False “overdose” of the San Diego police in a video

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When San Diego County sheriffs talk about drugs, they tend to focus on the course of the drug war: Post scary but fake news. Once again, the lies were turned around, as reporters quickly revealed the video, and activists petitioned for the withdrawal of misinformation in his post.

In this case, the video posted a video claiming to show a police officer who had a toxic reaction to the touch of white powder, which police suggested may have been fentanyl or cocaine.

The problems came immediately. People cannot overdose on drugs by touching them and the dust is not fully identified. The image on the right shows a highly addictive white powder, commonly called “sugar”. It’s sugar, but you don’t get sick from touching it with your fingers.

Meanwhile, it remains unclear whether the video is an act or whether the police officer actually fainted at the scene. Experts suggest that this could happen as a result of a panic attack.

Police lies lead to public distrust

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The founder of the Federal Bureau of Drugs, Harry J. Anslinger is a pioneer in the strategy of spreading lies through visual media about drugs, a practice commonly called “Reefer Madness” based on the film of the same name.

“The only way to overdose is by injecting, snoring or other ingestion,” Dr. Ryan Marino told the New York Times. Marino is the medical director of toxicology and addiction medicine at Cleveland University Hospitals. “You can’t overdose from second-hand.”

“It is unconscious and completely irresponsible for law enforcement agencies to continue to fabricate false stories about fentanyl,” said Cassandra Frederick, executive director of the Alliance for Drugs Policy. “Content like this simply creates more fear and irrational panic, which fuels further criminal reactions to the overdose crisis, instead of the public health approach we need. We already know how this story goes, because we experienced it in the 80’s and 90’s with crack cocaine. Law enforcement-led, media-driven hysteria inevitably leads to extreme racial bias and mandatory minimum sentences. “

It also leads people to ignore the real seriousness of addictive substances and destroys public faith in the police – especially among young people, who are usually the subject of such false allegations.

The TIME magazine covers of the so-called “crack kids”, which led to extreme sentences in the 1990s, have now been replaced by viral videos produced by local police departments claiming to show police an overdose once they have entered in contact with fentanyl, “said Frederick. “Both turned out to be false, but the devastating effects of the policy they set on fire unfairly remain.

“It’s incredibly dangerous to go back that way, especially when the United States is experiencing the highest overdose death rate in history, and we’ve finally begun to make progress in reducing extreme sentences.”

Scientific impossibility shrouded in media noise

Most opioids take 30 to 90 minutes to become fatal, and fentanyl overdose can be fatal in 10 to 15 minutes, said Professor Leo Beletsky, a professor of law and health sciences at Northeastern University in Boston. For a real overdose, either a transdermal wire should be used or the drug should be swallowed internally.

The DARE campaign, a pioneer of former Los Angeles police chief Daryl Gates, was another spectacular example of spreading false information that fascinated drug use and led to an increase in drug abuse during the so-called ‘crack’ era of the 1980s. and in the 1990s.

“Despite anecdotal reports from non-medical sources of fentanyl” overdose “overdose, it is not possible to overdose on fentanyl or fentanyl analogues through accidental skin contact or only in the immediate vicinity,” said Dr. Marino, a medical toxicologist and addiction physician. Specialist and emergency physician, assistant at the Medical School of Case Western Reserve University.

“Fentanyl and fentanyl analogues do not cross the skin barrier easily and do not aerate well. The only way to overdose on these substances is by injection, suction or ingestion, or in the case of the fentanyl patch, by mixing with an absorbable solvent and applying very large amounts over a very long period of time. In addition, opioid overdose is a clinical syndrome with well-defined characteristics that do not correspond to these reports.

“This misinformation not only hinders the appropriate responses to people who use drugs and the resuscitation of people who experience a real overdose, but also exacerbates the stigma faced by people with substance use disorders and has been used to increase the criminalization of this substance. already a vulnerable group. The fear and anxiety caused by these reports are also likely to cause the symptoms of anxiety and panic that people experience at these events. Unfortunately, our current pandemic demonstrates all too well how medical misinformation harms everyone, and knowing that more than 93,000 Americans died of overdoses in 2020, we all have a duty to ensure that everyone is better informed. “

Media campaigns are to blame for promoting fake stories

“We need to get rid of our dependence on police and criminal strategies, which are constantly failing to save lives or reduce the supply of illicit fentanyl-related substances,” Frederick added. “Instead, we need to prioritize forward-looking, health-based and approach-based approaches — such as what is required by the STOP Fentanyl Stop Act — that address the root cause of fentanyl-related overdoses and other related harms.

“We call on the media to think twice about spreading these harmful stories that have ravaged black, Latin and indigenous communities over the last 50 years and have had more serious consequences for public health and society. To that extent, we would encourage the media to engage more public health experts who can actually talk about science and solutions, rather than law enforcement, when they cover public health crises like this. And we call on Congress to pass the Fentanyl Stop Act quickly so we can start saving lives. “


The Alliance for Drugs Policy envisages a just society in which drug use and regulation are based on science, compassion, health and human rights, in which people are no longer punished for what they put into their own bodies, and in which fears, prejudices and criminal prohibitions no longer exist. Our mission is to promote those policies and attitudes that best reduce the harms of both drug use and drug prohibition, and to promote the autonomy of individuals over their minds and bodies. Learn more at drugpolicy.org.

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