Friday, August 03, 2012

Absolut Tampax

Here is a splendid blog post by Michael Durfee from Points: The Blog of the Alcohol and Drugs History Society about moral panics.

Durfee analyzes the reporting of a Phoenix TV station about the "shocking" "new" and "dangerous" phenomenon of teenage girls soaking tampons in alcohol and inserting them in their vaginas in order to get drunk. Durfee looks into the phenomenon -- in a way that so-called journalists do not -- to reveal the kind of media behavior that was behind the crack frenzy, the designer drug frenzy, the Salvia frenzy, and more recently, the synthetic marijuana frenzy and the bath salts frenzy.

On my home turf, we had a mini-panic in Spring 2012 when a police commander repeatedly hyped as the latest rage the phenomenon of "pharm parties" at a local anti-drug program about the crisis of overdoses due to heroin and prescription opiates. A member of the county council in the audience was completely distracted by this, and said at a hearing a few days later that he had told 200 persons about pharm parties. No one questioned why a drug user would put a $50 Oxycontin pill in a bowl along with Excedrin(R) or aspirin and hope that plucking a pill from the bowl would produce a nice high. The premise is absurd.

I asked the police captain who was liaison to the advisory committee on alcohol and drug abuse if this phenomenon was at all recent. He told me he believed it happened back during the ecstasy epidemic. He was not aware of any cases in the past two years, he told me. At his next presentation at a county-wide drugs and alcohol prevention program at the Board of Education meeting room in May, he mocked me by name for telling him I thought the phenomenon was an "urban myth" and that I had cited -- smirk, smirk -- Wikipedia's articles about pharming parties which link to Jack Shafer's excellent reporting in 2006 and 2008 which labeled them a "media invention." When it comes to anti-drug hysteria, even the best police hate to give up a good scare.

A tip of the hat to Michael Durfee, a Ph.D. candidate in the history department at SUNY Buffalo. Michael Durfee works under the advisement of Points Contributor Dr. David Herzberg. His prior education includes an M.A. in history from SUNY Buffalo and an M.A. in education from Lewis and Clark College. He is currently at work researching his dissertation which analyzes the dynamics of Crack Era reform from 1986 to 1992, loosely constructed.

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