Why you Shouldn’t Talk to FRANK about LSD, but to EROWID instead…

It doesn’t take a Home Office funded research team to learn that an ever increasingly well-informed public is starting to spot the biases and interests behind FRANK:

Although it takes no stretch of investigative journalism to discover that FRANK is funded by the government (via the Department of Health and The Home Office). Those unsuspecting marks, lured to the ‘Talk to Frank website’ by its multi-million pound advertising campaigns, would have no idea about it’s government connections from the website itself.

Nowhere on the website is it made clear that the charade is funded by the Home Office. Those visiting the site may wrongly assume that it is somehow independent, objective and fair.

This article hopes to highlight the intentional misrepresentations of psychedelics on the part of the organisation FRANK. In particular, this article analyses the misrepresentation of LSD to those who visit the FRANK website looking for objective information.

A Home Office report states that:
In March 2010

• 86% of 11 –18 year olds were aware of the FRANK service;
• of those, 80% trusted FRANK to give them reliable information about drugs;
• around 40% of young people would contact the FRANK website compared to 22% who would contact their friends for information about drugs.

The service offers “excellent value for money”, costing tax-payers a nominal £1-1.5 million per year.

Drugs education will always be a conflicted matter. On the one hand, educators and officials want to see a decrease in drug use; on the other hand, there’s the truth.

Now, nowhere on the FRANK website did we find any lies. As with so many things, it is just as important to spot what has >not been said< as to see what a given text makes explicit.

What's wrong with this picture?

What’s wrong with this picture?

So here’s the first thing an individual research LSD would see. It starts off with a cursory mention about positive effects: positive effects that are down-played and misrepresented. What the FRANK website isn’t so frank about is the widespread personality, emotional, and spiritual transformations that research shows are fairly likely to occur. It dedicates ONE SENTENCE to the positives, within which it refers to them with a metaphysically loaded (and dismissive) term “hallucinations”.

The rest of this neutral and unbiased introduction is dedicated to the negatives, it is dedicated to fear-mongering.

Note that FRANK doesn’t provide much in the way of numbers: it doesn’t say what percentage of experiences are good or bad, it uses words like “depressed” to insinuate mental health issues, whilst being a little sparse on any evidence.

Now let’s look at ‘The Risks’ section, note: there isn’t a section for benefits, clinical uses, or any research indicating that LSD can make a positive contribution to one’s life.

More propagandaNow, we think it’s a great credit to FRANK that midst it’s highly biased representation of LSD, it does state “There’s no evidence to suggest LSD does any long-term damage to the body or directly causes long-term psychological damage.”

It is also honest about LSD being non-addictive, and that impurities with LSD are rare. This does raise the question, why such matters have their own sub-headings?

Here’s the sneaky bit though. The ‘experience reports’. Now, there doesn’t seem to be a mechanism which allows for people who have used LSD to submit their own reports, that’s a little strange isn’t it?

One would think that, when designing a website which provides unbiased information, which offers “first hand accounts” of drug experiences, that it might be an idea to provide a function that allows drug users to submit their accounts? If LSD is so bad, why not just let people who have used it write their feedback? The truth about LSD can go no further than the experiences of those involved with it.

FRANK has a page here: http://www.talktofrank.com/story/add

Which allows users to submit their accounts. As we are about to see, there is sufficient evidence to indicate a very heavy bias in their selection process. I invite any qualified readers to try and submit a positive LSD experience to the FRANK website and see how far it gets!

Let’s just compare the headings for FRANK’s LSD reports to those contained on Erowid.

Erowid is, in fact, the website that FRANK ought to be: it offers truly unbiased information, and allows drug users to upload their uncensored experiences of ANY drugs, and ANY combinations. Erowid does not censor “negative” experience-reports, nor does it censor “positive” ones:

erowid screenshot lsdIn fact: it has over 1000 reports (on LSD alone), categorised in various useful ways. It has amassed a huge collection of experience-reports which are the result of hundreds of different drugs, in myriad combinations, being described by thousands of individuals.

FRANK offers only five experience reports, most of which feature LSD being abused, misused, and mixed with other drugs, perhaps you can identify the selection bias?

