Buzzed: Just Say Know

Max More (maxmore@primenet.com)
Tue, 12 May 1998 08:43:11 -0700


'Buzzed' gives straight answers on drugs

Copyright 1998 Nando.net
Copyright 1998 Scripps Howard

DURHAM, N.C. (May 12, 1998 01:26 a.m. EDT http://www.nando.net) - Don't let
those Hershey's cravings carry you away -- chocolate stimulates the same
receptors in the brain as marijuana.

Don't follow John Travolta and plunge an adrenaline needle into someone's
heart to reverse an opiate overdose -- that "Pulp Fiction" scene was simply
incorrect.

Don't get high the day before a calculus exam -- marijuana impairs
short-term memory for two days.

These are just a few of the tidbits in "Buzzed," a sort of Betty Crocker
book for the recreational drug world. In it, three Duke University
scientists -- whose motto is "Just Say Know" -- dispel the misconceptions
and myths about used and abused drugs from alcohol to Ecstasy.

The idea came from co-author Bill Wilson's daughter, a college junior who
had frank questions about drugs and their effects.

Since it was published in March, the book with the psychedelic red-and-blue
spiral on the cover slowly has caught on with law enforcement agencies,
drug addiction counselors and educators. The Chapel Hill-Carrboro (N.C.)
School District, for instance, plans to stock "Buzzed" in every school
library.

"It has information that students need and want without being
condescending," said Susan Spalt, health coordinator for the Chapel
Hill-Carrboro schools. "It doesn't beat around the bush, it doesn't use
scare tactics, but on the other hand it gives a very real overview of the
problems and consequences."

"Buzzed" tells far more than any high school health textbook: For every
drug, it describes the high feeling, ill effects, history and slang terms.

"We're scientists," co-author Cynthia Kuhn said. "We don't formulate public
policy; we're not lawyers. We understand what the drugs do."

All three authors conduct brain research on rats. Kuhn studies the effects
of drugs on the brain and teaches an undergraduate course, "Drugs and the
Brain." Clinical neuropsychologist Scott Swartzwelder teaches "Memory and
the Brain," and treats patients with brain disorders. Wilson, a
neuropharmacologist, studies the way drugs affect learning and memory.

Readable, unbiased and scientific, "Buzzed" is the answer, the authors say,
to the government's scare tactics in the war on drugs, misinformation on
the Internet and the public schools' anti-drug program, "Just Say No."

Not all drugs have the same danger level, the authors contend, and
anti-drug programs lose credibility every time a kid smokes a joint and
lives to tell about it.

"Often, the government will use the term 'dangerous' about every drug,"
Wilson said. "We say the 'Just Say No' phrase is dangerous; it's destructive."

People will make smarter decisions about drugs, the authors said, if they
have good information.

"There is this fear that if you start educating people, then you're somehow
giving people permission to use," Swartzwelder said.

The authors distilled data from hundreds of research papers and sprinkled
the book with literary and cultural references -- from excerpts of William
Burroughs' novel "Junkie" to the poppy field scene in "The Wizard of Oz."

"There's very little drug education in high schools, there's zero in
college and there's zero in real life," Kuhn said.

All three authors were surprised, they said, to find out how often college
students use and abuse drugs without knowing the dangers.

Wilson gained a rare glimpse into the college drug scene when his daughter,
Heather, entered Hollins College in Roanoke, Va., three years ago.

"We have a great relationship, and we're always talking about drugs,"
Wilson said. "And she was a little too interested in drugs."

Wilson was visiting campus one weekend when he and Heather discovered a
friend of hers lying unconscious on the dormitory floor in a pool of blood.
The girl had mixed cold medicine with bourbon, became delusional and tried
to slit her wrists, Wilson said. The girl would not have been suicidal,
both Wilsons said, if she had known not to mix the drugs.

Another time, Heather and some friends decided not to try the drug
"Ecstasy" after consulting Wilson and one of Kuhn's textbooks and learning
that the drug can cause permanent mood disorders.

"This was such a clear illustration that when people have good information,
straight information, they tend to make good decisions for themselves,"
said Heather Wilson, who helped research the book.

The book is unusual because scientists don't usually take the time to put
their findings into such readable language, said Carlton Erickson, head of
the Addiction Science Research and Education Center at University of Texas
at Austin's College of Pharmacy.

"It takes books like this to be able to synthesize all this information,"
said Erickson, who co-wrote a similar book, "Drugs, the Brain and
Behavior," that should be published next month. "There's a lot of people
taking these drugs, and we have to know how to help those people."

By WENDY HOWER, The News & Observer of Raleigh, N.C. Distributed by Scripps
Howard News Service.