Archive for category Drugs

Hangovers, statistics and a dodgy hookup

It’s one of the oldest clichés in the book. You go to a party, get completely hammered, and wake up in bed with a dodgy PR firm.

Today’s ill-advised hookup is a threesome between The Express, The Mirror and a non-alcoholic drinks company called Sweet Lady Beverages, who claim that “the average Briton will spend five years of their life with a hangover“.

Before we look at the article itself, a quick sanity check. Life expectancy in the UK is roughly 80 years, and it’s unlikely people are going to experience hangovers before the age of about 15 or so. So, at maximum, that gives the average Brit about 65 drinking years. If the Express‘s statistics are true, we spend 8% of our adult lives hung over – we would spend more time hungover than we would eating. It’s amazing anyone gets anything done.

The article goes on to say that:

[Britons] will suffer the ill effects for a whole day – usually a Sunday – at least once a week between the ages of 21 and 38.

Bear in mind that this an average. According to Sweet Lady Beverages, the average person is hung over every week until the age of 40, and those hangovers last all day. That sounds a tiny bit excessive. After all, one – much more scientific – study found that having even just one hangover per month over an extended period is linked to a major increase (around 2.36 times) in heart attack risk.* And yet somehow, we’re not dropping like flies.

As far as I can tell – there’s no information about this survey available on the web outside these two articles – Sweet Lady Beverages simply asked visitors to its site to answer some questions about hangovers. There’s no published methodology; in other words, they don’t say what questions were asked or what precautions they made to make sure they had a fair sample.

For instance, they could have asked

It would certainly explain the odd results they got.

The Sweet Lady Beverage company is quoted by the Express as saying

The message we can take from this is simple – by reducing our alcohol intake we can reduce the amount of time feeling wretched.

Oddly on-message for a company selling alcohol-free drinks, wouldn’t you say?

* I can’t find many good scientific studies of hangovers. A lot of them are rather hamstrung by the fact that surveys usually take place in university, and therefore involve university students – not very representative of the drinking habits of the wider population! Nevertheless, this paper suggests that only 15% of the population have more than hangover per month.

Edit: The Daily Mail has now picked up the story too.


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Clear as mud

There’s a product called Joint Mud which the Express is wholeheartedly bigging up today. Apparently, it’s mud you rub on your joints which supposedly stops the pain of arthritis and improves joint flexibility; or so they claim.

This product is important, the Express says, because “The launch comes after a weekend expose revealed the NHS wasted £59million over four years on the anti-arthritis food supplement glucosamine sulphate, which does not work.“* Well then, I sure hope this Joint Mud works instead!

The Joint Mud site unfortunately doesn’t link to any of the studies to measure how effective the cream is. Instead, they simply give two very brief abstracts of studies:

Clinical Study # 1 – Results in 18 Minutes

“When used in accordance with intended package directions, Joint Mud demonstrated statistically significant reduction of joint problems by an average of 74% within the first 18 minutes with a maximum of 89% improvement reported after a single application.

Clinical Study # 2 – Long term results in 28 days.

“When used in accordance with intended package instructions in 28 days Joint Mud improved Joint Flexibility, Muscle Flexibility and Range of Motion by greater than 239%. Also, over the four week study, the number of applications needed to achieve the desired joint relief decreased from three times daily to twice a day”.

There’s no mention of how the studies were controlled or what placebos they used – after all, rubbing a cold cream into your joints normally soothes them anyway, regardless of how many organic essential oils your cream contains.

Nor does it say anywhere what improving range of motion and flexibility by “greater than 239%” means. Does this mean people went from being able to move their knees by 20° to 67°, or just from 1° to 3°?

I know what you’re thinking. “Aren’t you being too harsh on them? After all, they’ve at least released some clinical data, even if it is completely useless cargo cult science? I’m sure there’s nothing else dodgy about this product!”

