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The adulteration of illicit drugs with dangerous substances - the discovery of a "myth."

The notion that illicit street drugs, such as heroin, are routinely adulterated or diluted with dangerous substances is a common one. Elsewhere (Coomber, 1997a, 1997b) I have shown that it is in fact a common view of those involved in the treatment of drug users, the policing of drug users, and the research of drug use and related issues, as well as by the users themselves. More importantly, perhaps, it is also believed to be true by the vast majority of those who are deemed to carry out this adulteration/dilution, the drug dealers themselves. The adulteration/dilution(1) of street drugs with dangerous substances is thus, arguably, in normative discursive terms relatively uncontested. It is an assumption that attains the status of a "fact." Within an area (discourses around drugs, their effects and dangers) that is littered with contested meanings and stereotypes, it is one that elicits little discussion or opposition. Recent research, however, suggests that dangerous adulteration/dilution with substances such as brick dust, talcum powder, rat poison, ground lightbulb glass, Vim and Ajax,(2) and numerous other such substances is in fact not a common occurrence, if indeed it happens at all -- as opposed to the relatively common practice of adulteration/dilution of drugs with relatively innocuous substances such as glucose, caffeine and paracetamol.(3) Even the widespread belief that drugs such as Ecstasy are adulterated with "harder" drugs such as heroin is not supported by the forensic evidence or other evidence (Coomber, 1997a, 1997b). Moreover, the actual practice of adulteration/dilution itself (with any substance) appears not to occur as often as is commonly thought. This paper is concerned with examining how the belief in dangerous adulterants/diluents came into being, why it continues to be assumed at just about all levels of involvement and reporting on drug issues, and how this relative "truth" helps to reinforce other already existing but contested myths upon which it itself is reliant and through which it partially emerged.

The evidence and the logic behind adulteration/dilution

Although it is known and relatively uncontested that illicit drugs do commonly contain substances other than the drug that has been bought, little (informed) discussion outside of the forensic literature has taken place on this subject. In fact much of the discussion that takes place within the forensic science literature itself is often more concerned with the methods used for analysis (e.g., gas chromatography, mass spectrometry, or NMR spectroscopy) and the stark reporting of what was found than with discussion about broader issues, including, for the purposes of this paper, what is not found and how findings of forensic analysis may impact on perceptions of drugs, on their use, and on those who sell them. Coomber (1997a) attempted to pull together the diverse forensic literature relating to the purity and constituents of illicit drugs and make comparative sense of it. In particular, there was a concern to relate beliefs about dangerous substances being put into street drugs in order to bulk them out, to increase profit, with the forensic evidence. What emerged was a picture of illicit drug adulteration/dilution that differed significantly from common perceptions of it. To begin with, although adulteration/dilution is a common practice, forensic evidence does not reveal adulteration/dilution with dangerous substances such as those listed earlier. Where adulterants/diluents are found, they are commonly substances such as glucose and other sugars, paracetamol and other prescription or over-the-counter drugs, and caffeine (NCIS, 1994; DEA, 1990-1994; Drug Abuse Trends, 1993; Kaa, 1994). Moreover, when substances are used to adulterate or dilute, rather than being the result of haphazard, unpredictable, and belligerent activity desperate to increase profit at any cost, forensic analysis reveals rational, strategic, and at times market-sensitive activity. Substances such as paracetamol (known as acetaminophen in the US), caffeine, and phenobarbital, when found in heroin used for smoking, all help retain a higher percentage of the heroin (in the fumes inhaled) than if the heroin were purer. Strychnine has been found in heroin (but in nothing else(4)), but again, it appears to be a strategic and purposive manufacture of a particular and specialized variant of smoking heroin; the strychnine is added to increase (and it does) the amount of heroin available to the user as opposed to its being the result of an attempt to increase profit by dilution (Huizer, 1987; Eskes and Brown, 1975). The amount used is not problematic to the user (Eskes and Brown, 1975; Henry, 1995(5)). At other times the substances used are relatively inert (such as the sugars found in cocaine and amphetamine) (NCIS, 1994; DEA, 1990-1994; Drug Abuse Trends, 1993) or mimic or complement the action of the primary drug (such as caffeine in the stimulants). In many cases these adulterants/diluents are present in the drugs prior to importation and therefore are added either at the time of manufacture or by those at the high end of the chain of distribution. In relation to heroin, the types of substances found in samples and in what proportions, along with the general make-up of the heroin (relative proportions of the various opiate alkaloids), provide reasonably consistent clues to the source country of the drug (cf Gough, 1991; H.M. Customs & Excise, 1995b; DEA, 1990-1994). The addition of substances such as caffeine, paracetamol and phenobarbitone to illicit heroin prior to importation in relatively consistent fashions suggests that the adulteration/dilution is purposive and controlled as opposed to reckless. What then happens to illicit drugs after importation? The classical image, outlined to great effect in Preble and Casey (1969), is one where drugs are deemed to be routinely adulterated/diluted throughout the chain of distribution. However, there is also increasing evidence that the actual practice of adulteration/dilution with any substance occurs less often than is normally supposed. First, the difference in heroin purity levels between Customs seizures (UK) and street seizures differed far less than might be expected if the classical model of cutting taking place down through the chain of distribution was a reliable way of understanding such practices. In fact, in the years 1991, 1992 and 1993 the average difference between Customs seizures and street seizures was only 8%-14%, with the average purity of street heroin being 45%, 46% and 39.25% respectively (H.M. Customs & Excise, 1995a; NCIS, 1994). In the US, some cities have very high heroin purity levels with little evidence of adulteration/dilution, whereas others consistently have very low purity levels and higher evidence of cutting (DEA, 1994; 1995). In fact, even in relation to amphetamine (often only 5% pure or less) evidence was presented in Coomber (1997b) to suggest that this drug tends to be diluted once very heavily, and very high up the chain of distribution, as opposed to at "street" level.(6)

