One of the most ridiculous pieces of "journalism" I have ever come across

Heroin laced cannabis heading to Brighton streets, police fear
8:53am Thursday 13th August 2009

By Naomi Loomes

Dealers are lacing cannabis with highly addictive heroin to get users hooked on the deadly drug.

Secret off-the-record discussions between police and a supplier in London have revealed how recreational drug users are being tricked into becoming addicted to Class A drugs.

Officers fear it could lead to a surge in addicts in Brighton and Hove, which is already known as the drug death capital of England.

They believe cannabis users are becoming accidentally dragged into heroin use.

It follows the discovery that potent, paranoia-inducing cannabis, known as skunk, was being sold in large quantities in Brighton and Hove last year.

Detective Sergeant Hari McCarthy, of Sussex Police, said: "People buy it thinking it’s just very strong weed."

"It’s not being sold as skunk, just good weed, but it’s an easy way to get users hooked on heroin."

She added that dealers mixed various chemicals with cannabis before selling it, including tranquillisers and even urine.

There are believed to be 2,300 heroin addicts in Brighton and Hove.

The revelation was made during an inquest in Brighton into the death of 34-year-old electrician Lee Donlan from a heroin overdose.

Clinical and forensic toxicologist Peter Sharpe confirmed that taking mixtures of drugs was becoming more and more common in Brighton and Hove, in particular the highly dangerous combination known as speedballing.

He said: “There’s a mixture called speedballing – it’s heroin with a bit of cocaine, usually injected into the arm or ankle.

"People like the mixture of heroin and cocaine because the cocaine reduces the low that comes after the heroin."

Okay, lets take the first claim:

"Dealers are lacing cannabis with highly addictive heroin to get users hooked on the deadly drug" - an urban myth that I can remember doing the rounds as far back as the early 1970s.

Let's think this one through: I am a cannabis dealer (I'm not BTW, I'm just pursuing a thought experiment). I start somehow mixing heroin (usually a brown powder) with my cannabis (a brown or black resin or - more likely these days - a green herbal substance). I do this in such a way that my customers don't notice the extra brown powder. Because heroin is quite expensive in relation to the profit I normally make on my cannabis and because I am not telling my customers about the heroin and therefore can't charge for it, I am now selling my cannabis at a loss .... but I have a cunning plan. Providing my customers don't notice that the cannabis I'm selling them has a completely different effect from normal cannabis and keep coming back to me to buy their cannabis for several months, I shall, one day be able to say to them: "Ha! I've been giving you heroin all these months and now you are addicted so you will have to keep buying heroin from me now." Okay, they had been regular customers in order for me to get this far, but this will absolutely ensure their continued customer loyalty .. unless, of course, they beat me to a pulp with my bong and go and buy their heroin elsewhere.

I'm sorry, but this is complete and utter nonsense.

Second claim (part of the first one in fact): "heroin is a deadly drug" - at least I assume this is what the author intended to imply. The claim is worded as though she believes that cannabis is the deadly drug.

Heroin causes constipation. That's about it. It's addictive and street heroin (cf the legal kind that addicts could get if we did not have such crazy drug laws) is full of crap. I suppose that the point being made here is that you can overdose on heroin, but, again, much of the problem here arises from the fact that heroin is traded on the black market and there are therefore no controls on strength and purity. Heroin is certainly not a deadly drug in the sense that tobacco is.

I'm not suggesting anyone takes heroin by the way. It's much better to do something worthwhile with your life.

Third claim: "Dealers mix various chemicals with cannabis before selling it, including tranquillisers and even urine"

Tranquillizers usually come as white pills these days. They are far less readily available than they used to be since it was discovered that they can lead to addiction. They are sold on the black (or "grey" - as it is sometimes called) market in their own right as recreational drugs. But, according to this article, some dealers are crushing them up and mixing the resulting white powder with cannabis. I'm not sure what effect the cannabis smokers (who are presumably too stoned to notice the white powder) are supposed to derive from inhaling the smoke from burning valium and lactose, but I can't imagine it's a very peasant effect.

And as for urine.....

So the dealer urinates over his cannabis supply - which he then has to dry out again. To what end? To increase the weight of the weed with a few milligrams of urea? I think I'd just reach for the oregano and sprinkle a bit of that in.

Claim three: "People like the mixture of heroin and cocaine because the cocaine reduces the low that comes after the heroin."

The effects of heroin wear off after several hours. The effects of cocaine start wearing off after about twenty minutes. Hard to imagine cocaine injected at the same time as heroin would help much with any come-down after the heroin wore off.

The rest of the article (which I've not reproduced) goes on to list the names of various people who have died from drug overdoses and includes some confused nonsense about dosages. The correct information is that the LD50 for heroin is between 1 and 5 mg/kg of body weight.

I suppose that there is an argument that, because we all wish to see (especially young people) taking as few drugs as possible and suffering as little harm as possible, it's perfectly okay to write complete nonsense about drugs. Anything that puts people off! But this argument only holds water if we assume that everyone is as stupid as the author of this article. In fact, most young people will read this sort of thing, and fall about laughing. While this would be the most appropriate response in this case, there is always the danger that other articles on the dangers of drugs (written by people who actually know what they are talking about) will elicit a similar response.

There is growing evidence that cannabis in general (and skunk in particular) may have long term deleterious effect on young people whose brains are still developing. (By the way, the problem with skunk is not really its strength - high strength, leads to less being smoked and therefore less lung damage - but the particular balance of psychoactive compounds it contains; though more research is required on this.)

How on earth are we going to get this genuine science across to young people who have grown up on the diet of tripe provided by newspapers like the Brighton & Hove Argus?


  1. Heh, excellent post.

    I'm a bit of a drug geek and even I have never heard of mixing urine with weed. The mind boggles.

    If you eat certain kinds of magic mushrooms, some of the active ingredients do end up in your urine, so in theory you could piss on some weed after eating some and smoke it and get some of the effect? That's the closest I've got.

    The "People like the mixture of heroin and cocaine because the cocaine reduces the low that comes after the heroin." is a straight mixup, it's actually the other way around, heroin is meant to take the edge off the cocaine comedown.

    Although they make it sound rather fun, they don't mention that it's quite dangerous...

  2. A number of hallucinogenic compounds remain active when excreted in urine, but most are rapidly destroyed when heated to the temperature of burning weed.

    To be fair to the idiot who wrote this piece, if you follow my link to the original, you will see that she does list some famous people who have died from "speedballing" – which is a kind of acknowledgement that this is not a very wise way to spend your evenings.

    Since I wrote this blog entry, it has occurred to me that the "lacing of cannabis with tranquilisers" may in fact be a reference to the adulteration of herbal cannabis with PCP (closely related to Ketamine) to make so called "super-grass". PCP is psychoactive when combusted and supergrass did enjoy a certain vogue in the USA at one time. I’m not sure – pace the success of the eponymous UK band – if weed sprayed with PCP has ever really been popular in this country. In any case, it would be normally sold at a premium under one of its many names rather than as counterfeit weed.

    BTW If anyone reading this were offerred PCP and tempted to try it, my advice would be "don't!" But, more generally, get you information from places like this (http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/816348-overview) rather than from the Brighton & Hove Argus.


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