Well first of all, let’s see which doctor the Express quotes to promote the product:

Dr Mark Binette, of Greek Island Labs, which produces Joint Mud, said: “I’ve been practising medicine for over 21 years and have never seen a product with such staggering results. I believe Joint Mud will help millions of people deal with aches and pains.

“I have seen impressive results in patients suffering from pain in their knees, back, hips, shoulders, hands and fingers.”

So the guy who sells the product is also the guy whose testimony they rely on to show the product works. Never mind, I’m sure Dr Mark Binette can be totally unbiased and impartial about a product he sells.

Secondly, check out the testamonials on the Joint Mud site:

I’ve had joint problems in my elbows in my knees for several years now. I was introduced to Joint Mud, I put it on and 18 minutes later I can totally feel the difference.

I’d applied the Joint Mud as instructed and within 18 minutes or so, I was feeling the results.

I’ve suffered from a really bad hip problem for several years now. I was introduced to Joint Mud and found that it works in about 18 minutes.

I was introduced to Joint Mud and at first, I was skeptical but I went ahead and tried it. Within 18 minutes, I saw tremendous results.

It’s all natural, put it on the joints where you have problems and within 18 minutes, you’re going to have tremendous results!

Funny how everyone found the product worked in exactly 18 minutes, isn’t it?

In the same vein, at the time of writing there were four comments on the Express‘s article. All four comments were posted by people who had never used the site before, three of whom claim to live in Aberdeen. Bear in mind this is a product that has not yet been released in the UK yet, so it’s unlikely three Aberdeeners and a Londoner have had a chance to try the product yet.

All four comments were posted within hours of the article going live, with the three supposedly from Aberdeen being posted between 2:03 AM and and 3:34 AM. There must be a lot of insomniac Express reading arthritics in Aberdeen!

The company that makes Joint Mud, the inaccurately named “Greek Island Labs”, is based in Arizona. Arizona is currently 7 hours behind the UK, meaning that, Arizona time, the comments were posted in the early evening – a much more convenient time to be posting on the Daily Express website.

Now, far be it from me to criticise a product promoted by Cascada, Bruno from Strictly, and David Hasselhoff’s daughter, but does that strike anyone else as odd?

* I can’t actually find any such exposé anywhere online. Curiously though, Greek Island Labs have previously promoted their products as an alternative to glucosamine, which makes me wonder how much of a part they played in writing this article.


Miaow miaow miaow miaow miaow miaow

Do you remember the pointless clusterfuck that was the Mephedrone scare? Well, it may just be back. Ivory Wave is the new Miaow Miaow*, declares The Telegraph today, in what I am fairly sure is the latest round in a long running game of “Who can get the most ridiculous two-word phrase into the papers?“.

There are, of course, several holes in the story. First of all, and perhaps most importantly, Ivory Wave is not a legal high. “Ivory Wave” is a mixture of Epsom salts and a chemical called methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV) which, as a cathinone analogue (PDF, p. 8 ) – i.e., a drug which operates by a similar route to amphetamines – is illegal.**

Secondly, it doesn’t really sound like a party drug. For one thing, the recommended route of delivery is to dissolve it in bath water, which presumably releases the MDPV as a breathable vapour. I’ve not been to many parties where everyone sits in bathtubs having a relaxing soak.

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Hooked on Phono


There’s a story I’ve tracking for a few days now, hoping and praying it would make it to the British press, and today, it finally has. I-Dosing is, supposedly, a way of inducing a mental high from listening to sound files, and my if it doesn’t have the tabloids up in arms – or at least The Sun and The Daily Mail.

They put on their headphones, drape a hood over their head and drift off into the world of ‘digital highs’.

Videos posted on YouTube show a young girl freaking out and leaping up in fear, a teenager shaking violently and a young boy in extreme distress.

This is the world of ‘i-Dosing’, the new craze sweeping the internet in which teenagers used so-called ‘digital drugs’ to change their brains in the same way as real-life narcotics.

Quick! Someone build a time machine and fly back to 1995! Film of the year right there. I mean, it’d be better than Hackers at any rate.

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