The forensic evidence, however, although indicative, was primarily limited by the fact that little systematic, comprehensive profiling is undertaken of illicit drugs.(7) Ordinarily drugs are tested (for prosecution purposes) only for the primary drug and do not undergo what is an expensive profiling or even a purity analysis. In Coomber (1997b) 31 drug dealers in the South East London area were interviewed in an attempt to gain further insight into the general adulteration/dilution practices of drug dealers to which the forensic evidence could only allude. The sample included a range of dealers from different parts of the drug distribution chain,(8) both in prison and outside of it. As the forensic literature had suggested, the findings from the interviews into actual practice portrayed a picture of unpredictable (that is, non-routine) adulteration/dilution with any substance, and no substantial evidence of the use of dangerous adulterants/diluents (although the vast majority believed it to be commonplace). Sixty-five percent of those selling heroin and 73% of those selling amphetamine in Coomber (1997b) said that they "never" adulterated or diluted the heroin/amphetamine they sold. A very small minority "always" adulterated/diluted the drugs they sold -- e.g., only one heroin dealer out of the 17 who sold heroin "always" diluted the drugs he sold (10%-20%, depending on initial strength) and four "sometimes" did. Although those selling greater quantities did tend to be slightly more likely to adulterate/dilute, this was not always the case. One street-level dealer of 15 years, interviewed in prison, who sold around one kilogram of heroin monthly, reported "never" having cut his drugs but had relied on the inflated prices of small sales. Adulterants/diluents reported used were (consistent with those found and reported by forensic analysis) sugars such as lactose and glucose, over-the-counter (OTC) drugs such as paracetamol, and substances such as caffeine and bicarbonate of soda. As was speculated in Coomber (1997a), less adulteration/dilution primarily occurred in this sample due to alternative ways of securing profit from their drug sales. In particular, less adulteration/dilution takes place because many drug dealers are not reliant upon it as a way of increasing their profit. Just selling in small samples (e.g., 56 half grams from an ounce) and slightly light weights (perhaps increasing 56 to 58 half grams) realizes significant profit. These findings were also replicated in a recent survey of drug dealers via the Internet. Eighty drug dealers, again from varying points in the chain of distribution, and from 14 different countries (40% from the US) again reported non-routine and relatively low rates of adulteration/dilution and no evidence for dangerous adulteration/dilution (Coomber, 1997c). Evidence for dangerous adulteration practice relied primarily on asking the dealers about their beliefs on dangerous adulteration/dilution. Almost all in Coomber (1997b) and 61% in the survey conducted through the Internet believed that dangerous adulteration/dilution with a range of substances took place. They were also asked if they themselves used such substances. Not surprisingly, none admitted to doing so.9 They were also asked, however, if they had any firsthand knowledge of such practices by others. This gave those dealers who might have used such substances (but did not want to admit it), a chance to demonstrate that their stated belief in it was well founded and displace it onto a mythical "other." Few claimed firsthand knowledge of any such practices. In Coomber (1997a) the further inquiry that was possible in this study found that this "firsthand" knowledge was in fact anecdotal. From the research conducted via the Internet, firsthand evidence was again highly suspect, with the line between knowing and believing being unreasonably blurred.(10)

It was further suggested in Coomber (1997a) that there is a range of logical problems that when thought through would suggest that dangerous adulteration/dilution is unlikely. I shall elaborate initially on the two main ones (for a broader discussion, see Coomber (1997a) ). First, it is not good commercial practice to poison your customers -- you will soon run out of customers, and, as testified in Coomber (1997b; 1997c), the dealers would fear reprisals. Second, it is in fact often easier and even cheaper to use readily available substances that are relatively harmless -- sugars, caffeine, paracetamol, herbal tablets -- than it is to grind down a lightbulb or a brick or to get access to and use rat poison! Anyhow, substances such as Vim, Ajax, lightbulb glass, and brick dust are not soluble in water and would "be easily sussed" by customers.

Apart from these structural and logical reasons as to why dangerous adulteration/dilution was unlikely or indeed even why less adulteration/dilution might take place, one other highly significant finding provides a further clue. When asked why they (the dealers being interviewed) would not adulterate/dilute with dangerous substances, the responses fell into two essential categories: the rational calculative (fear of reprisal) and the ethical or humanistic (concern not to harm the user). In direct contradiction to the conventional image of the evil drug dealer, 81% (25) of the dealers interviewed in Coomber (1997b) responded that they wouldn't adulterate/dilute (either at all or with dangerous substances) because of concern for the users' health (the rest cited fear of reprisal as stated above). "No need, it's dangerous," "Why would I want to hurt someone?" or "Duh! It's not nice to do that to people." In addition, a number of dealers wanted to stress that they felt they had a reputation for quality merchandise (and took pride in that fact) and would not jeopardize that reputation in such a way. One respondent, for example, stated that he did not adulterate/dilute his drugs "because my products were known for quality . . . the above can hurt people," and another, "to maintain the purity of my drugs and the respect of my customers."

Seeing drug dealers as having concern for their clients or taking pride in the quality of the drugs they provide (particularly their safety) is somewhat anathema to the conventional image. But how distorted, exaggerated, and unreasonably homogenous is that image? In one drug agency in London, for example, 98% of all referrals for help are from other users or dealers. "People often ask why dealers should want to refer people on to us . . . well, they're human, and they're users themselves -- they're not Colombian drug barons. People have got tied up in their comic-book fantasies of drug dealers. By networking into the right dealers, we were able to access people" (Platt, 1995).

