the Government not to return to retribution and war on drugs. That has been tried, and we all know that it does not work”

David Cameron, House of Commons, 5th December 2002



Media Bias in Drug reporting The Lecture You Were Never Meant to See (UNCUT)

Media Bias in Reporting of Drug Deaths (Click for PDF)


Click here to read more on the continuing censuring of scientists and medical experts from drug policy.

Relevant References:

Nutt, D., King, L., & Phillips, L. (2010). Drug harms in the UK: a multicriteria decision analysis The Lancet, 376 (9752), 1558-1565 DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(10)61462-6

Nutt, D. (2009). Estimating drug harms: a risky business? Centre for Crime and Justice Studies (PDF)

Halpern JH, Sherwood AR, Hudson JI, Gruber S, Kozin D, & Pope HG Jr (2011). Residual neurocognitive features of long-term ecstasy users with minimal exposure to other drugs. Addiction (Abingdon, England), 106 (4), 777-86 PMID: 21205042

Carhart-Harris, R., Erritzoe, D., Williams, T., Stone, J., Reed, L., Colasanti, A., Tyacke, R., Leech, R., Malizia, A., Murphy, K., Hobden, P., Evans, J., Feilding, A., Wise, R., & Nutt, D. (2012). Neural correlates of the psychedelic state as determined by fMRI studies with psilocybin Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1119598109




Measham,F. Moore, K. Østergaard, J. (2011). Mephedrone, ‘‘Bubble’’ and unidentified white powders: the contested identities of synthetic ‘‘legal highs” DRUGS AND ALCOHOL TODAY, 11, 137-146 (PDF)

Editorial team (2010). The EMCDDA annual report 2010: the state of the drugs problem in Europe. The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, also published in Euro surveillance :European communicable disease bulletin, 15 (46) PMID: 21144426  (PDF)

World Health Organisation (WHO). (2009). Report on mortality and burden of disease attributable to selected major risk. GLOBAL HEALTH RISKS. (PDF)

Institute of Alcohol Studies. (2006). The Impact of Alcohol on the NHS Factsheet (PDF)

(Note: I wasn’t at the lecture but I organised a very similar lecture, by Prof. Nutt in Bristol last year and conducted an interview with him, so I know what was on some of the censored slides)

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NB: Due to how the ONS report drug related deaths  “tobacco deaths” include only deaths registered in England (not Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland), while “alcohol deaths” include deaths from the whole of the UK. All other drug related deaths include deaths registered in England and Wales. There are also key differences in the way alcohol and tobacco related deaths are recorded when compared to other types of drug related deaths that suggest the numbers for alcohol and tobacco related deaths should be greater still (see footnote). Lodge your complaint to the ONS for failing to make all types of drug deaths comparable.

Below is a roundup of this year’s drugs news along with the latest available statistical data. All sources are open-access and are listed at the bottom of the page.

  • The graph below shows the distribution of drug related deaths registered in the UK according to the Office of National Statistics.
All drug deaths 2010 2011: The Year in Drugs

Drugs Deaths: Click for interactive (JAVA) version

  • The stats fit in accurately with the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs conclusion published in the Lancet last year that most popular illegal drugs are generally far safer than the big two legal drugs.
All drug deaths excluding alcohol and tobacco 2010 2011: The Year in Drugs

Drug related deaths after excluding alcohol and tobacco: Click for interactive (JAVA) version

  • The numbers fall drastically if you remove deaths involving poly-drug use.
Single Drugs deaths 2010 statistics 2011: The Year in Drugs

Drugs deaths last year after excluding deaths involving more than one drug

  • Excluding deaths caused by polydrug use shows that almost all deaths reported as mephedrone deaths, cannabis deaths and ecstasy deaths were misreported in the media. Most were caused by other drugs or mixing with other drugs (such as alcohol). The data in fact shows that there have only ever been two deaths in the UK solely caused by mephedrone  (both last year). There were in fact only five deaths solely related to ecstasy and two deaths solely related to cannabis. This compares to 98 deaths solely caused by paracetamol and 157 deaths solely caused by antidepressants. The major insight from this data is that it is very often dangerous to mix your drugs and it is particularly dangerous to mix drugs with alcohol.
Single Drugs deaths 2010 statistics raw1 2011: The Year in Drugs

