Posts Tagged 'police'

Dudley Doright on drugs: the RCMP Drug Identification Chart should be tied to the tracks

Medical librarians have welcomed the announcement of the National Library of Medicine’s Pillbox as a useful addition to our arsenal of drug ID tools. Both e-CPS in Canada and Lexi-Comp Online, for example, have fine indentification modules for pharmaceuticals.

But where can we find photo collections of drugs not normally dispensed at the local pharmacy? Pharmacists and health providers are interested in all drugs that people are consuming. There should be reputable resources doing the same job for street drugs that compendia do for discreet drugs, i.e. any legitimate pharmaceuticals allowed to occupy clean dispensary shelves by bureaucrats and politicians. Aside from obvious sources like High Times and Hollywood films, what guides and directories are out there and how good are they?

A pharmacist colleague of mine alerted me to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s Drug Identification Chart, which describes itself as “a reference tool for identifying illicit drugs and their harmful effects.” This shoddy effort (supported by the Sûreté  du Québec, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, and Health Canada, no less) is flagrant proof that there has never been a situation so dismal that Dudley Doright couldn’t make it worse.

As a directory of illicit drugs the whole thing is risibly inadequate. Clearly, dope comes in many forms, and it would be hard to catalogue them all visually; but this looks more like an elementary school project than a police web page. It’s rife with bad grammar and spelling, poor quality images, and clumsy design. Hashish, for example, comes in many colours and forms. From the RCMP photograph it’s impossible to get a sense of perspective on what is being depicted. Is it thick as a brick, or a size that can be more discreetly concealed in a cigarette pack? Is it possibly a piece of burnt toast, or a map of Oregon made out of Play-Doh? It’s hard to tell from the single tiny picture displayed.

It’s almost as if the Mounties were somehow embarrassed to include better photographs and more explicit detail, similar perhaps to the reluctance of Catholic catechisms to elucidate more fully the Seven Deadly Sins, whilst revelling in descriptions of the Seven Cardinal Virtues.

And why is it that the combined efforts of three police organizations and the Canadian government could not figure out the proper spelling of marijuana? The photograph of “marihuana” shows a greenish pile of something that resembles a green hedgehog. How is this supposed to help new recruits in the war against drugs? This website is supposed to be an official resource for police officers, but it has the distinct look and feel of something thrown together for appearance’s sake. Look at the treatment of Canada’s favourite illegal pastime (along with tax evasion and cigarette smuggling). What about showing an actual leaf from the marijuana plant, just for starters? Or a grow-op specimen? Last I heard, when raiding a drug den it’s rare to find weed spread in convenient piles all over the kitchen table. Is it not more usually found in pockets or backpacks in small plastic bags or rolled into joints? But in this official directory you would look in vain for such a photograph. It’s like explaining all the forms of tobacco use by showing large brown leaves hung to dry in a barn or a pinch of snuff.

Surely from their vast reserves of confiscated drugs and drug paraphernalia the Mounties could have done something better than this farrago. I could go on, and I’m certainly no expert. Canadian police forces need to consult someone with professional or street experience of these drugs and come up with a decent range of samples. How can a ten-year-old find a pusher any time and the cops can’t?

Not only are the RCMP’s photographs of dubious value, the text of the Drug Identification Chart needs to be revised, badly. Here is how LSD is categorized:

Perception-distorting (Substance that alters sensory perception. It causes changes in user’s mood, thoughts and consciousness)

The Chablis chilling in my fridge fits this description quite well.

This being a police directory, advice is given on detection of drug users. To this end, in an odd mix of nouns and adjectives, the LSD user is described as exhibiting the following symptoms:

Hilarity, hallucinations, excitable, wild-eyed, dilated pupils

Yes officer, I cannot tell a lie. My Labrador Retriever frequently chases imaginary squirrels.

For some more helpful information on recreational drugs, I recommend the following:

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Multi-Media Library (more great spelling from our law enforcement organizations) Drug Identification Guide

Sushine Coast Health Centre (B.C.) Drugs of Abuse: An Identification Guide [PDF]

And remember what Abbey Hoffman said: Avoid all needle drugs – the only dope worth shooting is Richard Nixon.


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