That adulteration/dilution is not a routine practice for those dealing in drugs in the UK is further supported by important new data on 228 random samples of "street" heroin seized in the UK during 1995/96. No adulterants/diluents were found to be present in nearly 50% of them (King, 1997). It thus appears increasingly clear that many of the drugs on sale in the UK and parts of the US traverse the chain of drug distribution networks receiving no further adulteration/dilution as they are resold.

It might be speculated that some opportunistic "street" dealers who sell on a more ad hoc basis and who never intend to see their clients again may be less constrained by the logical concerns outlined above. However, to use dangerous adulterants as opposed to, say, sugar would necessitate their actively choosing to do so. Presumably this would occur out of having access only to, say, scouring powder as opposed to sugar or flour or some other relatively innocuous substance and, importantly, their not caring that they are using it; otherwise there is no rationale to assume that they would do it even if they did not fear likely reprisal. The motivation for them to do this, unless they are acting out of sheer nonspecific malice or psychosis, is probably minimal, and would most certainly be rare.

Existing beliefs

As we have seen, the majority of those in Coomber (1997b and 1997c) believe dangerous adulteration to take place, despite having no evidence for it. Forsyth (1995) found that many Ecstasy users believed their purchases to be adulterated

The author is a principal lecturer in the School of Social Sciences at the University of Greenwich (Avery Hill Rd., Eltham, London SE9 2HB, U.K.). He edited Drugs and Drug Use in Society, a "critical reader" published in 1994. with substances such as heroin, cocaine, amphetamine and ketamine, but this is not found in analysis.(11) I have also outlined before (Coomber 1997a) that even those working "in the field" (such as drug educators, doctors, researchers, pharmacologists, drug service workers), aware of many of the other "drug myths" that permeate discourses around drugs, also report/believe adulterants/diluents to be a significant health risk. The general public are more reliant on their views of drugs and the risks therein from the news and popular media. That street drugs are necessarily an unknown quantity, that "you could be buying anything" is of course a truism, but one that tends to unreasonable exaggeration in the reporting of drug dangers and the use of speculative assumption as fact. Items in the news and popular media dealing with drugs, their effects and their dangers almost always allude to or state with impunity (especially after a drug-related death) that one of the reasons street drugs are unsafe is because they contain dangerous impurities put there by the dealers. As we shall see, this was the specific reaction to one story outlined below. Commonly unsubstantiable, "facts" are sensationally bandied about without hesitation: "Many drug dealers mix their supplies with all sorts of awful things -- rat killer, toilet cleaner, etc. -- to make it go further" (Mizz, 20.12.95, my emphasis) or "Ecstasy has turned to agony for thousands of E users as dealers spike tablets and capsules with heroin, LSD, rat poison and crushed glass" (Time Out, 1993). Such reporting, however, is not restricted to the media with lesser journalistic credibility. The Observer (19.11.95) confidently declared in relation to adulterated Ecstasy ". . . 'cut' with anything ranging from caffeine to aquarium cleaner to rat poison -- can kill." In terms of frequency of occurrence, it is clear that dangerous adulteration is deemed commonplace: ". . . (remember, it could be cut with anything), so it's like playing Russian roulette with your life each time" (Mizz, 20.12.95) or "Es are more often than not cut with other drugs, sometimes placebos, but often acid, strychnine, amphetamines . . . or even heroin" London Student, 29.2.92). The public rarely have recourse to a more informed perspective. What follows is perhaps an archetypal example of how drug fears and commonplace beliefs about drugs, dangerous adulteration and drug dealers are raised, reported, and perpetuated. This particular high-profile event sparked off a national scare around Ecstasy use in the UK in late 1995. Leah Betts took Ecstasy on her 18th birthday. A few hours later she fell into a coma. Her parents, incensed by the horror of the event and angry with "drugs" and those who had anything to do with them, invited the mass media into the intensive care unit where Leah lay unconscious so that others could see for themselves the devastating effects of taking Ecstasy. Sensational pictures of the unconscious teenager with tubes up her nose were plastered over the front pages of national newspapers, as they were again when she died a few days afterwards. Soon after her death, huge roadside advertising hoardings across the country carried her picture as a warning against Ecstasy use. Five months later, at the time of writing, her image still has not vanished from our front pages, despite the disclosure that Leah Betts died of hyponatremia, a swelling of the brain due to massive short-term over-consumption of water,(12) with Ecstasy implicated relatively tenuously in the end. Initial speculation, however, was straightforward. After all, what other than the existence of a noxious poison would cause such a violent, powerful and unusual reaction to a drug. The first explanation put forward by police and the media was that of dangerous contaminants: "Police said a binding agent such as bicarbonate of soda or scouring powder could have been responsible for the contamination" (The Guardian, 14.11.95). The day after Leah's picture was presented to the nation, the national tabloid The Daily Mirror (15.11.95) ran a two-page story on contaminants purposely put into drugs such as Ecstasy by "evil" dealers. I Dealt Kids Pure Poison ran the headline from the words of an [alleged] Ecstasy dealer, quickly followed by a confession: "The E is cut with rat killer, toilet cleaner or guitar wax . . . then coated in hair-spray." He also claimed, "I've bought Contact cold capsules, emptied them out, and filled them with a bit of "speed" (amphetamine) and heroin and sold them as E tabs." The Daily Mirror also claimed that "According to the police, toilet cleaners such as Harpic and Ajax are also used to 'bulk out' the tablets." A day later the whole contaminants theory went out of the window when forensic analysis revealed the drug to be "pure MDMA" or Ecstasy. The focus then changed to the dangers of "pure" drugs, and then, when it was found hyponatremia was the cause, to the dangers of drug use in general. Importantly, not only did the tablet that Leah Betts took not contain a poison, but The Daily Mirror's confidant and drug dealer "Pusher Peters" revealed his (self-confident) ignorance in a number of key passages: "They also mix it with ketamine, an asthma drug also used as an anaesthetic by vets. That stuff is double-deadly. A tiny amount can kill you." He offered an opinion on Leah Betts: "I suspect from what I've seen she may have taken a tab laced with rat poison, because that causes your brain to swell up and you go into a coma." Ketamine is an anaesthetic analgesic available as a prescription-only drug in the UK. It "has. a significant recreational usage in the UK" and, like all illicit drugs, has attendant dangers, but "deaths appear to be rare; only one case is cited anecdotally in the literature, with no precise reference given" (Shapiro, 1992). Rat poison moreover, is not reported in the blood or urine of those who have attended emergency units at hospitals, and even if it did, it would not manifest itself in the way described (Farrell, 1992). Finally, heroin has not been found in the analysis of Ecstasy or other "dance drugs," although it is widely believed to be by users (cf Coomber, 1997a). "Pusher Peters" was not a reliable informant, but he did tell the Daily Mirror reporters what they wanted to hear (and, I suspect, what he felt he was being paid to say), and, as with those interviewed in Coomber (1997b), he probably even believed some of it himself.