Source: Office of National Statistics

This compares to 81,400 tobacco deaths and 8,644 alcohol deaths last year. The ONS records alcohol and tobacco deaths differently from “drug deaths” so suicides and deaths such as road traffic accidents while under the influence  aren’t actually included in the alcohol death statistics but they are included in the drug death statistics making the real disparity even wider than is apparent here (more on this in the footnote).

  • According to the ONS data, in 2010 there were more helium deaths than cannabis, ecstasy, mephedrone and GHB related deaths combined. Helium is an inert gas which kills when people use helium to deprive themselves of oxygen. The recent explosion in helium deaths from under two per year until 2008 to 32 last year appears to be due to it’s recent promotion as a form of suicide.
Helium 2011: The Year in Drugs

Oh, will somebody please think of the children!

  • In 2010 deaths involving cocaine, amphetamines and ecstasy dropped significantly, repeating the previous year’s abrupt downturn following a steep upwards path for ten years.

Evidence from the military suggests this was the direct effect of the exploding UK mephedrone market. The background to this is a year on year rise in military cocaine detection since 2000 followed by a 50% drop in cocaine detection in the military in 2008 which continued through 2009. Mephedrone was banned in the summer of 2010 due to a moral outcry in the tabloids. If we infer that the mephedrone boom was the reason for the fall in illegal drugs deaths last year then we should prepare to see a rise in cocaine, amphetamine and ecstasy deaths this year perhaps returning to pre-mephedrone levels by 2013.

Cocaine Ecstasy Amphetamine mephedrone deaths graph1 2011: The Year in Drugs

Deaths associated with cocaine, amphetamines, ecstasy and mephedrone

  • In November one study (PDF) in the North West of England reported on the increasing “indiscriminate use” of “unidentified white powders” described as “bubble” overtaking mainstream drugs in popularity.

It found that self reported use of “bubble” was higher than for mephedrone or amphetamines. 18% of people asked reported having taken “bubble”, amphetamine use in the past month crashed to 3% compared to 9% for bubble. “Survey respondents were not only unclear about, but also apparently unconcerned about the specific chemical identity of the stimulant white powders they consume”… “a considerable number of respondents were adamant that they had never heard of mephedrone but that they had taken Bubble”.

Snow 2011: The Year in Drugs

More people in NW England are now using unidentified white powders "bubble" than mephedrone or amphetamines

  • In July, the tragic death of Amy Winehouse shocked the world, largely because the cause of death was an overdose of alcohol rather than of the illegal drugs she was infamous for indulging in.
amy winehouse RIP1 2011: The Year in Drugs


  • In August the UK experienced the worst rioting in our history. The reasons for the riots were undoubtedly complex but there is little doubt that drug laws played a part.

According to DOH statistics the proportion of young people that have used drugs is 44.1%. There are 11,728 people currently jailed in the UK for drug offences and a prison sentence is still the most common outcome for someone convicted of drug dealing. In the past year 228,425 people were convicted of possession of a drug and 39,966 were convicted of dealing.

