Wednesday, 9 January 2013

'Strawberry quik': Drug warnings and Facebook

I have recently been contacted by someone who had received a Facebook message warning about a new drug apparently “going around” schools in the US called ‘Strawberry Quick’. It’s a great worry that this story is doing the rounds again, this time on Facebook instead of via emails, but let’s clear it up quickly before it gets out of hand and ends up as a headline in the Daily Telegraph, again …
 
This is a classic ‘urban myth’ - this time telling the story of an apparent new marketing ploy of methamphetamine manufacturers. When it first appeared in this country, media stories quoted US drug agencies warning Australians to brace for a new wave of strawberry-flavoured amphetamines specifically designed to appeal to juvenile taste-buds. These stories were accompanied by email alerts sent around the country warning parents to be on the lookout for this new form of the drug which was once again being used by ‘drug pushers’ to target their children.
 
The flavoured drug, known as ‘strawberry ice’ or ‘strawberry quik’, was apparently already proving popular with young users in the States. According to these sources a strawberry flavouring and some pink reddish food colouring was added to the mix during the manufacturing process and then these are heavily targeted towards the younger market.
 
So what do we know about ‘strawberry ice’? According to the site Snopes.com this story is partially true. It started to do the rounds in early 2007 after there were apparently some seizures of red methamphetamine made in a number of states across the US. A number of Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agents were reported as saying that the drug resembled Pop Rocks (a lolly that fizzes in the mouth) and that it was another example of the depths that ‘evil drug dealers’ would stoop to. 
 
The problem with this story is that there is no evidence that supports the claim that there had been any flavouring added to it. Yes, it may have been brightly coloured (which could have been due to the manufacturing process and the chemicals used and not in fact, a marketing ploy) but did it taste like strawberry Quik, as it has been claimed a number of times? As far as anyone can find out, no taste tests were done. It was all rumour and ‘someone telling someone something else that someone had told them’. Of course, the media lapped it up and concerned parents forwarded the email alert onto their friends believing that they were doing the right thing.
 
Now we see it on Facebook – a real sign-of-the-times! Still untrue and still very dangerous if people start sharing it via their Facebook network. So what should you do if you receive one of these messages? It’s simple – don’t pass it on!
 
So how do you know if information on drug warnings is accurate or not? Unfortunately there is no way that you can guarantee the tale you have been sent is based on fact or not. My best advice is to contact the source. These emails usually contain a quote from a law enforcement officer or a hospital representative stressing the urgency of the situation (you’ll see the name of a doctor on the letter provided in the Facebook message – no such person exists! See the following link for a statement from the health agency mentioned on the letterhead stating that they never issued the warning and no doctor by that name has ever worked there!). Before you pass a Facebook message, or email (they still pop up now and then), spend a moment or two trying to get in contact with the person or agency quoted in the story.
 
Once again, these so-called ‘warnings’ are dangerous. If you ever receive one please don't forward it on before attempting to check out the facts.

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