The common act of dangerous adulteration (through either malice or thoughtlessness) is therefore a relatively uncontested assumption throughout the various groups involved in or interested in drug issues, as well as by the general population -- who after all are reliant upon each of these sources for their information.

The myth that was not

What we find, then, is that the assumption of dangerous adulteration as either a common or even a likely occurrence has little if any evidence to substantiate it in the current drug distribution setting in the UK, if indeed it ever did.(13) It is an assumption that must now become a contested notion and thus enter into the realm of "myth." A myth in this sense(14) may be understood as a belief that has common currency but is contested by empirical evidence and by a significant proportion of those involved in investigating the belief. Its continued currency despite significant evidence to the contrary says much about the investment in the belief for the individual or group from which it continues to have advocates. Myths of this type are often, but need not be, stereotypes of persons or groups imbued with prejudice and bigotry. Such myths may refer to the supposed (often pejorative) inherent characteristics of "others" -- unscrupulous Chinese; lazy blacks; dirty gypsies; neurotic women. Others relate to the superiority of some groups over others -- Aryanism, for example. Another instance, common in the "drugs world," is to attribute to particular drugs particular powers that they do not in reality possess.

A belief or a set of beliefs can become mythical only if it/they is/are (a) still widely believed and (b) contested as an untruth and the basis for the contestation demonstrates that there is no evidence that can be reliably called on to substantiate the myth. In the case of dangerous drug adulteration/dilution there is thus a movement in status from an uncontested, widely held assumption of its application and existence to a position whereby its status is beginning to be questioned through an absence of empirical evidence and rational theoretical basis. The widely held assumption is now contested and lacking in empirical substantiation. It was, in all likelihood, always a myth -- in the sense that it never had any greater truth content than it does now. It was, however, not perceived as such, and it managed a status of relative uncontestedness.(15) As such, it was a myth that was not.

The construction of drug myths and "truths" within them

Understanding how the idea of dangerous drug adulteration/dilution achieved the status of being relatively uncontested is undoubtedly complex. What now follows is an attempt to unravel some of the primary tensions and discourses around drugs, drug users, and drug sellers that permitted such an idea to emerge, be perpetuated, and become relatively uncontested.

The distortion of drugs' effects and their dangers

Perceptions of drugs' effects and the dangers inherent in their use are replete, historically and contemporarily, with out-landish distortion, exaggeration and misunderstanding. Extraordinary -- but imaginary -- powers are often attributed to drugs. Cannabis was once demonized as likely to turn the sane mad, and the mild into frenzied violence (of Woodiwiss, 1997; Gossop, 1996; Musto, 1987), a perspective now completely discredited. Nonetheless the view of drugs as having the capability to transform persona and physiology is well ingrained. In 1924 Dr. Dana Hubbard of the New York City health department was recorded in a Foreign Policy Association pamphlet as stating: "Heroin used by a human being produces an unmoral savage. The boy or girl, man or woman, driven by heroin's influence becomes cold-blooded, the personality is inflated to a state of paranoic [sic] egoism, and the individual is capable of committing any crime" (quoted in Trebach, 1983:48). In the early part of this century "cocaine was supposed to enable blacks to withstand bullets which would kill normal persons and to stimulate sexual assault" (Musto, 1987:244). Likewise, in a 1980s and 1990s version of this form of narrative, PCP or "angel dust" (phencycladine) was believed to increase a person's strength and make him/her violent, impervious to pain, and able to withstand numerous bullets (Falk, 1994). Such a view was put forward as a considered defense in the trial of four Los Angeles police officers for the savage beating of black motorist Rodney King, which acted as the catalyst for the 1991 LA riots. The officers, who stated that they believed him to be high on PCP and that they were therefore confronted by a person of abnormal strength, aggression and imperviousness to pain, justified their acts on the basis that King would have been perceived to be more difficult to bring under control than a normal (nonintoxicated) man. As no expert evidence was presented by the prosecution to refute the "myth" of PCP's transformative powers (presumably this pharmacological transformation was deemed possible by the prosecution), it was accepted as reasonable by the jury (Reed, 1992). Falk (1994:48), in a more reasoned understanding of PCP, concludes, in the light of broad research evidence, that violent behaviour in connection with PCP use occurs upon a personal and social background and out of situational events" [and that, quoting Siegal] "it does not magically produce violent, assaultive or criminal behaviour" of the types often described. Crack cocaine is perhaps the primary current example of a demonized drug whose widely publicized and widely accepted effects are either wrong, misleading, or exaggerated to an extent to make useful understanding difficult or nigh impossible for the lay public. Notions of instant addiction, inevitable addiction, that occasional or recreational use is not possible (never mind prevalent), that it turns users violent, even its danger to health, all are attributed to crack cocaine, but all are either untrue, uncontextualized, or unreasonable exaggerations (WHO/UNCRI, 1995; Ditton and Hammersley, 1994; Newcombe and Matthews, 1989; Miller, 1991; Kaplan, 1983; Alexander and Wong, 1990,, Greider, 1995) that merely continue a theme that goes from one drug to another (and sometimes back again) over time.