Drugs are second only to “violence against the person” as the primary reason for imprisonment in the UK.  According to the MOJ riot statistics 10% of those convicted of taking part in the riots had a previous drug conviction, this compares to 3.6% who were previously convicted of robbery, 5% previously convicted of burglary and 6% previously convicted for violent offences. The UK’s drug laws have criminalised a significant proportion of our society, resulting in millions of people who are permanently unable to find employment and seem to think they have nothing more to gain from being a part of society. In the UK you are 6 times more likely to be arrested for drug offences if you are black, and you’re also 11 times more likely to be imprisoned despite there being no difference in levels of drug use between races. The enforcement of the drug laws may be the foundation of the adversarial attitude taken  by a large proportion of people in the UK towards the police.

riot police 2011: The Year in Drugs

Riot Police in Manchester

steve jobs LSD4 2011: The Year in Drugs


  • Have you ever wondered whether the old urban myth that one in five bank notes has traces of cocaine on it is true? This month the police answered that question. The proportion of bank notes with cocaine on them has risen to 11% (up from 4% in 2005).
how many bank notes have traces of cocaine 2011: The Year in Drugs

11% of bank notes contain traces of cocaine

  • A massive longitudinal study last month found that intelligent people are far more likely to take drugs including cocaine, cannabis, ecstasy, amphetamines and magic mushrooms. IQ scores were recorded at the age of five years old, drug use was recorded at the ages of fifteen and thirty.
“The odds of cannabis use were threefold higher for boys and 4.6-fold higher for girls in the top third compared to the bottom third”
Anti cannabis1 2011: The Year in Drugs

Women with a higher IQ are 4.6 times more likely to use cannabis

..The findings stumped the authors of the research and may well have become the first study in history to leave the Daily Mail quite literally speechless. I’d like to propose an explanation. Intelligent people realise that most of the “facts” they are told about drugs are untrue or exaggerated and decide to experiment themselves because intelligent people are adventurous. Why are we only realising this now? Intelligent people rarely get caught and when they do they know how (or know the right people) to get out of trouble.

  • Also this year there have been a number of huge international reports calling for an end to the war on drugs. The Global Commission on Drugs formed by former presidents and experts delivered a resolute conclusion:
Confederacy of dunces 2011: The Year in Drugs
“End the criminalization, marginalization and stigmatization of people who use drugs but who do no harm to others. Challenge rather than reinforce common misconceptions about drug markets, drug use and drug dependence.” (PDFThe same resolution was handed out in a letter signed by over sixty world leaders, professors, doctors, MP’s and public figures.
The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) released a tonne of fascinating statistics (PDF) such as:
  • Last year 7283 tonnes of cannabis was seized worldwide.
8 tonne boulder 2011: The Year in Drugs

That is equivalent to a large forest or 910 of these boulders.

  • Last year 42 new drugs were detected in circulation.
New psychoactive substances 2011: The Year in Drugs

"New" Psychoactive substances (new meaning never before monitored by the EMCDDA, not necessarily newly created)

drug dog 2011: The Year in Drugs

80% of searches based on drug dogs found nothing

All in all, in this year’s round up on the war on drugs, the drugs once again didn’t do too badly. If you think you may have a problem with drugs you should of course seek medical help, if there is even a small chance this might be the case it’s worth taking a look at the applications now becoming available to enable you to assess your drug use yourself and track your addiction treatment progress on your mobile phone. Recording your drug use (including alcohol and prescription medications) is a very good way to enable you to see things objectively and help prevent yourself from falling in to a downward spiral.
drugs are bad 2011: The Year in Drugs

"Just Say No"

