Perhaps The Metro would like to explain this article, which purports to expose a “new danger drug” that’s brutally murdering our kids as we speak.
The article reports that “teenagers are risking death by taking a new drug that is sold for as little as 50p a pill.” It’s called Mano 10, says the piece, and it has effects that are – quite bizarrely and contradictorily – similar to both heroin and amphetamines.
However, the drug is in fact not new. The pills marked ‘Mano 10’ are a brand of diazepam – more commonly known by its most prominent brand name, Valium.
It’s a quite remarkable error for the paper to make, but impressively they attempt to back up their made-up story by going to the police for quotes. (If I were less cynical, it would continue to surprise me that journalists go to the police for quotes on drugs stories, instead of scientists. However, we do live in a country where drug policy is considered to be a purely legal matter, rather than having anything to do with medical policy at all.)
And the police say that “these pills are being sold quite openly on the streets and they are being sold for 50p, which is pocket money. We know of one 15-year-old girl who started taking Mano 10 on a Monday and by Friday she was addicted to it.” It’s a fucking disgrace, as Bernard Manning would say.
The police also know of a 17-year-old boy who has taken the drug, which is, spectacularly, enough for Sgt. Mark Peasgood to claim that the drug “can kill”. Of course, it can. Much like any drug – legal, illegal or prescription-only – can kill if not taken sensibly. Remember, you can quite easily die from drinking too many cups of coffee.
Next, enter PC Dan Lee. He says that “Mano 10 is sold as a headache tablet and is produced in Thailand.”
Let’s just read that again to make sure I’ve got it right.
“Mano 10 is sold as a headache tablet and is produced in Thailand.”
Diazepam is never, ever used to treat headaches, to my knowledge. It’s used to treat cases of severe anxiety, and sometimes to tackle persistent insomnia. If you’ve got a headache, you take paracetamol, aspirin or ibuprofen. If it’s absolutely agonising you might be given something like codeine in a low dose. Diazepam does not cure headaches. It’s also produced in a great number of countries other than Thailand, including right here in the UK.
Worryingly, reports The Metro, it is believed that in the UK, a version of this tablet is being sold that is “laced with heroin”.
As with all these reports of Drug A being “laced” (always “laced”) with Drug B, or of super-strength versions of Drug C arriving on the scene to murder our teenagers, I would like people to ask “why?” before mindlessly reporting it.
Why would you add heroin to diazepam and then sell it for less money than you could make by just selling the heroin?
To get the kids addicted? Sell them the diazepam: it’s an addictive drug anyway. But then why would you need to get kids addicted to a drug? It’s not like there is a shortage of addicts who will happily swap some coins for some chemicals.
You can’t lace a pill with a thing. Either the thing is in it, or it isn’t. Putting heroin in one of these pills would be pretty silly. It’s relatively benign when taken orally (it converts to morphine pretty quickly), and you’d have to put far more of it in there to get much of an effect. It would be terrible business sense on the part of the producers and dealers.
Anyway, it’s nice to know that Peta Godney, who works for Compass, a drugs charity, knows that Mano 10 is “similar to benzodiazepine”. So similar, in fact, that it is a benzodiazepine. The Metro reports that this drug (not category of drugs) is an anti-depressant. But benzodiazepines are never prescribed for this unless the depressive symptoms are related to an anxiety disorder.
Godney says benzos are respiratory depressants, “which means you are in danger of stopping breathing.” Well, it doesn’t really mean that, Peta, but I’ll give you this one: you at least know that “respiratory”, in this instance, is something to do with your lungs.
Slow claps all around? I might try to get in touch with the people interviewed tomorrow, to discern quite how much of this alarmingly inaccurate report is invented by The Metro, and how much of it is people who really should know better providing a naive journalist with completely nonsensical information. It could be the latter. The police have been known to file utter rubbish as press statements before, after all.
Either way, the media’s science reporting – and remember, drugs are medicine is science, not law – continues to baffle and upset me.