The Mix

Testing the waters is bad for dominant cultural myths

The feds are testing wastewater for traces of cocaine -- expect a rather quiet announcement of the results.
Yes. Yes! Watch it happen with me. "Fairfax County [Virginia] is taking part in an unusual White House drug study. Wastewater from communities throughout the Potomac River Basin is being tested for the urinary byproducts of cocaine. 'Apparently, they're able to ascertain how many people may be using illicit drugs, in this case cocaine, with such studies,'" Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerry Connolly said.

It's a crying shame they aren't going to test for a lot more than that, because if they do, we'll get to watch some 20 megaton cultural lying by the media and drug addiction "experts" as they try to suppress and explain away the results. Either that or the culture -- umm, I mean law enforcement -- will walk the walk and do an en masse arrest, countywide. But cocaine on its own is good enough for this test case, I suppose. It's got the stigma of being just a deadly, deadly killing, wrecker of lives. Let's see what the results are for a pretty wealthy county like Fairfax. The demographics are: 70% white with a $81,050 median income (almost double for Virginia as a whole), and a 4.5% poverty rate, which is less than half the state average. That's good enough to open the kimono a bit about the standing propaganda out there about drugs+race+economic class.

Why the gloating you ask? Well, because my spider senses tell me that the results are going to be just like those from when a similar test was conducted in the Po River basin in Italy last year. I am pleased and proud to quote John Dolan, who brought this tale to my attention:

In 2005, "Italian pollution officials checked levels of chemical in the Po River, which drains most of Northern Italy. They discovered there was so much cocaine residue in the water that the residents of the area had to be using coke at more than ten times the rate cops had estimated. It meant that every young adult in the place was coked, every weekend. Two relevant facts: Northern Italy is virtually crime-free. The only crimes around are imports (Albanians, mostly), and they're not the coked-up partygoers whose piss was getting the river so high. Second key fact: coke is actually one of the more dangerous drugs, almost as bad as alcohol.

"Combine these facts and stats and you see that (A) There are far more drug users than we admit out there; (B) They're doing fine, holding jobs, raising kids, snorting on the weekends and trooping back to work like the rest of us."

I'll get the popcorn, you find the url for the ONDCP press release graveyard.
Jan Frel is an AlterNet staff writer.