I am aware it’s a tautology to say “alcohol and drugs” because by all definitions alcohol is a drug. This is why I included alcohol and tobacco deaths in this analysis despite the Office of National Statistics (ONS) decision to report alcohol and tobacco deaths separately from drug death statistics. Due to the fact that the data is not strictly comparative, the gap between alcohol and tobacco and most other drugs is actually likely to be far larger than  estimated by the ONS (for this reason, drug deaths data is from 2010 whilst alcohol data is from 2009, both are the most recent ONS datasets available).
In 2006 the ONS adjusted their methods for recording alcohol related deaths (but not drug deaths) to “only includes deaths where the cause is specifically related to alcohol consumption and is also the underlying or main cause of death”…. “apart from deaths due to accidental poisoning with alcohol, the definition excludes any other external causes, such as road traffic deaths and other accidents, and suicides and homicides where alcohol may have played a role in the circumstances leading to death. The definition also does not include any proportions of causes where alcohol has been shown to have some causal link.”
The drugs deaths on the other hand were only required to be linked to drugs without the stringent controls used to record alcohol related deaths.
Deaths related to drug poisoning as reported by the ONS also include amongst other factors “deaths related to mental and behavioural disorders due to drug use” and “intentional self-poisoning by drugs”
In my opinion the ONS’s decision to fail to collect alcohol and tobacco death data that is truly comparative to drug death data is a fraud. The absence of alcohol and tobacco on the hundreds of pages of data the ONS produce on drugs shrouds the fact that alcohol and tobacco deaths alone dwarf the numbers of deaths linked to most drugs by a factor of thousands. Playing devil’s advocate, one innocent explanation for the splitting of the data could be purely practical reasons. Such is the disparity between alcohol / tobacco deaths and drug deaths that If you want the data to be comparative on a graph smaller than a football pitch you either have to do what I have done and use an interactive graph, or you have to use a logarithmic scale or find some other way of mashing up the graph. When I tried to make a graph using the data above the graph looked like a representation of the ecosystem. The tobacco deaths ride high like the sky, the alcohol deaths looked liked the sea and the drug deaths in comparison looked like pond life scraping at the very bottom. To even be able to discern the differences between the different drugs in the graph you would have to blow up the graph to the size of a swimming pool.


Here’s the longitudinal (graph), after excluding tobacco both because the ONS tobacco data is inconsistently recorded and because it would require the size of the graph to be scaled up by a factor of about ten…
Drug deaths excluding alcohol 5002 2011: The Year in Drugs

All drugs deaths 1993-2010 (ONS)

..Yes, this visualisation of the graph is completely and utterly useless, but that is my point. Here is the raw dataset I collated, my graphs were created using manyeyes. If you think there are any flaws in my case please do let me know using the comments form below. Check out the sources below and have a go exploring the data yourself.






Nutt, D., King, L., & Phillips, L. (2010). Drug harms in the UK: a multicriteria decision analysis The Lancet, 376 (9752), 1558-1565 DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(10)61462-6

Measham,F. Moore, K. Østergaard, J. (2011). Mephedrone, ‘‘Bubble’’ and unidentified white powders: the contested identities of synthetic ‘‘legal highs” DRUGS AND ALCOHOL TODAY, 11, 137-146 (PDF)

Editorial team (2010). The EMCDDA annual report 2010: the state of the drugs problem in Europe. The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, also published in Euro surveillance :European communicable disease bulletin, 15 (46) PMID: 21144426  (PDF)

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researchblogging Daily Mail Demolition: Just one cannabis joint can bring on schizophrenia

After my experimental annotated case study of “the worst piece of drugs reporting I have ever read” resulted in two take-downs (The Metro & The Hull Daily Mail) and one correction (The Independent), I’ve decided to do the same for a piece recently  published by the Mother-ship of shoddy journalism, the Daily Mail. Just hit play and use the scroll wheel on your mouse to zoom in and out as you as you please.

For the full audio visual experience of how reading the Daily Mail makes me feel, try scrolling around the article while playing the video below. If reading the Daily Mail makes you feel the same way, please join the newly launched Daily Mail Demolition Squad.

For further reading check out the coverage by UKCIA. Peter Reynolds at Clear UK is awaiting a response on a PCC complaint, you can help speed up the process by making a complaint yourself. The original article “Just ONE cannabis joint ‘can bring on schizophrenia’ as well as damaging memory” appeared in the Daily Mail on 26th October 2011.

Update: The UKCIA have also filed a PCC complaint against the Daily Mail, follow their complaint here. They’ve also done a tremendous review of the history of the Mail’s reporting on cannabis here.


Kucewicz MT, Tricklebank MD, Bogacz R, & Jones MW (2011). Dysfunctional prefrontal cortical network activity and interactions following cannabinoid receptor activation. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 31 (43), 15560-8 PMID: 22031901 (PDF).

