Look Mami I Got the X

John Lott, Michael Bellesiles - meet George Ricaurte.

From Keith Halderman of Liberty & Power comes this Chronicle of Higher Education piece on Ricaurte's falsified research:

In an article published in the September 27, 2002, issue of the journal Science, Dr. Ricaurte launched another salvo in support of [the war on drugs]. His article warned of new dangers attached to the use of Ecstasy, including the risk of severe brain damage and debilitating neurological diseases, such as Parkinson's -- even from just one night of using the drug.

It was sensational and frightening news. Within days, Dr. Ricaurte's findings were printed in scores of newspapers around the world and repeated on television.

But that particular alarm about Ecstasy turned out to be false. A serious and almost unbelievable mistake -- the primates in the study were injected not with Ecstasy, but with methamphetamine -- negated both the study and its startling results. Almost exactly a year later, Dr. Ricaurte retracted the article.

That is the way science works. A scientist makes a mistake, discovers it, and issues a retraction. End of story.

But this was not just any article, and Dr. Ricaurte is not just any researcher. His previous work had already attracted plenty of critics. Many of them are leading researchers themselves, who contend that Dr. Ricaurte's studies have been flawed and biased. Specifically, some accuse him of overstating the dangers of Ecstasy to please his government backers.

The fallout from the mistake has brought not only Dr. Ricaurte's reputation into question, but also that of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which has supported his research for years. "It kind of gives science a black eye because people start to question whether NIDA has an agenda," says Glen R. Hanson, a professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the University of Utah and a former director of NIDA.

A government bureaucracy with an agenda? You don't say!

Mark Kleiman has even more:

The story doesn't quite make it clear just how outrageous some of the research misconduct involved actually was, party because the author seems not to understand the details. (The famous "hole-in-the-brain" images involved doing odd data transformations and turning up the gain on a false-color-imaging program so that reductions in brain metabolic activity well within the normal range showed up as black areas; the primate deaths should have been queried because the experiment was supposed to replicate the experience of human MDMA takers, who die at rates of less than 1 per million as opposed to 20%.) The story also fails to discuss Ricaurte's active role in making human MDMA studies virtually impossible.

Robert Stutman used these "hole-in-the-brain" images in his presentation to show how ecstasy will "eat your brain."

Stutman also said that he was willing to change his position if scientists could show that ecstasy has legitimate medical uses. What he didn't mention was that this would never happen, as long as government lackeys like Ricaurte make it impossible for scientists to actually test whether or not ecstasy and other Schedule 1 drugs may have beneficial uses (above and beyond individual subjective values).

Who is going to stop Robert Stutman from presenting the results of this already-retracted study to non-professional audiences around the country?

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"It kind of gives science a

"It kind of gives science a black eye because people start to question whether NIDA has an agenda," says Glen R. Hanson, a professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the University of Utah and a former director of NIDA.

It doesn't give science a black eye, you bozo, it gives the State a black eye.

Stutman also said that he

Stutman also said that he was willing to change his position if scientists could show that ecstasy has legitimate medical uses. What he didn't mention was that this would never happen, as long as government lackeys like Ricaurte make it impossible for scientists to actually test whether or not ecstasy and other Schedule 1 drugs may have beneficial uses (above and beyond individual subjective values).

MDMA seems like a new thing, but it was invented in 1912, and, before it was criminalized, was used in therapy by psychologists and psychiatrists, notably Dr. Timothy Leary and Dr. John C. Lilly.

But I don't think it was

But I don't think it was tested in the way that modern drugs need to be tested in order to show that they have legitimate medical uses. Otherwise, it would not have been labeled schedule 1 in the first place.

Otherwise, it would not have

Otherwise, it would not have been labeled schedule 1 in the first place.

Yes, of course, we all know that the State never does anything that is not absolutely necessary. It's for our own good.

I've read a lot about this

I've read a lot about this topic, but everyone seems to miss the fact that not only did Ricaurte use the wrong substance, he also overdosed the monkeys by a FACTOR OF FIFTEEN!

His "study" says he administered a "total dose of 6 mg/kg" in three injections, but one monkey out of five looked so shaky he had to not give it the third IV overdose. Methamphetime is sold for oral use in doses as small as 5 mgs and is quite effective at that level. Think about it.

At 6 mgs. of meth per kilo of body-weight, a 165 pound man would receive nearly a half a gram, 450 milligrams, for a dosage. That would very likely kill a man my size. Well, it did kill one of the monkeys, from "malignant hyperthermia." That's a lethal fever, for those of you who don't speak Liar's Latin.

In my practice as a criminal defense lawyer, I noted an average of 15% purity in illegal methamphetamine, based on forensic analysis by the DEA labs. That means an average "gram" of dope would have only 150 milligrams in the whole street formulation. Yet a gram of regular dope would easily be enough to make a whole houseful of tweekers happy for at least 36 hours.

This is animal abuse at the service of propaganda, and Mr. Ricaurte should be drummed out of the science business.

Don't forget that while

Don't forget that while Ricaurtes demonstration that mdma damages dopamine neurons was BS, the evidence is overwhelming that it damages serotonin neurons. Its not a harmless drug.

The interesting thing is that you can take something prevent the damage without stopping the positive effects. If the drug were legal, the prophylactic would be widely available. As it is, millions of people are frying their brains avoidably. That is the cost of drug policies.

I've been thinking that particular case would make a good article for Playboy or Reason or someone.