Such perspectives on drugs' powers have often been combined with (and reinforced by) connections with "others" such as the Chinese (UK & US), the Chicanos (US), blacks from the South (US), the "working" (or dangerous) class(es) (UK & US) (Musto, 1987; Kohn, 1992; Parssinen, 1983; Berridge and Edwards, 1987; Bean, 1974; Mott and Bean, 1996; Gossop, 1996; Woodiwiss, 1997; Saper, 1974). Images of drug-induced "threats" to individuals (violence, unpredictable behavior) and society (behaviors and threats from those "outside" normal society) are often evoked, along with images of epidemics and inexorable growth of the problem if it is not checked by the strongest possible means (Trebach, 1987; Wisotsky, 1990). Kohn (1992:2) in Dope Girls elaborates on one particular constellation of fears: "Variations on this scene [racial contamination] set the tone of the British drug panic of the 1920s, firing on the potent juxtaposition of young white women, `men of colour' (the term was current), sex and drugs. If the ultimate menace had to be summarized in a single proposition, it would be that they facilitated the seduction of young white women by men of other races." Thus the unscrupulousness of the Chinese, the mistrust and fear of the blacks, the fear of the dangerous classes, all lend a hand to a perception of particular drug usage (opium and cocaine primarily) as something practiced by "others" already the subject of concern and the cause of fears and anxiety.

Dope-fiend mythology

The combination of the two threats -- both exaggerated, if not wholly constructed, in terms of their real dangers (transformative, degenerative) -- permitted the emergence of a central figure around which much drug mythology continues to rely, the "drug fiend" or "dope fiend." Contemporary terminology and euphemism may utilize a different vocabulary ("junkie," "dope addict"), but the essence of what is feared in today's drug scene, as before, is characterized by earlier conceptions of the dope fiend. The dope fiend, as Lindesmith (1941: 199) critically pointed out, was commonly thought to be one of "the most dangerous and heinous criminals . . . linked with killing and rape," that [he] "becomes a moral degenerate, liar, thief, etc., because of the direct influence of the drug" (p. 202) and will "attempt to induce non-users to try the drug" (p. 205) to create a market for his custom. The constitution of the dope fiend was possible only through the exaggeration and distortion of the powers inherent within heroin, as an essentially transformative drug that stripped the user of his humanity, of the essences that make us "human." Such essences would include self-control, rational thought, and humane behavior toward others. Deprived of these important essences, the subject thus becomes dehumanized, depraved and unpredictable. Schlesinger et al. (1983) have argued that a similar dehumanizing, and thus de-legitimating process occurs in the way "terrorists" are publicly presented by government and the media. Once this transformation has been considered to take place, in both the drug user/addict and in the public mind, all manner of heinous behavior is easily attributable to and expected of those transformed. Mythical but nonetheless pervasive (at least in the common imagination -- which often includes the media) behaviors commonly associated with the dope fiend are numerous, but they tend to rely on rumor, hearsay, and unsubstantiated (and unsubstantiable?) information countered by much of the drug research literature. Even simple theft, as in the UK government's "Heroin Screws You Up" campaign, where a teenager is depicted as having stolen his mother's wedding ring to buy heroin, evokes the transformative process from normal to degenerate -- both physically and morally (Rhodes, 1990). More serious, more threatening behaviors such as the "evil" drug dealer who entices children to buy drugs from ice cream vans ("Deadly dangers as drug dealers set out to target the young" -- Worthing News, 12.8.93), who "laces" soft drugs (or even sweets) with hard drugs to get them addicted, or who sells drugs at or even within the school gates ("Playground pushers are selling amphetamines disguised as jelly beans to schoolkids" -- the People, 17.10.93) or on street corners, all depict the image of a person so depraved (preying on the most vulnerable) that he is reduced to some of the most inhuman of acts. From here it is a short step to imagine the adulteration of heroin and other drugs with dangerous poisons or other substances. Sometimes, as with the reporting above, such leaps of the imagination are helped along a little. The "Blue Star Hoax" is one very prominent and international example. Formally acknowledged as a hoax with absolutely no substance by the Drug Enforcement Administration (a body not associated with the playing down of drug dangers) the claim has been widely made and disseminated (often in the form of a printed flyer) that a children's washable transfer "tattoo" with a picture of a blue star on it contains LSD that would be absorbed into the child's skin. Claims of the tattoos having already caused injury and even death to children are also made. The flyers, often citing numerous authoritative sources, have been sent to schools and police forces in a number of states in the US and to other countries, resulting in many such recipients sending out further warnings to parents and the local media. The DEA says that "hundreds of incidents of the 'Blue Star Hoax' have been documented" but that "no LSD-laden 'tattoo' incidents have ever been documented" (DEA, 1992, my emphasis). The flyers often link in to other related myths that have surfaced around LSD regarding the targeting of children. In England, The Times (18.9.93) ran the statement "Drug dealers are luring youngsters by selling cut-price LSD with pictures of comic characters such as Dennis the Menace drawn on the hallucinogenic tabs, West Midlands police say." But the DEA, in the US context and comparatively more informed than the West Midlands Police, is also willing to play down rumors such as "The cartoon characters go all the way back in the history of LSD. . . . Obviously Bart Simpson is new, but we don't see any evidence of an effort to market this to young children" (Los Angeles Times, 18.4.92). The blue star LSD tattoo sums up much of dealing mythology. Many people's fears about drugs resonate most strongly in relation to children. The existence (albeit mythical) of such a product (a children's transfer, clearly aimed at getting them "hooked") proves that dealers are evil. Kaplan (1983) has adequately dealt with the misconceptions and contradictions that such beliefs entail in relation to heroin, but much of the logic also applies to the Blue Star Hoax. Why target children if they do not know they are taking the drug? LSD is not a drug that induces addiction, and thus "hooking" a new clientele is not going to result by merely exposing children to it. Moreover, unknowing use of LSD is likely to lead to a "bad trip," again, not conducive to encouraging a market. Children have little money and are therefore an unreliable source of income; providing them with cheap "tasters" is inherently uneconomical. Many drug rumors, however, run as they do because ignorance of drugs' effects is widespread, and fear often overcomes reason -- and, of course, as we have seen, they are given authority by schools, the police and the media.

