Photo Jonathan Blair

Friday, November 20, 2015

Why must so much media coverage about drugs be over the top...

Vox's German Lopez is my favourite reporter on drug issues. Clear, measured, always the right table or graph. Great. Well, most times.

Indeed, I think he blew his last one, on Captagon, ISIS' amphetamine, which was clearly meant to tone done hyperbole and introduce a measure of sanity in the discussion. And indeed, the press coverage of that issue has been very much over the top.

Unfortunately, Lopez swallows whole the latest piece of moral panic coming from the very prohibitionist UNODC and abetted by Time magazine:

"A pill that costs pennies to produce in Lebanon retails for up to $20 a pop in Saudi Arabia, where some 55 million Captagon tablets are seized a year — a number that even Saudi officials admit amounts to only 10% of the overall total that actually makes it into the kingdom, according to the UNODC World Drug Report and a not-yet-published E.U. assessment of drug trafficking in the Middle East."

So, about 550 million tablets make it to the kingdom and 10% are seized, which leaves about 500 million pills on the market. At $20 a pop, we are talking of about $10bn worth of amphetamines...

Now, Saudi Arabia is a country that, in 2013 imported $14bn worth of automobiles. In other words, this article calling for skepticisms towards media reports is telling us that the market for amphetamines is two-third as large as the car market and that every one of the country's 28 million people (men, women, babies, kids and retirees) spends, on average and every year, $400.00 on that particular type of drugs. And remember, this is what "even Saudi officials admit," so the careful reader is to understand that these numbers are low estimates.

Sorry guys, but who is high on what here?