Daily Archives:March 7th, 2009

Hearin’ about heroin

I’m about half-way through Ben Goldacre’s splendid book ‘Bad Science’, which talks about clinical trials, homeopathy, the subtleties of the placebo effect, the supposed benefits of antioxidants, and a range of other topics, and does so in a most enjoyable way. He exposes some of the real science, and some of the nonsense, behind what is reported in the media.

Ben is a doctor who works for the NHS, has a column in The Guardian, and a web site at badscience.net. To get a feel for his work, have a look at his analysis of some recent feel-good reports in the papers and, worryingly, in Parliament. He begins:

“Seven hundred British troops seized four Taliban narcotics factories containing £50m of drugs” said the Guardian on Wednesday. “Troops recovered more than 400kg of raw opium in one drug factory and nearly 800kg of heroin in another.” Lordy that is good. In the Telegraph, British forces had seized “£50 million of heroin and killed at least 20 Taliban fighters in a daring raid that dealt a significant blow to the insurgents in Afghanistan.” Everyone carried the good news. “John Hutton, defence secretary, said the seizure of £50m of narcotics would ’starve the Taliban of funding preventing the proliferation of drugs and terror in the UK’.”


And then he looks at the real numbers. Read the post here.

© Copyright Quentin Stafford-Fraser