Alexander DeLuca, M.D.
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Understanding Drug War Statistics

How the government justifies and makes drug policy with junk science, by misrepresenting data, and by using statistical trickery

An series of short essays by Alexander DeLuca, M.D. This page first posted 2004-06-17. Part 6 - FLASH TRASH - was most recently revised 2005-11-04.  Some of this material was previously published in:
"The War on Drugs, the War on Doctors, and the Pain Crisis in America: Eighty Years of Naked Emperors." Part 5 is an edited excerpt of "Analysis of 'The Myth of the Chilling Effect'" published 2003-12-06.
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#1-Declare a Perpetual Crisis;  #2-Big Lies and Bullies;  #3-Junk Science Drives Policy;  #4-Outcome Obfuscation;  #5-Denominator Abuse;  #6-Flash Trash;  #7-Shock Schlock

1. Declare a Perpetual Crisis - "It is crucial that one thoroughly grasp the most robust trend in addiction epidemiology: drug use has dramatically declined over the past thirty years. Past month use rates are literally half of what they were in the 1970's, and there has been virtually no change in past-month drug use for over a decade."
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2. Big Lies & Bullies Trump Researchers in the War on Drugs -- "The message to doctors and to researchers was clear. Expect to be attacked by federal law enforcement and abandoned by your peers in the powerful AMA for your professional efforts and honesty."
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3) Junk Science Drives Policy -- "What we have here is nothing less that the incorporation of bogus data into a federal law in order to justify mandatory drug testing for government employees in pursuit of the impossible 'Drug-Free Workplace.'" [major revision June 20th]
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 4)  Outcome Obfuscation -- "A sort of statistical sleight of hand, Outcome Obfuscation is a misleading confusion of outcome and index event."
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5)  Denominator Abuse and the Chilling Effect -- "We are talking about risk here and the appropriate statistic is a rate. The Numbers in the [DEA] table can correctly be used as numerators to compute this statistic, however, 'Total DEA registrants' is NOT the appropriate denominator because the denominator must include only physicians who could possibly come to DEA attention. I call this misleading use of an incorrectly computed rate "Denominator Abuse."
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REVISED! 2005-11-04 

6)  Flash Trash -- "The use of suggestive of provocative numbers or statistics, usually presented as true prima facie, which when analyzed  using algebra, do not in fact support the implied conclusion."
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 7)  Shock Schlock -- "Shock Schlock is the presentation of lurid or otherwise shocking anecdotes in lieu of meaningful data and sober statistical analysis."
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Addiction, Pain, and Public Health website

Alexander DeLuca, M.D., MPH

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Originally posted:  2004-06-17

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