Archive for the 'Science Politics' category

In which I serve up a big fattie for my self-perceived critics

Dec 23 2009 Published by under Cannabis, Public Health, Science Politics

ResearchBlogging.orgThere is an interesting paper that I just ran across which will possibly please a certain segment of my audience. You see, it provides a bit of a test of the hypothesis frequently bandied by my commenters that anti-drug messages backfire. That if you tell adolescents all sorts of bad things are going to happen to them if they try an illicit drug once, and it doesn't happen, somehow you are actually encouraging them to try the drug again. This general area is an occasional interest of mine and you can read a few thoughts here, here, here, here and here. The paper itself is this one.
Skenderian JJ, Siegel JT, Crano WD, Alvaro EE, Lac A. Expectancy change and adolescents' intentions to use marijuana. Psychol Addict Behav. 2008;22(4):563-569. [Free PubMed Central version]
This paper describes a secondary analysis of data collected under the National Survey of Parents and Youth which focuses on the efficacy of an anti-drug media campaign. This means that it is, necessarily, correlational in nature, not a prospective experiment*. The purpose of this secondary study was laid out as:

There are many possible reasons for [poor effect of anti-drug messages] including the possibility that the typical campaign often is designed to develop expectancies regarding marijuana use outcomes that may not be experienced by the initiate. Changes in expectancies regarding marijuana, and the effects of such changes on initiates' intentions to continue use, are the focus of this investigation.

In short, if we deliver lies-to-children to adolescents, do we end up encouraging cannabis use?

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How would you like some posturing Congress Critter to de-fund your grant?

Apparently Rep Issa (R; CA) has been successful in getting his amendment to prevent the NIH from funding three research projects through the House of Reps (or was it just committee?). We'll have to follow this to see how it goes. The grants are apparently:

(Ed note: RePORTER FAIL! can't figure out how to direct link projects..I'll work on it. Update: CRISP to the partial rescue)
Great isn't it? There you are, fighting to get your project funded, surmounting the usual procedural hurdles in the grant process. Finally, you get the grant funded and can get down to the business for which you are employed- doing good science in the interests of national, nay worldwide, public health. And some politician wants to prevent further funding of your project in the middle of the award period for naked political posturing purposes. Grand.
This is not new. Remember Rep Toomey?

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The Public is Ahead of Politicians on Improving Addiction Health Care Services?

A recent alert from the CEnter for Substance Abuse Research presented a snippet of data from a survey on attitudes towards health care services for addiction. I tracked back to the original survey for some additional data and was pleasantly surprised to find majorities in favor of improving health care services for the drug addicted in the US.

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Vintage Terra Sigillata on MDMA Harm Reduction

May 28 2009 Published by under General Politics, MDMA, Science Politics

Abel Pharmboy has re-posted a blog entry he first published in Dec 2005 entitled Rave drug testing - public benefit?.

Sounds like a good thing to me: your kid is at a rave party and wants to experiment with some substance that you took blindly 30 years ago without thinking about twice. Fortunately, the party has a booth staffed by a staff of profs and grad students who are willing to anonymously run a sample of your stash through a Bio-Rad HPLC that has a library of comparative chromatograms for over 1000 psychoactive compounds.

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President Obama Addresses Marijuana Legalization

Apr 01 2009 Published by under General Politics, Public Health, Science Politics

I"ve been following the doings of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) off and on. First there was the announcement of Gil Kerlikowske as the new Drug Czar, which pointed to a considerably more relaxed, harm-reduction type of approach to drug policy from Obama. Next I cam to the realization that Obama had reduced the Drug Czar from a Cabinet level position to something much lesser.
Checking out the ONDCP site today, I noticed a link in their policy news section:

President Obama Addresses Marijuana Legalization during Virtual Town Hall Meeting
The trial run of Open for Questions at the White House wrapped up with more than 3,606,000 total votes, and the President answered several of the most popular questions. During the meeting the President addressed marijuana legalization:

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Bush's Drug Czar: The Anti-Science Gift That Keeps on Giving

The Examiner has a piece up decrying the fact that "Federal Programs Gave Addicts Street Drugs" (Bill Myers, 03-26-09).
OMG! That sounds horrible! Why on Earth would the US government be doing that?

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Restoring Science to Its Rightful Place: The UK Drugs Edition

The latest round of scientists being informed, rudely, that the political process does not march in lockstep with scientific analysis or information hails from the U.K. The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs was first established under the Misuse of Drugs Act (1971). Under this Act drugs are to be classified as A, B or C category for harm with "A" being the most harmful category. MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, "Ecstasy") is in the most harmful category.
nutt.jpg
The unfortunately named David Nutt, Ph.D., Professor of Psychopharmacology, Univ. of Bristol and current chair of the Advisory Council, believes that MDMA should be downgraded to a lesser harm category. He has issued opinion pieces comparing MDMA's propensity for causing harm favorably with alcohol and waxed enthusiastic about the current clinical trials. This was all well and good but what really got him into trouble was his attempt at the absurdist ploy.

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Obama Administration's Drug Czar: R. Gil Kerlikowske

During the early speculation (my brief pre-take) the name of Jim Ramsted (TierneyLab take) was raised as possbile head of the Office of Drug Control Policy. Ramsted, a Republican Congressman had a record of opposing needle-exchange programs and medical marijuana. Now Obama has apparently settled on R. Gil Kerlikowske, the Seattle Chief of Police.

President Barack Obama has selected Seattle's police chief to be the nation's next drug czar, an administration official said Thursday.
Gil Kerlikowske will lead the Office of National Drug Control Policy, a position that has in past administrations been a Cabinet-level post, according to an official who would speak only on the condition of anonymity because no official announcement has been made.
The official did not know if the position would be a Cabinet post, but said its status would become clear when Kerlikowske was announced. The official did not know when the appointment would be announced.

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The Institutional Squeeze: As if the NIH budget wasn't enough bad news

It's been a rough patch over the past two or three years for many NIH-funded research programs. This is not news. The NIH budget flatlines, combined with inflation in the cost of doing biomedical research (BRDPI is a well understood acronym by now), resulted in a budget that undoubled the doubling period. The growth in the research infrastructure that was facilitated by the doubling of the NIH budget had to be pared back. Painfully.
In many ways we are starting to partially adjust. PIs have closed or slimmed their shops. Departed all-soft-money jobs for lower profile institutions with hard money. Left for industry. Decreased the size of their labs. The NIH grant pressure has (seemingly) slackened a bit. Whether because of the reduced demand, because NIH ICs finally got their houses in order and smoothed the payout stream or because some of the 5yr commitments from the end of the doubling finally started to subside I don't know. Things seem ever so slightly better in the past 6-9 mo.
And now, the other shoe is falling. The local Universities are going broke and putting another squeeze on the research scientists.

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Partisan Attacks on Research

Congressmen serving on committees dealing with aspects of research...are often well disposed toward support of scientific research...they cannot afford...to become vulnerable. They must take into account tides of public opinion.
As a partisan document, the article is a triumph. Research is confused with development..downgraded by citation of examples likely to seem ridiculous to the reader and by skillful choice of guilt-connoting words--such phrases as ..."sprawling research program"..."lucrative contracts"...."getting fat at the public trough".

and it just gets worse...

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