The World According to Nick
My take on Software, Technology, Politics, and anything else I feel like talking about.
Friday, August 19, 2005

Define Addiction Please 

The Agitator recently blogged about this Washington Post story about cough syrup addiction:

Houston has become known nationally as the "City of Syrup" because the abuse of codeine-fortified cough syrup among the city's youth is so widespread, a local researcher says.

The reputation is reflected in a trial that begins Tuesday of six pharmacists charged with illegally dispensing the highly addictive prescription cough syrup codeine with promethazine.

About 30 percent of the teenagers in the Houston area have used the syrup at least once, said Ron Peters, a professor at the University of Texas School of Public Health in Houston.

The figures from Peter's 2004 study top his 2003 study, which showed 25 percent of teenagers at six alternative schools in Harris County had used the drug at least once. Peters did not name the schools.

"Anything over 4 percent in the last 30 days is a major drug problem," Peters said.

Did it ever occur to anyone that using something once is perhaps not addiction? What is addiction?

Compulsive physiological and psychological need for a habit-forming substance.

Forgive me my ignorance... but I don't think trying something once qualifies as addiction. Widespread experimentation perhaps, but definitely not addiction. If a person tried something once in 30 days, and never did it again, perhaps they found the drug lacking and didn't use it again.

Currently everything seems to be addiction... but when you look at how they figure these things out, you realize that they use very shady definitions of addiction in order to inflate their numbers and make the problem look larger than it really is. This is a perfect example. How many of those teenagers used the syrup once a week for a month? How many used it in consecutive days? These are questions that would truly show whether cough syrup addiction was a problem. Personally, I would find it rather encouraging if so many teenagers tried something once then never did it again. Now then... maybe that's not the case here. The numbers are for those who tried it at least once. So now we'll never know if these numbers are encouraging, or really scary. Maybe if the researchers had been responsible we would... but I think they like it better this way.


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Name: Nick
Home: Wauwatosa, WI, United States

I'm a Software Consultant in the Milwaukee area. Among various geeky pursuits, I'm also an amateur triathlete, and enjoy rock climbing. I also like to think I'm a political pundit.

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