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Pontifications on Poison

Being some ramblings on events associated with poisonous plants.

September 2012

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Saturday 29th September 2012

I had decided not to write, for a third time, about Channel 4’s ‘Drugs Live: The Ecstasy Trial’ but something I read, yesterday, seemed to be so relevant that I thought I would offer some views on different parts of the programmes.

Like a lot of people, I wasn’t impressed with the format because it meant the programme wasted the resources it had to hand. On both nights, the audience was made up of people deeply involved in drugs policy, from all sides, yet, rather than invite contributions from these people who would have had something interesting to say, quite a bit of time was spent hearing ‘what Twitter has to say’...more

Thursday 27th September 2012

Over the coming days there will be a lot written about Channel 4’s ‘Drugs Live: The Ecstasy Trial’ and much of it will be better informed, and better written, than anything I have to say.

One important ‘read’ to better understand the first programme was written three and a half years ago. I’ll explain..more

Monday 24th September 2012

On Sunday, the weather forecast for today said that the very heavy rain and high winds would move up from the south to give us a pretty unpleasant day. So, it seemed like a good idea to get out in the garden and do some tidying up as well as making sure that high winds would not lead to things, like plastic flower pots, flying around.

I had a walk around, in the character of the head gardener of a big estate. That is to say, I was walking around looking favourably on some things and very unfavourably on others. The only problem is I get to play all the other characters as well; the assistant head gardener, the gardener, the under-gardener and all the way down to the unpaid trainee who gets to do most of the unpleasant jobs for no reward..more

Sunday 23rd September 2012

I doubt if there is anyone with even just a passing interest in psychoactive substances who is not aware that, later this week, Channel 4 will be broadcasting two programmes about the potential use of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), ecstasy, for therapeutic purposes.

The first, on 26th September, will show volunteers taking MDMA and having the changes it makes in their brains identified by a scanner. The second, the next evening, will be a live discussion of the results and the wider aspects of drug policy...more

Monday 17th September 2012

I’ve been updating some of the pages in the A to Z section of this site with some recent stories of poisoning incidents.

The first involved a woman in Indiana who was tidying up her back garden and got the latex sap from an unnamed species of Euphorbia on her face and in her eyes. She described the burning pain in her eyes as worse than the pain of giving birth and said she felt as though acid had been poured onto her face. The website of the local TV station has a rather poor quality image of the plant in question intended to act as guidance for other gardeners but the video clip on the same page gives a better view...more

Saturday 15th September 2012

To the health centre. My wife had a blood test the other morning so that meant me sitting in the waiting room trying to find a magazine to read that wasn’t wholly about reality TV stars. I settled on the December 2010 edition of ‘Gardeners’ World’ the spin-off from the BBC TV show.

There was a feature in it by Toby Buckland about things you can do in the garden in the depths of winter and one part concerned his attempts to get Viscum album, mistletoe, to grow...more

Tuesday 11th September 2012

I mentioned, when I wrote challenging the things that ‘everybody knows’, I had come across a new publication from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) that seemed to have been more leaked that published though I’m not sure if ‘leak’ is the right word for an organisation placing information on its own website without telling anyone it is there.

I said I would take more of a look at ‘Cannabis: A Short Review’ and I’ve been trying to but it really is a pretty dispiriting read. It is almost as if Ben Goldacre never wrote ‘Bad Science’. In fact, if you’ve only recently read the book I recommend this UNODC discussion paper as a useful exercise to check out real life examples of the misdirection techniques discussed by Dr. Goldacre...more

Saturday 8th September 2012

I seem to have been reading a lot of pieces about those ‘everybody knows’ things. This hasn’t been all about one topic and it hasn’t been deliberate. It has just worked out that I’ve come across, or been directed to, a number of articles that, for their specific field of interest, demonstrate that, most of the time, what everybody knows is wrong.

This is not the first time I’ve written about this topic. Last year, I looked in detail at why people still say that coffee is a diuretic in spite of that belief coming from a poorly designed study involving just three people that, since 1928 when it was conducted, has been disproved by many other studies...more

Saturday 1st September 2012

I’m trying to suppress the feeling of Schadenfreude after seeing two local news stories from different parts of the UK. That’s largely because the ‘others’ whose suffering I’m in danger of enjoying are children and, obviously, it would be very wrong to be pleased at youngsters being harmed. There is though a feeling of reassurance.

I’ve written a number of times about what I call the Jerry Maguire test that I apply to stories about how dangerous a plant can be. That is to say, I look for the numbers of people, or animals, that actually get harmed by a plant before accepting what is said about its potential...more

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