LSD FRANK Bullshit experience reportsThe implication of these reports, for a reader who is looking for some cursory information about the effects of LSD, is that the experience will be nightmarish, will “destroy your family” and “cost you good friends” and probably land you in a psychiatric unit.

Now let’s not be naïve here: as Erowid’s comprehensive collection of trip reports indicate, bad trips happen, train-wrecks and disasters occur, and LSD can become an unhelpful habit for some individuals. What Erowid shows, however, is that:

1) LSD is far more likely to produce positive experiences than negative.
2) That the nature of those positive experiences is often described as profound by it’s users.

If FRANK wants to be frank about LSD, it needs to be a little more FRANK about what motivates people to use it, how MOST people find the LSD experience. If it wants to avoid the inherent biases of subjective reports, perhaps it could refer to more scientific information. If it wants to provide a truly neutral resource, it ought to avoid generalisations and selection biases.

Perhaps most important of all, FRANK ought to be honest and explicit about it’s connections to the government. It is a political website pretending (by omission) to be non-political. It is a service built to serve the interests of the state, pretending to serve the interests of the individual: the harmony of those interests is a matter of great controversy.

TLDR: Don’t talk to FRANK, talk to erowid.

erowid logo sign image information knowledge awareness

  1. A well crafted article, but I think the writer misses a key point. To compare FRANK (which is primarily aimed at teens) with EROWID (which is primarily the product of hardened explorers) is a bit like comparing chalk and cheese.

    While both sites operate the harm reduction model there are different points on this scale. Erowid is certainly more ‘suck it and see’ in its approach, while Frank veers more towards ‘this could fuck you up big style’. So Frank certainly pushes more towards promoting abstinence. But abstinence is the most effective form of harm reduction.

    The key thing to remember here is the age demographic… And as a (non-abstinent) Father of a teen, to be honest I would be perfectly happy if mine were NEVER to experiment with drugs. If she can find a way through life without them, and if Frank is the impetus that makes that happen, then I am very glad it has a place in the gammut of drugs ed.

    My professional experience of dealing with the fall-out from drug abuse extends some 15 years now and has taken me to FAR darker places than the usual festival casualty or weird couple of hours ‘out there’. Drugs can and do fuck peoples lives up in immense and far-reaching ways, every day. They are not something to be taken lightly, especially by the young and still developing mind and although people in professional positions have developed a thick enough skin to deal with the consequences for them, they are still often very unpleasant consequences which continue to impact their lives long after they have been hastily patched up at a festival or by a group of mates anxious to protect their own liberty. Of course, it’s not just young minds which suffer, but it is young minds which are far more likely to be adversely damaged by these experiences, in the longer term and in a variety of social and psychological ways.

    Personally I’d have no problem advising a youngster to talk to Frank first of all. If they still want to persist, then at least they know what the worst case scenarios are and can’t say they were unaware of the consequences of a bad choice.

  2. cognitivelibertyuk said:

    Your point is well taken. But for harm reduction, where does the evidence come in to this?

    We maintain that FRANK wouldn’t dream of sharing accurate scientific findings about the comparative harms of recreational drugs, the data clearly supports claim that many psychedelics are much safer than alcohol, tobacco and cannabis:


    Nor would Frank be too keen to share the research indicating therapeutic benefits to using psychedelic drugs, of which there is a great deal.

    Of course we all want harm reduction, that’s the point! In the name of harm reduction people should be given the facts and evidence about harms (and benefits) without bias and misrepresentation.

    • Ninja Samurai said:

      That chart is NOT science. It is something a few researchers put together based on their experience.

      • cognitivelibertyuk said:

        Click to access dddsd.pdf

        The charts are put together based on harm-ratings given by experts, whilst it would be easy to misrepresent this method by saying it is merely “based on their experience” it is important to note that “their experience” will involve the experience of reading countless peer-reviewed articles about the various harms and benefits of drugs: in order have been on the panel, individuals have an extensive background in related academic and research fields.

        Whilst the degree to which it is “scientific” or not is open to some debate, it is a more useful general indicator of harm in comparison to the current drugs legislation which seems to be based on a far-less scientific basis of historical accident, political reactionism and a series of media hysteria and fear-mongering campaigns.

      • cognitivelibertyuk said:

        Further, the above article does discuss the reliability of conclusions which seem to be vouchsafe.

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