Update (29/01/2012): This nomination won the Orwellian Prize for Journalistic Misrepresentation!

Update (15/01/2012):

I have submitted this piece for the Orwellian prize for journalistic misrepresentation which uses the scoring system below:

* Factual error in the title: 3 points
* Factual error in a subtitle: 2 points
* Factual error in the body of the article: 1 point

Nominated article:

Misrepresented source article: (PDF)

Nominator: Neurobonkers (neurobonkers at gmail dot com)

Total: 23 Points

[Just ONE] (3) [cannabis joint] (3) [‘can cause psychiatric episodes] (3) similar to schizophrenia’ as well as [damaging memory] (3)
[Strongest evidence yet, claim scientists] (2)
Rats used in experiments
Created 10:21 PM on 25th October 2011

[Smoking] (1) [just one cannabis joint can bring on symptoms of schizophrenia] (1), a study has found.
Researchers at the University of Bristol have, [for the first time, looked in detail at the changes in the brains of cannabis users] (1).
[They found the drug disrupts the same parts of the brain as the psychotic illness, those associated with memory and decision-making] (1).

Scientists at the University of Bristol [found that even one cannabis joint could trigger schizophrenia] (1)
Cannabis abuse has previously been linked with increased rates of schizophrenia but [this is the strongest evidence yet that the drug mimics its effects](1).
The [scientists studied rats who had been given the active ingredient of cannabis] (1) – [in a similar dose to a person smoking a joint](1).

Using electrodes embedded into their brains – which cannot be done in humans – they found those who had the drug were ‘significantly impaired’ in carrying out tasks for up to two hours afterwards.
[If this dose of cannabis has the same effect on humans, just one joint could significantly change their behaviour] (1).
Dr Matt Jones, the lead author of the study said: ‘Cannabis is making normal people behave more like schizophrenia patients when they take it and that’s something they should bear in mind.
‘Previous studies have shown a link but we didn’t have this level of detail.
‘What we have shown is that the brain waves which process information and share it with other regions of the brain become de-synchronised like parts of an orchestra playing out of synch.
‘Cannabis has a docile reputation in the drug world. Most people would accept that cannabis abusers are not at their sharpest and might have subtle impairments in memory or decision making but sometimes small doses of the ingredient can cause psychiatric episodes similar to schizophrenia.’

Tests were carried out on rats – and scientists discovered that the creatures were affected for up to two hours after being exposed to cannabis
In experiments, the rats who were given cannabis all became unable to make accurate decisions when navigating around a maze, compared with those who had not been given any.
Two parts of their brain were shown to be affected – the hippocampus which is essential for forming new memories and prefrontal cortex which integrates those memories and uses them for future behaviour and decision-making.
Disruption of the brain waves which allow these two areas to communicate is what happens in schizophrenia, a mental disorder.
It is associated with muddled thought which causes problems in social interaction, bizarre and paranoid delusions and changes in behaviour.
Dr Jones added: ‘You might feel fine – the rats overt behaviour did not look impaired – but when asked to make rapid and accurate decisions following a joint of cannabis, the cross-talk between these parts of the brain was not normal.
‘Taking cannabis while sitting on the couch watching DVDs is one thing, but if you decide to drive to the shops, that’s when the cognitive impairments come out.’
He said super-strong versions of cannabis – known as ‘skunk’ – contain a higher proportion of the active ingredient THC and would most likely have an even more pronounced effect.
The researchers, whose study is published today in the Journal of Neuroscience, hope further research will help them develop treatments for these effects which could help people with mental illnesses.
Schizophrenia is linked to a number of genes, and previous studies have shown cannabis use can accelerate the risk of developing the disease in people who are already pre-disposed to get it.
An analysis of 83 studies earlier this year involving 22,000 young people, concluded that smoking cannabis can accelerate the onset of psychotic illnesses by several years making them harder to treat successfully.
Recently scientists in Germany and the Institute of Psychiatry in London found people who use cannabis are doubling their risk of developing psychotic problems – including schizophrenia as well as paranoid ideas, hallucination and hearing voices.
They looked at 1,900 young people aged 14 to 24 and found a link at a very early stage of use among youngsters who had never experienced such symptoms before.

