Pubdate: Sat, 01 Jul 2000
Source: Saint Paul Pioneer Press (MN)
Copyright: 2000 St. Paul Pioneer Press
Contact:  345 Cedar St., St. Paul, MN 55101
Author: Paul M. Bischke - The writer is co-director of the Drug Policy 
Reform Group of Minnesota.


The Page 1 headline "Heroin deadliest drug in Cities" [June 22] was
the most ignorant and ridiculous sentence I have ever read in the
Pioneer Press.

The deadliest drugs in the Twin Cities, in order of deaths annually,
are 1. tobacco, 2. alcohol, 3. prescription drugs, 4. aspirin and
other over-the-counter drugs. If the drugs were itemized individually,
heroin probably wouldn't even rank in the top 20.

I am appalled that Carol Falkowski of the Hazelden Foundation could
have made such a gross error and that reporter Hannah Allam could have
overlooked such a preposterous mistake in her report. No competent
drug professional would deny that tobacco, alcohol, prescription drugs
and over-the-counter drugs are actually drugs; nor can anyone deny
that these drugs are far deadlier than heroin in terms of actual
deaths caused.

Your mention of MDMA ("ecstasy") in this lurid article prompts me to
recommend some scholarly reading for your reporters. They need to
understand the sociological setting in which they are practicing
journalism on drug issues.

"Synthetic Panics: The Symbolic Politics of Designer Drugs," by
Phillip Jenkins, highlights the role of the mass media in spreading
anti-drug hysteria. While relevant to press coverage of all demonized
pleasure drugs, it focuses on drugs like MDMA and methamphetamine,
designer chemicals that inspire fear not because they are uniquely
dangerous, but because they bring into focus deeply rooted public
concerns about social and cultural upheaval. The book shows how "drug
warriors" use the tactics of "moral panic" to scapegoat marginal
individuals and minorities and to exacerbate racial, class and
intergenerational conflicts.

It is because I greatly respect the Pioneer Press that I expect the
editorial staff to correct or retract the blatant error of fact in
your headline. From now on, do your homework, fact-check all sources
that have a vested interest in the Drug War, and stop indulging in
"drug panic" journalism.

Paul M. Bischke

St. Paul
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