03 November 2010

Why the Latest "Alcohol Study" Is Bad Science (and Bad For Science)

I've been trying my best to ignore this article in The Lancet (it can't be rightfully called a "study") that has gained a great deal of popularity in the news media in the past couple of days because of its utterly perfect "sound bite" utility.........  but it's showing up too many times in too many places, and needs to be addressed.....

Show of hands, please--how many of you heard/read that "news report" (reduced to only TWO SENTENCES in a local TV newscast last night!) that "alcohol is more dangerous a drug than cocaine and heroin"?  Yeah, I thought so.

Now, let's toss aside what the so-called "study" really meant--that alcohol,. on a whole, has more impact upon our economy, lives, and well-being than crack, ecstasy, heroin, etc.  Hey, guess why that would be?  That's right, because alcohol is LEGAL and thus FAR more widely used and abused than any illegal drugs.

Think about it: how many "users" of alcohol do you think there are around this city alone, many of them gathering in communal corner "booze houses" to share the experience of consuming their chosen drug blends?  Nationwide?  Now, how many users of heroin, crack, etc. are there?  (Apply the same degree of conservatism or exaggeration to both estimates, please.)

Two other bloggers--Jay Brooks of the Brookston Beer Bulletin, and Pete Brown--do a far better job of dismantling this farce masquerading as a "scientific study," exposing what passed as "methodology" (convene a bunch of self-appointed neo-Prohibitionist "experts" and trash-talk booze to a consensus, basically), pointing out the hidden agendas of the work's author (the production of a "synthetic alcohol"), and the flaws in the methodology, analysis, and media coverage of this article and why The Lancet should be embarrassed to have been hoodwinked in this fashion.  Go read them.

1 comment:

Andrew said...

But the study (and all the summaries of it I've read) explicitly say that the prevalence and acceptability of alcohol greatly skew the results. It also says that the results of the study are greatly influenced by many other social factors, and the scientists involved have (again) explicitly said that prohibition would only exacerbate the problem.

I agree that the news-friendly soundbite the study has been reduced to is comical, but that's hardly the authors' faults.

But, an attention-grabbing, pseudo-scientific study like this is hardly the thing to whipe the stink off of the Lancet from their publishing the junk science piece connecting autism to vaccinations.