Cheerleaders are baaaad

Regular readers of this web-monstrosity will be aware that the Poorhouse is a little sceptical as to the reasoning and benefit behind the increasingly ridiculous drug laws in the UK. To summarise for anyone not from around here, in common with much of the rest of the world, a fairly arbitrary set of substances that people like to use recreationally are banned. If you possess them you get to face jailtime. If you possess other, often more harmful, recreational mind-benders such as alcohol you're just fine.

Oh, and besides the issue of rationality, the laws to eradicate drug use are possibly the least effective laws ever, illegal drugs are if anything more used, more abundant and more easy to get hold of than ever before. They are also more dangerous than before, insomuch as the very laws which at their most progressive try and claim they are here to eliminate the harms due to drug use actually exacerbate the harms they pretend to set out to stop.

With that in mind, let's look at "A Basic Risk Comparison" between two potentially hazardous activities. Doing the drug known as ecstasy, and good ol' US-centric pretty-girl hobby: Cheerleading.

In the newsletter of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (yep, note potential bias, but facts are facts...), Jag Davis writes on this very subject. He used what is claimed to be "the most common indicator of cost to human health"; namely data regarding how many Emergency Room visits were caused by each activity.

Check the graph:

For people thinking, hmm, well millions of people do cheerleading and with the sheer great efficacy of the drug laws surely only about 3 people ever do e hence the difference, it is a valid point, but wrong. Take the year 2001 for example. Jag's data showed that actually a comparable number of people had participated in cheerleading in the past year as had done ecstasy, the figures being 3.8 and 3.25 million respectively. In the words of the author:

...past-year participation in organized cheerleading was four and a half times more likely than pastyear use of Ecstasy to have caused a medical crisis necessitating a visit to ER

The ecstasy related ER-visits are also almost certainly artificially heightened by the law. Users generally do not know what is in their pill of ecstasy. It should be MDMA, but has often been found to be other, more dangerous drugs, contaminants, or indeed nothing at all. There is no consumer protection on the black market. Likewise, many frown on full disclosure of usage education. We know how many units of alcohol we would be wise not to drink more than, but for someone who has decided to take ecstasy come what may, how many tablets would it be recommended not to take more than? If they make you feel ill, what should you do? And so on. The arguments are nigh on endless, a pain which the Poor-friends are probably all too aware of.

To be fair, the apparent study is more about proving a point than being a no-flaws piece of research into whether cheerleading should be banned. There are harms associated with ecstasy usage that might not result in emergency room visits. People tend to do ecstasy at a different frequency than cheerleading, and there could be any number of co-factors confounding the situation that need eliminating. This doesn't "prove" per se that cheerleading is more harmful than ecstasy usage; it simply shows that the mythical average person is more likely to end up in the ER due to cheerleading than ecstasy usage.

However in doing so it highlights the hypocrisy and ridiculousness of unworkable laws with counterproductive effects based on pretty much zero credible scientific evidence that form part of our current regime of the War Against Some Drugs.


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