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A Look at the Time Magazine Article "Choose Your Poison"
by Erowid
"Choose Your Poison", by Jill Smolowe, Time Magazine, July 26 1993

Full-text article removed at the request of Time Magazine. You may now purchase a copy of the article online from the AOL-Time-Warner-CNN planetary conglomerate.

In July 1993, an article in Time Magazine described several street practices, some for the first time in the popular national media in the United States. The story described the practice of hollowing out cigars to put cannabis inside to smoke as "blunts" and the somewhat more mythical practice of dipping cigars in malt liquor. It also mentions police noticing raves for the first time in Atlanta.

The reason the article was noteworthy at the time, however, was that the overall message of the article seemed to be that recreational psychoactive use is here to stay. The article questioned the government's claim that illegal drug use was rapidly declining:
The high times may be a changin', but America's drug scene is as frightening as ever. Last week the University of Michigan released a survey showing a rise in illicit drug use by American college students, with the most significant increase involving hallucinogens like LSD. Meanwhile a canvas of narcotics experts across the country indicated that while drug fashions vary from region to region and class to class, crack use is generally holding steady and heroin and marijuana are on the rise. Junior high and high school students surveyed by the government report a greater availability of most serious drugs. Law officials and treatment specialists on the front lines of the drug war report that the problem transcends both income and racial differences. "When it comes to drugs, there is a complete democracy," says Clark Carr, executive director of Narconon Professional Center in North Hollywood, California.
The author of the article also chooses to repeat some of the myths about LSD, quoting an expert out of context and raising the hackles of some members of the usenet drug discussion groups:
Other hard-learned lessons seem not to affect young people today. LSD use among high school seniors reached its highest level last year since 1983, according to an annual study by the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research. In the rave clubs of Los Angeles, 2 to 5 dollars buys a teenager a 10-12- hour LSD high. "LSD may be a prime example of generational forgetting," says Lloyd Johnston, principal investigator for the study. "Today's youngsters don't hear what an earlier generation heard - that LSD may cause bad trips, flashbacks, schizophrenia, brain damage, chromosomal damage and so on."
The article goes on to detail the increasing practice in the early 1990s of staking out hydroponic gardening stores:
In California, where 10 percent of the state's marijuana is grown indoors to evade detection, the DEA tracks purchases of illicit equipment, such as high-pressure sodium lights, to pick of the trail of growers. Minneapolis police have grown more sophisticated in tracking crack dealers who no longer keep cars, residences or bank accounts in their own names. "We've begun using financial records and become more knowledgeable in accounting and the flow of money," says Lieut. Bernie Bottema. It appears that level is not going to drop off anytime soon.
Finally, the article's other interesting element is that it is one of the earlier national media pieces to mention GHB as a party drug and body building supplement:
The '90s also ushered in the drug novelties. Since the turn of the decade, gamma hydroxy butyrate, known as GHB, has been used illegally in the body-building community to reduce fat. Recently, however, youths have begun to abuse the drug to achieve a trancelike state. In New York City kids concoct a "Max" cocktail by dissolving GHB in water, then mixing amphetamines. A different mix resulted in several overdoses in the Atlanta area in the past few months. Manhattan's hard-core sex community has also turned on to "Special K," or Cat Valium, an anesthetic that numbs the body.
A conversation ensued on usenet, criticising the article for misquoting one of the experts cited. The following are comments from readers of talk.politics.drugs:

From: drumm@cnsvax.uwec.edu
Newsgroups: talk.politics.drugs
Subject: Re: "Choose Your Poison" Lloyd Johnston replys!
Message-ID: <1993Jul29.140439.8778@cnsvax.uwec.edu>
Date: 29 Jul 93 14:04:39 -0600

In article , wdstarr@world.std.com (William December Starr) writes:
> 
> There's a two-page article at page 56 of the July 26, 1993 issue of Time
> magazine (cover story: The Flood of '93") entitled "Choose Your Poison,"
> with a sub-headline that reads "While the government boasts that drug
> use has fallen, the range of intoxicants has increased, snaring a new
> generation."  (That's right, folks: if you're under thirty or so and you
> enjoy using drugs, you're a victim of ensnarement! Congratulations!)
> 
> It's a nice article in that it lets most of the air out of the standard
> government claims that they are "winning" their putrid little war, but
> it doesn't exactly qualify as objective journalism.  I was especially
> impressed (not positively) by two quotes in the article:
> 
> (1) "LSD may be a prime example of generational forgetting.  Today's
> youngsters don't hear what an earlier generation heard -- that LSD may
> cause bad trips, flashbacks, schizophrenia, brain damage, chromosomal
> damage and so on."
> 
>   -- Lloyd Johnston, principal investigator for an annual study on drug
>      usage by the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research.
> 


Since none of you bothered to call Lloyd Johnston, I did so myself.
('can't pawn work off on anyone anymore!)

Lloyd says that the press release was mis-quoted  (Only Time and News Week
could "mis-quote" a written press release!)

Here is an excerpt:

"... don't hear what an earlier generation heard -- that LSD may
 cause bad trips, flashbacks, schizophrenia, brain damage, chromosomal
 damage and so on.  Some of those early assertions never were 
 substantiated, some were, and young people today are not as likely to 
 know about the dangers of the drug."

I asked Lloyd Johnston if he was upset that Time misquoted him.  He said
"no, you have to expect that from the press."

I wonder why "young people today are not as likely to know about the 
dangers of the drug."  Could it be that no one gives a shit?   



> [...]
> 
> Quote #1 is more interesting... my intuitive response is that there's a
> _reason_ why today's LSD users aren't hearing all those bad things about
> the drug, namely, that for the most part they aren't true.  However, I'm
> not an expert on what is and isn't known (as opposed to what's widely
> believed and/or broadcast in war propaganda) about the effects and
> dangers of LSD... could somebody who does know the, ahem, Straight Dope
> :-) about this please post the data?  Thanks.


LSD may cause bad trips.        Marijuana _may_ cause bad trips.

LSD may cause Flashbacks        Police _may_ cause flashbacks.

LSD caused psychosis does not occur.  Is has been shown that
    LSD has been shown to bring out existing schizophrenic behavior in
    some subjects, but even this is under dispute.

    "Hensala et. al.... concluded that LSD was basically just
    another drug of abuse in a population of frequently hospitalized
    individuals in the San Francisco area, and that it was unlikely
    that psychedelic use could be deemed etiological in the development
    of their psychiatric disorders."  ("Adverse Reactions to
    Psychedelic Drugs: a Review of the Literature" in J. Nerv and
    Mental Disease 172(10))

LSD is not known to cause brain damage although there was some research
    a while back suggesting a link between LSD and night blindness.

LSD does not cause chromosome damage.  "From our own work and
    from a review of literature, we believe that pure LSD ingested in
    moderate doses does not damage chromosomes in vivo, does not cause
    detectable genetic damage, and is not a teratogen or carcinogen in
    man."  ("LSD and Genetic Damage" Norman I. Dishotsky et. al.
    Science, Apr 30, 1972.)  Studies that have shown damage were done
    on chromosomes removed from the protective membranes of the cell.
    In this environment virtually anything can damage them.

LSD may cause "and so on."  This has happened to me several times.
    Current research is investigating a link between this and what
    my girl friend calls "the circle thing."  :)

-- Danny