That Old Stats Cliche

Do I even need to repeat it here? Eh, why not: “Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics”. Between the way the mind works and the way we’ve been socialized, statistics carry more weight than the same information without statistics. However, there are many ways to take the same data and bend the results to draw out your conclusion. In the case of a story I came across at the end of May, it was through omission. The story mentioned a study by the Drug Czar’s office that revealed

the majority of arrestees in five metropolitan areas tested positive for marijuana at the time they were booked, and that many other arrestees tested positive for harder drugs.

However, the point of the story is that alcohol was curiously absent from the study. Later that day the Drug Czar’s office explained that it was just because alcohol is much better studied so they didn’t need to include the stats. Now, I’m not one of those who feels that drugs should necessarily be legal although I did discuss some of the issues revolving around pot legalization in a previous post. However, it seems quite arbitrary that we have banned nearly every recreational drug but alcohol and nicotine. Of course, that’s not accidental – both industries have lots of money and, therefore, lots of power.

So it’s quite dishonest to talk about how so-called “hard drugs” lead to arrests when it’s pretty clear that alcohol leads to a lot of arrests – DUIs, fights, domestic abuse, and rape to name a few crimes that tend of occur when intoxicated. I think it would help put things into context to include alcohol and by not including it, the Drug Czar’s office opens itself up to accusations that they’re trying to hide how much more dangerous the legal drug is. Frankly, I think it would be useful as more and more states debate whether or not to allow their citizens to smoke pot if we had unbiased data. Is pot smoking more or less dangerous than alcohol consumption? If it’s less dangerous, then perhaps there’s less to fear in allowing people to use it. If it’s more dangerous, then perhaps we shouldn’t allow it. But I imagine there could be an uproar from entrenched interests if alcohol were shown to be more dangerous because, after all, that would mean that it should also be banned at the Federal level. (Except, of course that we tried that and failed miserably)

If you’re curious as to why I happen to be anti-drug, it stems from the same reason I’m anti-smoking – drugs don’t only affect the person who’s high. I’m fine with adults doing whatever they want as long as it doesn’t adversely affect others. Unfortunately, that’s not how drug use works. Depending on the drug it can lead to families being destroyed – literally and/or metaphorically and crime in society. Otherwise, I wouldn’t care what any adult decided to do to his or her own body and/or mind.

2 responses to “That Old Stats Cliche”

  1. It’s maybe disingenuous to lump alcohol and heroin in the same sentence (not that you did), but I think marijuana and alcohol are a fair comparison. Both impair reaction/mental function.

    As for nicotene/cigarettes, I think that controversial death memo proves that they’re actually doing a public service, but that’s a pretty callous way of looking at it.

    • Indeed. I think that’s what the advocates of pot use always say – it’s no worse than alcohol. It’d be nice to see if that were true or not.