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NIDA and Anti-Drug Abuse Advertising

2014-06-27

Between 1998 and 2004, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) hired, and the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy paid for “more than a billion dollars” on an advertising campaign to prevent teenagers from abusing marijuana.  A comprehensive evaluation of the program found that it did not work: viewers of the ads were more likely to think that others were using marijuana (so it might be OK to try.)  The White House did not release the report to the public for a year and a half.  The Government Accountability Office found that the report was delivered in February 2005, but NIDA did not report it as delivered until June 2006.

The White House was not interested in publicizing a report that said that it had spent a billion dollars on advertising to teenagers against marijuana that backfired.  This also partly explains why Republicans hate the Government Accountability Office.

In another minor gaffe, NIDA funded a study in 2002 that claimed that MDMA (or Ecstasy, a drug related to methamphetamine but quite distinct) caused severe dopaminergic neurotoxicity in rats.  It later was revealed that the rats had really been given extremely high doses of methamphetamine, and the study was withdrawn from publication.  Alan Leshner, publisher of Science magazine and a former NIDA director, testified in 2001 before a Senate subcommittee about the dangers of Ecstasy or MDMA.  Critics say he manipulated brain scans that actually showed no difference between MDMA users and controls to make it seem that there were differences.  Funding for MDMA research delivered to NIDA by Congress quadrupled, from  $3.4 million to $15.8 million.

(This charming factoid is mentioned in Wikipedia’s article about NIDA.)

It appears that NIDA has a vested interest in the adverse effects of recreational drugs and is willing to play fast and loose with the facts when its interests are threatened.  NIDA funds most of the research done on drugs of abuse and has used its powers to prevent scientists from studying marijuana.  It has a monopoly on marijuana for research use and supplies selected scientists with an inferior grade of about 2% potency.  It refuses to produce any higher potency, warning of possible adverse effects (commercial marijuana is usually 8% or more potency.)It has frequently refused or simply failed to supply researchers even though they have all the other needed permits and have FDA-approved research protocols.

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