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San Diego police fake ‘overdose’ in video

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When San Diego County sheriffs talk about drugs, they tend to pivot toward the Drug War movement: Release some scary but false news. Once again, the lies were blown away as journalists quickly exposed the video was wrong and activists demanded a retraction of the disinformation in their place.

In this case, the fabrication was a published video that says it shows a police officer who has a toxic reaction from touching a white powder suggested that the police might be fentanyl or cocaine.

Problems emerge immediately. People cannot overdose from drugs touching them and the powder has not been completely identified. The image on the right shows a very addictive white powder, commonly called “sugar”. It’s sugary, but you don’t have diabetes by touching it with your fingers.

Meanwhile, it’s not clear if the video is an act or if the officer actually fainted on the scene. Experts suggest that it could happen as a result of a panic attack.

Police lies lead to public distrust

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Federal Narcotics Office founder Harry J. Anslinger pioneered the strategy of spreading lies through visual media about drugs, a practice commonly referred to as “Reefer Madness” based on a film of the same name. .

“The only way to overdose is to inject, suffocate or some other way of ingesting it,” Dr. Ryan Marino told the New York Times. Marino is medical director of toxicology and addiction medicine at University Hospital in Cleveland. “You can’t overdose from second-hand contact.”

“It is unconscious and completely irresponsible for the organization of the order to continue to fabricate false narratives around fentanyl,” said Kassandra Frederique, Executive Director of the Drug Alliance. “Such content simply creates more fear and irrational panic that fuels other punitive responses to the overdose crisis, rather than the public health approach we need. We already know how this story goes, because we’ve experienced it over the years.” 80 and 90 with crack-cocaine. The hysteria perpetuated by legal information, perpetuated by the media, inevitably leads to an extreme application of race and to a mandatory minimum penalty. “

It also leads to people experiencing the serious nature of addictive substances and destroys public faith in the police – particularly among young people who are typically targeted by such falsified claims.

The TIME magazine covers of the so-called “crack kids” that led to the extreme conviction in the 1990s have now been replaced by viral videos produced by local police departments that claim to show officers an overdosing after pain of contact with fentanyl, ”Frederique said. “Both have been shown to be false, but the devastating consequences of the policies they have unfairly fueled remain.

“It’s incredibly dangerous to get back on this road, especially when the US is experiencing the highest death rate from overdose in history and we’re finally starting to make progress in reducing the extreme sentence.”

Scientific impossibility wrapped in media hype

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

The pioneering DARE campaign by former LA police chief Darryl Gates was another spectacular example of spreading false information that glamorized drug use and led to an increase in drug abuse during the so-called it was “crack” in the 80s and 90s.

“Despite anecdotal reports from non-medical sources about the overdose from ‘exposure’ to fentanyl, it is not possible to overdose on fentanyl or fentanyl analogs due to accidental skin contact or close proximity alone,” Dr. Marino said. , Medical Toxicologist, Addiction Medicine Specialist and Professor of Emergency Medical Assistance at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.

“Fentanyl and fentanyl analogs do not immediately cross the skin barrier and do not aerate well.” The only way to overdose these substances is to inject them, puff them, or otherwise ingest them, or in the case of the fentanyl patch, mix them with an absorbable solvent and apply very large amounts for very long periods of time. In addition, opioid overdose is a clinical syndrome with well-defined characteristics that are not aligned with these reports.

“This misinformation not only impedes appropriate responses to people who use drugs and resuscitates people who experience a real overdose, but also exacerbates the stigma faced by people with substance use disorders and has been used to increase criminalization of this already vulnerable group.The fear and worry generated by these reports, too, are likely to cause the symptoms of anxiety and panic that people experience in these events.Our current pandemic has sadly demonstrated too well how medical misinformation harms everyone, and knowing that more than 93,000 Americans will die from overdoses by 2020, we all have an obligation to ensure that everyone is better informed. ”

The media shares the blame for promoting false narratives

“We need to get rid of our reliance on cleanup and punishment strategies before they ever fail to save lives or reduce the supply of fentanyl-related illicit substances,” Frederique adds. “Instead, we should give priority to the forward-thinking, health and evidence-based approach — as required by the STOP Fentanyl Act — that addresses the root cause of overdose in relation to fentanyl and other associated harm.

“We call on the media to reflect twice on the amplification of these harmful narratives that have devastated the Black, Latinx and Indigenous communities over the last 50 years and that have led to more serious consequences for public health and society. measure, we would encourage the media to engage more public health experts who can actually talk to science and solutions, rather than law enforcement, when they cover public health crises like these.And we urge Congress to quickly pass the STOP Fentanyl Act, so we can start saving lives. ”


The Alliance for Drug Policy envisages a just society in which the use and regulation of drugs are based on science, compassion, health and human rights, in which people are no longer punished for what they put in their body, and in which today’s fears, prejudices, and punitive prohibitions are no more. Our mission is to advance 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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