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Understanding Drug War Statistics
#6.  Flash Trash

 by Alexander DeLuca, June 17, 2004. Issued and posted 6/17/2004; Modified: 2007-05-29.
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UNDERSTANDING DRUG WAR STATISTICS - Table of Contents:
 
#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

[Full Text of this Article as PDF]  --  [Modern examples of Flash Trash in table format - Updated! - 2007-05-29]

Flash Trash: 

The use of suggestive or provocative numbers or statistics, usually presented as true prima facie, which when analyzed using algebra do not in fact support the implied conclusion.
Flash Trash is inherently and purposefully misleading
.

Flash Trash is a very commonly employed prosecutorial tactic in the War on Doctors, appearing in almost every case, usually when the government attorney announces the indictment allegations in a press conference. Flash Trash is inherently and purposefully misleading; it's purpose is to prejudice the local jury pool while reinforcing the Big Lie of the 'drug crisis' in the general population. The prosecutor bets that no one, especially journalists, will bother to 'do the math' - and this bet almost always pays off. <sigh>

A famous example of Flash Trash is contained in the important Behrman case discussed in the "Historical Antecedents" section of "The War on Drugs, the War on Doctors, and the Pain Crisis in America - Eighty Years of Naked Emperors." [DeLuca, 2004] Dr. Behrman was arrested for prescribing at one time 150 grains of heroin, 360 grains of morphine and 210 grains of cocaine for use "as the addict saw fit." These amounts are not as outrageous as they might seem. Just to put the dosing here in perspective, and examining here only the morphine component of the medication regimen, 360 grains represents near ideal outpatient dosing for an opiate dependent person based on a modern understanding of methadone dose-effectiveness research.

  • 1 grain = 64.8 milligrams (mg).
     
  • Outcomes for MMTP (methadone is equipotent with morphine) are best in the dose range of 100-200 mg a day; chronic pain patients sometimes require doses in the grams /day range.
     
  • 360 grains X 64.8 mg / grain = 19,440 mg / 150 mg/day = 129.6 days = approximately 4 months supply = a script for one month with 3 refills with a little left over = medically appropriate ambulatory treatment of opiate dependence.

I have no knowledge of Dr. Behrman other than what is written about him in the document by Rufus King in his "Jailing the Healers and the Sick" article  [King, 1953] and 1972 book, The Drug Hang-Up [King, 1972b] and in Brecher's 1972 Licit and Illicit Drugs,  [Brecher, 1972c] and I do not know what his intentions were. Assuming for the sake of argument that he was acting as a legitimate physician, we could hypothesize that the morphine / heroin / cocaine regimen was part of a detoxification-to-abstinence regimen starting with morphine at, say, 200 mg /day decreasing the dose on a weekly basis, faster at first slower towards the end, switching at some point to heroin (believed at the time to be an effective 'cure' for morphine dependence) and ultimately tapering to abstinence using the cocaine, in the accepted manner of the day, to mitigate the depression and ennui known to accompany detoxification from opiates. This detoxification regimen could be accomplished, given the amounts of the medications involved, in six to twelve months depending of the patients' progress.

For another example of Flash Trash, consider the following sentence from a DEA document entitled, "A Closer Look At State Prescription Monitoring Programs" in the "Scope of the Problem" section by Susan Peine, DEA Program Analyst: "In the last five years of her life, Renee obtained at least 469 prescriptions - 11,684 doses of pills - from 43 Treasure Valley pharmacies under the names of 110 doctors." [Peine, 2003] (Presumable there were many forgeries or did she see two docs a month for 5 years? Your tax dollars at work. <sigh> See the More Examples table, directly below, for an algebraic breakdown of this little gem.


More Examples of FLASH TRASH from Recent Cases in the War on Drugs

Accused Physician / Link Misleading Prosecutorial Assertion Algebraic Analysis Comment
Paul Volkman; 2007 "[Distributing] more than 1.5 million doses of pain pills between 2001 and 2006" 1.5 mill pills / 5 yrs = 300,000 pills/yr;
1 pill q 6 hrs = 1440 pills/pt/yr;
300,000 / 1440 = 1.75 pts/day getting 4 pills a day
To imply this is an excessive number of pills or patients is absurd
William Stack; 2007 "[Distributing] about 3.5 million doses of Hydrocodone" 1 pill q 4 hrs = 2160 pills/pt/yr;
8 pts/day * 4 days/wk * 50 wks/yr = 1600 patients;
1600 * 2160 = 3.46 million doses
1 pill 6X/day of hydrocodone is inadequately LOW dose therapy for chronic pain
James Latimer; 2005

"Three of the patients... were allegedly prescribed 20,962 dosage units of narcotics in a two-year period."

20962 "units" / 3 people / 730 days = 9.6 "units" per person per day

2 pills 5X day for chronic pain is not even "high dose" therapy
William Hurwitz; 2005 "DEA Administrator Karen Tandy shows the 1,600 pills convicted physician William Hurwitz prescribed to one patient in one day." Actually it was 1200 5mg oxycodone, and a clerical error which was caught; but it amounted to 50mg 4X per day for a month Again, a moderate not "high dose" prescription
DEA 'analysis' by S. Peine; 2003 "[Over her last five years] Renee obtained... 11,684 doses of pills (sic) - from 43 pharmacies under the names of 110 doctors." 11684 doses / 1825 days = 6.4 doses per day Thank God we have the DEA to protect us from the likes of poor Renee.
Parambaloth Edwin; 2002 "[Over 19 months Edwin] illegally dispensed 685 Hydrocodone tablets... to 12 patients" 685 tabs / 12 patients / 19 months = 3 tabs per patient per month This is your Federal government on drugs.

References

DeLuca A. The War on Drugs, the War on Doctors, and the Pain Crisis in America - Eighty Years of Naked Emperors, Addiction, Pain and Public Health website (doctordeluca.com), 2004. (Available: http://www.doctordeluca.com/Library/WOD/WOD-PCA-TOC.htm).

King RB. The Narcotics Bureau and the Harrison Act - Jailing the Healers and the Sick. Yale Law Journal, 784-787. 1953. (Available: http://www.doctordeluca.com/Library/WOD/JailingHealers&Sick53.htm).

King RB. The Drug Hang Up, America's Fifty-Year Folly. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas, 1972b. (Available: http://www.druglibrary.org/special/king/dhu/dhumenu.htm).

Brecher EM. Licit and Illicit Drugs. Norton, 1972c. (Available: http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/Library/studies/cu/cumenu.htm).

Peine SI. A Closer Look at State Prescription Monitoring Programs. DEA Report to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Washington DC,  2003. (Available: http://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/pubs/program/rx_monitor/index.html).


I hope you found this document helpful. The "Understanding Drug War Statistics" series concludes with Part 7: "Shock Schlock"

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Dr. DeLuca's Addiction, Pain, and Public Health Website

Alexander DeLuca, M.D.

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Originally posted:  circa 2004-06-17

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