The arguments and rumors are consistent. The black market has no regulation; these people (the dealers) cannot be trusted -- even if they once could, they are transformed. To make a profit, drugs will be diluted. Desperate (16) and out-of-control "junkies" who have neither the time nor the inclination to use safe substances will put in anything that comes to hand; they simply do not care.

Fear and loathing of black-market transactions

As suggested by the quotation from Trainspotting at the beginning of this paper, "scoring gear" is perceived as a risky business. We can speculate that certain consistent structural conditions in which users are obliged to engage are also likely to provide encouragement for the ready belief in dangerous adulteration/dilution. Drug users are often forced into economic transactions (to obtain drugs) with people they neither trust nor would be involved with in other circumstances. Such conditions are placed under increased strain when users are forced to buy their drugs from a dealer who is not their normal source(17) or when experience of, or rumor about, an unexplained death in the drug-using community (especially the death of an experienced user) needs an explanation.(18)

These explanations are potentially furnished on occasion by the market itself. In Coomber (1996b) one cocaine dealer testified that spreading rumors about the quality of other "firms" drugs was one way of trying to capture a bigger share of the market. Rumors are a powerful instrument in any circumstances, but in a context already riddled with mistrust and perceived vulnerability their power is probably enhanced. One participator in a debate in the alt.drugs.hard newsgroup stimulated by the posting of the questionnaire relating to Coomber (1997c) on the Internet relayed one position on the uncertainty of the market: "There are a lot of smackheads turning up [dead]. A junky runs out of funds for his habit so he peddles whatever . . . instant coffee as cheeba, baby laxative as china, draino (in the 70's) as skag . . . to make enough $$$ to cop real dope. This time it's some bug shit . . . all he could find. `Hell,' he figures, 'that cat will surely taste it before he cooks and slams it.' Well, I guess he didn't make the guy for being as sick as he was . . . dude couldn't take the time for a test . . . fellow's blue, works hanging outta his arm, and he didn't even get the plunger all the way down." Another "ex-junkie" now providing anti-drugs sessions to schoolchildren casually expresses the truism that users "never know what they are taking" but also that "the economics of the drug market dictate that addicts are buying a great deal of poisonous trash for every precious fix" (Observer, 21.6.87). As the beliefs of even drug dealers themselves (who were also users) in Coomber (1997b; 1997c) show, belief in "dirty" drugs is common among those who buy and sell drugs. The very act of buying drugs thus constantly raises for buyers the spectre of distrust and their own comparative vulnerability.

The "lacing" of drugs

In fact, the fear of our food or drink, or anything we consume, being "laced" (adulterated) with poisons or stupefying potions is an age-old one. Roman nobles and emperors used slaves as food and drink "tasters" or testers to try to avoid assassination through poisoning. Numerous Greek and Roman legends contain acts of or attempts at poisoning or doping in their story lines, as do many "classical" (cf Shakespeare's Hamlet; Dickens' Mystery of Edwin Drood; Bernard Shaw's Passion, Poison and Petrification; Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island(19) and contemporary (cf Caleb Carr's The Alienist; Disney's Snow White; Irvine Welsh's Trainspotting) plays and novels.(20)

Historically, many customers at public houses have feared being drugged before being "shanghaied" or kidnapped and forced to become sailors at sea. As with adulteration/dilution, such tales are likely to be exaggerations of the real risk involved, but they do nonetheless suggest a historic sensitivity to the potential vulnerability to substances hidden in things we consume.

This broader awareness of our vulnerability is in fact widespread, part and parcel of our everyday involvement in being consumers. It of course applies to secondhand cars (What is going to go wrong? Is there sawdust in the engine?) and applied to lame horses before that; black-market televisions or video recorders, in fact any product that does not carry a guarantee and/or is received on "dodgy" grounds involves a subjective feeling of vulnerability and mistrust. As consumers we are even unsure (and often justifiably so) whether "legitimate" products making claims of purity, such as "100% beef," mean what they imply as opposed to saying what they mean ("beef" sometimes meaning parts of the animal consumers would not be impressed with). We should not be surprised that the more clandestine the activity, the greater the feeling of vulnerability.