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It’s easy for me to go after the tabloids, it doesn’t take a genius to see how the Daily Mail is full of lies or that Fox news distorts the facts to the extend that their consumers are left knowing less than when they started. With the broadsheets it’s a different story. The broadsheets brings with them an air of respectability, a faithful following of educated  intellectuals who trust the newspapers enough not to bother checking their sources, which (when you do some research) often fall apart like a year old muffin. First in the firing line is the Independent. This paper is particularly dangerous because like their sworn enemies the redtops, the Independent is predisposed to shameless hyperbole; unlike the tabloids, most people trust what the paper says.

canop When hyperbole becomes a public health issue

The Independent make a full about turn from their ten year campaign for legalisation

One of the first posts I did on this blog was about how, after a ten year campaign for cannabis legalisation,  the Independent made a full about turn and placed a front page apology for their actions based on only a shred of evidence. The Independent got their facts wrong on a grand scale including wrongly reporting that the ACMD were to recommend cannabis be upgraded (the opposite was true) and wrongly reporting the figures for the the increase in cannabis strength by a factor of thirty times!

Independent pocket money heroin When hyperbole becomes a public health issue

Recently the Independent have continued their campaign of hyperbole filled drug scare stories with a report about Valium that failed to mention the word “Valium”. The report was littered with glaring errors – (edit: now slightly mitigated after my complaint to the PCC – see my report on the similar Hull Daily Mail article and the Metro article, both taken down after my complaints to the PCC). Of key importance is the fact that the article wrongly reports that Valium is used to treat depression when in reality Valium is an addictive anxiety drug that worsens depression. This is a severe editorial failure because the millions of people who read the Independent and who have easy access to Valium (or already use the drug recreationally) would be likely, after reading the Independent article to use the drug to self medicate if they get depressed. Conversely, the addictive nature of Valium is not mentioned in the article. The report also likens the drug to Speed, something which anyone who knows anything about Benzodiazepines will find laughable. Once again, the report seems to be little more than a reworded press release, this time from a rather spectacularly misinformed police force.

Miracle Cure When hyperbole becomes a public health issue

Miracle cures sell papers far better than they cure illnesses

This week the Guardian’s Observer caused somewhat of a storm among the skeptic bloggers after running a fawning article about Burzynski; a controversial cancer doctor in Texas who for the past 30 years has encouraged the parents of children with cancer to send him their children to take part in his “trials”. All for a tidy sum of hundreds of thousands of dollars a pop of course.

burzynski clinic When hyperbole becomes a public health issue

Yet another science story with apparently no background research in to the scientific background whatsoever

Burzynski has never published any peer reviewed research of his findings and his licence is under investigation by US authorities. Rather than tackling his critics with debate or published work he respondents by issuing “cease and desist” libel threats to anyone who criticises him as the Quackometer and Rhys Morgan found out this week. Luckily for Burzynski, the Independent is on hand to send him a few million uncritical hits to add to his army of “placard waving supporters drummed up by PR campaigns”.

Blah When hyperbole becomes a public health issueIn researching this article, I stumbled across the holy grail I was looking for, a rather enlightening piece by one of the Independent’s health correspondent’s Jeremy Lawrence. The “manifesto for failure” is full of choice quotes that explain in detail the pithy reasons given for why journalists don’t bother checking facts. This piece invites the rather spectacular riposte by the target of the article, Dr. Ben Goldacre. Hopefully more of the bloggers that are doing such a sterling job of dismantling the main stream media garbage can get picked up by the major papers. Sooner rather than later please.

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