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:

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

In the last few weeks we saw the parliamentary commission on drug policy come to a close. The commission concluded that a Royal Commission should be started to investigate the most sensible route forward on the matter: a more lengthy and rigorous public enquiry which would wield far greater power.

David Cameron was quick to dismiss the advice of the think-tank that had been dedicated to investigating the issue for the last year. This being a man who has (according to this BBC news article) used drugs in the past, who in 2002, when HE HIMSELF was a member of  Parliamentary Commission on the same issue suggested that ecstasy should be down-graded from class A, and cannabis to class C, stating:

“Drugs policy in this country has been failing for decades. Drug abuse has increased massively, the number of drug-related deaths has risen substantially and drug-related crime accounts for up to half of all acquisitive crime. I hope that our report will encourage fresh thinking and a new approach. We need to get away from entrenched positions and try to reduce the harm that drugs do both to users and society at large.”

Here’s betting that Cameron, a decade or two from now, will join the long list of ex-prime-ministers, presidents and politicians who, only after they have lost their power, decide that that drugs should be decriminalised.

Of course, the new enquiry focussed on the same old issues: the dangers, the legal highs, drugs in prison. As with so many things though: the most interesting things are what weren’t said, what was ignored, and issues the commission chose not to linger with for too long.

It seems that a parliamentary commission can only go so deep, there are boundaries to work within and certain rules you have to stick by. In the case of this recent parliamentary commission the main boundary, the main rule, was the question of the fundamental legitimacy of drug prohibition. Really the purpose was to investigate drug policy whilst holding to a tacit assumption that recreational drugs must remain illegal.

The commission itself, as well as the inevitable tide of mediocre media analysis on the issue, failed to go to the real heart of the issue. The criminalisation of recreational drugs is a civil liberty issue, a ‘cognitive liberty’ issue: it is about no less than the state’s control over the minds and experiences of the population, over the freedom of the individual.

Nobody asks, nobody cares, about the question: “What gives those people the right to tell me what I can and cannot do with my own mind?”. People have used myriad means to alter consciousness for millennia, we have come to take it for granted that there should be ‘some one there to tell us what we aren’t free to do’.

Another ‘little thing’ about the issue didn’t really make it to the commission or the press. Whilst discussing all of the harms, the issue of the benefits of drugs didn’t seem to get quite so much attention. For some reason, discussing the statistically tenuous links between cannabis and schizophrenia (cannabis being a drug which has become more dangerous precisely because of its illegality) is infinitely more important than discussing the medicinal benefits of the drug. Likewise, calls for psychedelics to be integrated into the psychiatrists arsenal of controlled psychoactive medications, or at least for research into the medicinal benefits of the drugs to be allowed, weren’t given much time at the commission.

Then there’s the other great taboo, and this is the true elephant in the room: America. We all know that every time a British Prime Minister EVER speaks with a US President the words “special relationship” must be uttered at least once. Is drug prohibition, essentially, a diplomatic price we have to pay to maintain this “special relationship?”. We all know that if there’s one thing America doesn’t like, it’s for one of it’s submissive allies to start asserting too much autonomy.

If you look at the history of our drug policy, you will see that in every stage of its development it was following in the footsteps of America’s dug policy. If you look a little closer you’ll see America, every step of the way, holding the hands of British politicians and leading them into ‘the war on drugs’.

‘The war on drugs’ – a puritanical American moral crusade- the UN Convention is simply how America imposes it on the rest of the world. Imposing an unending war on the world, and in so doing, allowing its power and influence to permeate into the governments of all nations: it really is quite clever!

The truth is, fellow Brits: our government IS NOT IN A POSITION to back out of the war on drugs, they do not have the power to do it, they are not allowed. America wouldn’t like it, so it’s not going to happen: it’s a diplomatic thing more than anything else, it ‘might seem rude’ to our allies if we start thinking for ourselves. Drug prohibition is a poisonous policy: it needlessly sets the state against its citizenry. It is totalitarian, interfering with the personal choices of the individual, removing freedoms long-enjoyed by our predecessors.

Now that a couple of US states have decriminalised cannabis for recreational use, a double-standard is starting to exist: with all these things there comes to be a tipping point. Once enough countries or states legalise it, we think the other countries will be forced to do the same for reasons of sheer economics.

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