Investments in the belief of drug dangers

For drug users, beliefs about certain dangerous aspects of drug use, such as the possibility of dangerous contaminants in their drugs, may in fact also add to the "glamour" of drug use itself. In this sense it should not be ignored that many drug users may invest in the beliefs of certain stereotypes about themselves and the drug scene. The alternative may be to acknowledge drug use as something predominantly mundane and less risky and therefore less of an investment in self-esteem. On a related but distinct theme, concern over adulterants/diluents and "purity" has long been used as a justification for the introduction of numerous legal controls over the production and sale of various products, including foodstuffs and medicines (cf Berridge and Edwards, 1987; Woodiwiss, 1997), including opium. Moreover, these controls, while ostensibly concerned with ensuring quality products for consumption, were ultimately more far-reaching in terms of legislation and their effect on using populations than they at first appeared. They helped provide a basis for publicizing fears around poorly prepared (uncontrolled) and dangerous medicines or poisons, finally resulting in new conceptualizations of those drugs and punitive frameworks around their uncontrolled dispensation and use. Additionally, the original controls over drugs such as opium (which was self-administered, widely used, and sold from all manner of premises) were often rationalized and justified as necessary in the name of safety and the public health. As has been shown (Berridge and Edwards, 1987) such interpretations of the dangers inherent in the unlicensed supply of opium at this time cannot be divorced from the growth of the pharmaceutical and medical professions and/or public (predominantly "middle-class") morality on its usage. Nevertheless the impact on the public mind of finally introducing legislation to ensure "quality" of product was arguably far-reaching.

Lack of alternative scientific evidence to counter beliefs

There has been little access to scientific information that would counter the idea of dangerous adulteration. Disparate forensic evidence, mainly referring to basic purity but sometimes to broader comprehensive sample profiles, does exist, but little attempt has been previously made to "pull together" this information and build up a picture of what street drugs are actually made up of -- or, more importantly, what they are not made up of. As related earlier, this is in part a result of the way such information is produced and disseminated. Often the profiling of illicit substances is reported in the forensic science literature as a by-product of the reporting on the reliability of the analytical procedures being used (King, 1995). Interest in the profile of what is in the drug being analyzed has thus often taken second place to the development of the methodology and perceived accuracy of the technique and equipment involved. Where reporting on adulterants/diluents has taken place, it (again) has largely been a by-product of the relatively few comprehensive analyses (as compared with the total tested for drug only). The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in the United States does undertake regular profiling of heroin and reports in larger numbers on the adulterants/diluents found, but it merely lists them with little or no discussion of their meaning, making a connection to a broader picture difficult to ascertain (DEA, 1990-94).

The point to be made, then, as regards the forensic evidence is that there is generally little attempt to find "what else" is in street drugs; when there is an attempt, little is done with the evidence. An absence of dangerous adulterants is not met by discussion but one assumes by a silence that has either not recognized its significance or deemed it impolitic to acknowledge it. Perhaps it is informally considered not unreasonable for such a myth to be perpetuated. It would not be the first time that the argument that some exaggeration of drug dangers may be no bad thing (based on the idea of it as a deterrent) has been expressed to this researcher.

An alternative view is to acknowledge that just as the drug user may "invest" in the idea of dangerous adulteration/dilution, so may drug commentators of varying persuasions. To those in favor of drug prohibition, dangerous adulteration/dilution (among other dangers to the individual and to society) is indicative of why drug use and the trade in drugs must be prevented. For those committed to certain harm-reduction approaches, and to those erring toward or committed to drug legalization, it represents a rationale for the provision of clean, consistent (strength, purity) drugs (supplied either through the state or through commerce) to enhance the safety of those who do and will use drugs.

Adulteration as a reinforcer of other myths and thus of its own

credibility

The idea of dangerous adulteration/dilution is a myth that is essentially reliant upon a number of other drug myths for its origin and perpetuation. Without the myth of the evil drug dealer, which itself is partially reliant upon the image of the depraved drug fiend, which in turn is partially reliant on the unreasonable exaggeration of the degenerative powers of drugs like heroin, the rationale for its existence would be difficult to maintain. There is, however, also a circularity and perpetuity about the interrelationship of the myths and the relatively uncontested truth about dangerous adulteration/dilution. While dangerous adulteration/dilution is uncontested it gives greater credence to those who choose to believe and perpetuate the other myths -- dangerous adulteration could occur only if these other myths were true. Without the status of "truth," dangerous drug adulteration/dilution becomes another contested image that in turn further weakens the credibility of the other myths.

Consequences of drug dealer and drug mythologies

The impact of the various drug-dealer/dope-fiend mythologies on public policy can only be speculated upon. At present, however, drug dealers are dealt with in a comparatively harsh way within most criminal justice systems.(21) A conviction for drug trafficking or drug dealing in the UK can result in the law being applied more severely than for almost any other offense, including terrorism, and proposals are in hand to increase the severity of sentencing even further (Campbell, 1996). Even in the Netherlands (normally assumed to be "soft" on drugs) the trends for prison terms have been upwards even though for other offenses they were going down (Dorn, Murji & South, 1992). In fact, this is representative of a more general trend in which "the escalation in the use of imprisonment for drug trafficking runs counter to the general trend in the twentieth century for the relative decline in the use of custody" (Dorn, Murji & South, 1992:199). In the US, increasingly severe penalties have been imposed on those convicted of drug dealing in recent years. Consider the imposition of the comparatively harsh "mandatory minimum" sentences, where federal judges have been compelled to give fixed sentences (with no parole) for particular drug crimes, and the "100 to 1" rule, whereby the weight of crack cocaine is multiplied by an arbitrary 100 compared to the same weight of powdered cocaine for sentencing purposes. It is also significant that the structuring of these laws in this way has resulted in a massive imbalance in the way white and black offenders are dealt with. "Powder cocaine offenders in prison are predominantly white (32 percent) or Latino (39 percent). But 94 percent of the 3,430-plus crack defendants in federal court last year were black" (Morley, 1995).

