Channel 7 News “Reports” on “New drug craze”

7NewsMelbNangsChannel 7 News in Melbourne reported on a “dangerous new craze” hitting Melbourne parties. The “dangerous new craze”? Nitrous oxide aka: Laughing gas.

Dangers of laughing gas party crazeGas used by dentists is being inhaled at Melbourne parties in a dangerous new craze.Party-goers are risking permanent brain damage, or even death.7 News reporter Jackie Quist has the details, as police launch an investigation of online sites selling the gas.

Posted by 7 News Melbourne on Monday, 17 August 2015

Before we get stuck into the claims of danger and novelty, let’s take a quick look at the people that Channel 7 News decided to speak to.

Dr Leon Massage – His website looks straight out of a daytime TV infomercial and his credentials seem totally irrelevant to drugs. The credibility of this doctor’s comments are severely lacking.

Christopher Borell (Witness) – He works as Channel 7 News’ weekend social media guy. When questioned on Twitter, he said, “If we’re directly linked to a story, we can be interviewed. Since i witnessed serious side effects, it was acceptable.”
I tried to pursue him on what constituted “serious side effects” and wanted to know how he could differentiate between that… and someone having a good time (which sometimes results in a little dribbling). He stopped replying.

And finally, there was a video constantly playing through out the clip of a lady apparently experiencing the “serious side effects” of nitrous oxide. With a quick bit of scouring, we found the video, entitled ‘Nang Queen Hardcore’

The video was uploaded is March 2010, which should have given Channel 7 News an idea that the “craze” was not “new”. And although the comments section on the video isn’t a reliable source of information, the suggestions by users that she may be on other drugs / may be a bit of a wanker are pretty clear. Two years ago BlitzRage said, “This chick is a fuck head. She is on acid and has mental health issues,” while atLarj says, “nah all the comments are true. this poor bogan is definately on acid or smack or something too. nangs just DO not do this to you. I’ve seen a LOT of different reactions to nangs and never seen anything like this. but i dont hang out with dero junkies..”

UPDATE: Sources close to the person who is featured in the video and the person who recorded it have indicated that it was recorded as a joke/mockery.

Such journalistic integrity, Channel 7 News. And now…

The following is an excerpt from a January 2015 article from award-winning zine, blog and directory of wonderful things Boing Boing on the “surprising” history of nitrous oxide.

Nitrous oxide was first synthesized in 1772 by Joseph Priestly, one of Britain’s foremost chemists and the man who invented soda water; he allowed nitric oxide (NO) to stand in contact with iron filings and water, yielding the gas N20. Priestly was a brilliant scientist, but also an Enlightenment thinker whose staunch belief that scientific inquiry would soon have everything, including dated institutions such as monarchy, sorted eventually landed him in de facto exile in America (this was after a mob of hundreds tore apart his lab and tried to burn down his house in 1791). Priestly’s leaving didn’t, however, mean the end of nitrous oxide investigations in Britain – although it wouldn’t be for another 27 years until someone really looked at nitrous oxide.

That someone was Humphry Davy…

In April of 1799, Davy, in the Institute’s laboratory and in between administering nitric acid to syphilitic sores, began to investigate nitrous oxide. He started by synthesizing the gas and promptly inhaling it himself. When he didn’t die – and actually seemed quite invigorated by the experience – he and Beddoes began administering it to patients. They started with a 26-year-old man who, “after a course of excessive debauchery,” was unable to move one side of his body. After inhaling the gas, the man soon regained mobility in his arm; Davy and Beddoes also noted that he and other patients seemed to look forward to their “dose of air” and “the pleasure it gave them.”

Linda Rodriguez

A 206 year old gas that was used in its day for its pleasurable qualities is not exactly a “new craze.” And what about “dangerous”?

As with anything, especially with any drug, there are risks and people who choose to use the drug ought to be informed of the risks. This article in Erowid’s Nitrous Vault notes two cases of people who had used significant and excessive amounts of nitrous for long periods of time and developed nerve damage. The excessive amounts ranged from many dozens to many hundreds of bulbs inhaled, nearly every day for four to six months on end. The damage occurred because nitrous oxide, when inhaled consistently over long periods of time causes B12 deficiencies, resulting in a nasty condition called megaloblastic anemia.
So yes, nitrous oxide CAN be dangerous. If you use it in excessive amounts for long periods of time or already have B12 deficiencies, then you might run in to a problem. Pregnant ladies, avoid. Vegans, make sure you have your B12 sources worked out well! The rest of you, eat well and maybe take a B12 Vitamin if you’ve had a few nangs over the weekend. Avoid doing them every day and take breaks between bulbs.

The Age was a little bit better on the nitrous oxide front (and probably prompted Channel 7 to jump on the bandwagon with the tired old scare tactic angle) with their story, Business offers all-night delivery of dangerous party gas nitrous oxide.
The angle taken in their article is that any business which capitalises on things which can be abused ought to be questioned.

This is a legitimate question. We ought to always question the morality of businesses. The best way to approach this is to ask, “Whose morality?”

In the case of a business transaction, there are two basic parties. The consumer and the provider.
The provider has an obligation to provide the consumer with the product they say they are going to provide. The consumer has a right to be provided the correct product and to not be harmed by that product.

There is no question in this story over the product that is provided. The moral issue here rests on whether or not the consumer will be harmed by the product.
For a reasonable consumer to be harmed by nitrous oxide requires serious and sustained levels of abuse.
The problem arises when we define what a “reasonable” consumer is. If someone believes that anyone who consumes an illegal drug is making an unreasonable choice, then all choices of consumption are unreasonable. This definition of reasonable is problematic, in that it assumes that the law holds absolute moral authority. The law is a mechanism of society and can be reactive to normative moral standards (ie. those which are defined by cultural norms), but it would be incredibly concerning to consider the law as an absolute static authority at any one point in time.

Therefore, a reasonable consumer of a psychoactive drug ought to be defined as: Someone who is capable of making informed decisions and is well informed on the substance they are choosing to take.

This highlights the problem with drug reporting and the sort of quotes that journalists choose to focus on when interviewing drug experts.

“Even though there might be some pleasurable effects, there can also be, at worst case, death, because you’re starving your brain of oxygen,” Julie Rae, the (Australian Drug) foundation’s head of information and research, said.

Julie Rae works for the ADF, whose job it is to be a gate-keeper of information on drugs. Under prohibition, all consumers in the market for psychoactive drugs are considered as irrational and uninformed.
If they were rational, they wouldn’t choose to consume a drug! The Australian Drug Foundation (ADF) have an obligation to tow the line when it comes to drug prohibition. Perhaps one of the most insidious assumptions of prohibition is that any and all drug use is abuse and is unacceptable to society.
To break this down: No matter what level of knowledge of the drug, knowledge of themselves or care in approach to consumption someone has, their choice is ALWAYS irrational and uninformed.

Thank homo-economicus for that one – “Homo economicus, or economic human, is the figurative human being characterized by the infinite ability to make rational decisions.”
Julie asks the valid question, “The question for me is, is this an ethical business? Who are they really targeting on this?”
If the consumer is informed and the provider is providing the correct product in a relatively low risk manner, then it seems like it is comparatively ethical to many other businesses.

Pinga Pete (Lewis Spears – Comedian) summed things up pretty well too…

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