The severity of legal sanction against the dope fiend is thus often quite extreme, and as Saper (1974:183) suggested more than 20 years ago, many existing "policies have been developed largely through myth, fantasy, and historical accident, interwoven with occasional rationality." We should perhaps consider whether laws such as those mentioned above would be seen as being as credible and as necessary without the perpetuation of images of activities such as dangerous adulteration/dilution or of evil dope fiends preying on children, or without (dehumanizing) beliefs of moral and physical degeneration supposedly inherent in some drug use.

Conclusion

The primary contention of this paper is that the widely accepted phenomenon of dangerous adulteration/dilution of illicit drugs has until recently assumed the status of uncontestedness of a truth, but now is moving into the realm of myth. Its status has become contested due to the absence of empirical evidence to substantiate its existence, and because reasoned inquiry suggests that such practice is logically contradictory and not consistent with the practice of drug markets and those who operate within them. It has been suggested that the emergence of, the perpetuation of, and the assumed verification of beliefs of dangerous adulteration/dilution practices were/are the result of a complex interplay of various historical and structural circumstances. Distortion and exaggeration of drugs' effects, primarily the transformative powers of drugs such as heroin, and the closely related fear of "others" enabled the image of the "dope fiend" to emerge. These factors combined with various other factors: lack of alternative proof, lack of trust inherent in drug markets, and the circular reinforcing action of the other often believed myths. Each of these factors helped produce a scenario where belief in dangerous adulteration/dilution could flourish and bloom, ultimately perpetuating an image of drugs and drug dealers that remains unhelpful.

Notes

(1) The term "adulterant" is used in this paper to refer to substances added to illicit drugs in the process of selling and distribution. Adulterants proper are in fact other psychoactive drugs (like caffeine or paracetamol), which are much cheaper than the main substance but have a similar or complementary effect when mixed with it and therefore help hide the fact that the substance has been diluted. Substances that are not psychoactive, such as glucose and lactose, are more formally known as "diluents." These are added to a drug to increase the amount of drug available to be sold. It should be noted, however, that some substances found in street drugs are the result of the particular manufacturing process used to make the drug. In this sense those substances might be more properly referred to as "impurities." "Excipients" found in drugs (primarily pills/tablets) are the products used to bind the drug together. Common excipients are starch, gelatin or other gums (ISDD, 1994).

(2.) Vim and Ajax are the trade names of domestic cleaning agents. Traditionally, as today, they appeared in the form of a white scouring powder (although there are now a number of liquid scourers generic to the originals to be found under the same trade name). Constituents of Vim are as follows: approximately 95% plus is made up of a nonsoluble chalk, calcium magnesium carbonate; 1%-5% (but closer to 1%) is a detergent powder chlorine release agent that accounts for approximately .3% bleach (Lever Industrials Ltd, 1996). The nonsolubility of the chalk alone would make it a poor candidate for adulteration/dilution, as it would be immediately obvious to users that they had been sold poor-quality goods.

(3.) While it is recognized that drugs such as paracetamol and phenobarbitone are not innocuous substances, they do not tend to be present in street drugs in amounts that render complications over and above those of the primary drug itself.

(4.) The belief of the presence of strychnine in a range of street drugs is commonplace. Apart from heroin, where, as we know, strychnine does appear in one particular manufactured variant (China White), at the point of manufacture, but not as an adulterant/diluent resulting from cutting for profit, it has also been thought to be commonly present in LSD. Strychnine however, is not a by-product of the synthesis of LSD, nor has it been found to be present in street LSD (Shulgin, 1996).

(5.) John Henry of the National Poisons Unit (England) has related that the liver deals comfortably with the levels of strychnine found in heroin.

(6.) Some "street dealers," as we shall see, do dilute amphetamine further, but this is after the initial large cut. If the amphetamine was being progressively diluted as it passed down the system, percentage purity would vary much more, e.g., 60% to 40% to 20%, etc. This does not tend to be found by seizures regardless of weight seized.

(7.) While this is true of the UK, in the US the Drug Enforcement Administration does undertake limited but comprehensive profiling of heroin in its Heroin Signature Program on an annual basis.

(8.) In the 31 interviews undertaken in Coomber (1997b), 10 received the bulk of their income from drug sales; of these, three were wholesalers, six categorized themselves as "street" dealers, and one was a "runner." Of these individuals, only one of the wholesalers reported "sometimes" adulterating/diluting the drugs he sold, two of the street dealers did so "sometimes," and one did so "mostly." A further 14 supplemented their income in this way through drug sales. Four of those who reported only supplementing their income were again "wholesalers" who sold on to others who were interested in shifting smaller amounts of drugs. Only one of these wholesalers reported ever adulterating/diluting drugs.

(9.) In the survey conducted over the Internet, one respondent did in fact report having used "a small amount of strychnine to teach a guy not to bullshit us." However, as argued in Coomber (1996a), the specific use of strychnine not to bulk a product but to use it to hurt specific individuals is qualitatively distinct from an understanding of adulteration where the danger is thought to come from the day-to-day methods of distribution, because it needs to be understood as a direct attempt at specific harm. If a car is used to murder somebody, it would hardly be reasonable to understand the incident as an accident or even within the normal understanding of what dangers cars on the roads constitute to pedestrians.

(10.) Of the 10 who said they had firsthand knowledge of dangerous adulteration, seven were highly suspect, giving either contradictory information or none of any substance at all, despite this information being specifically requested. For example, one respondent stated, "People cut most acid with strychnine to get more acid out of a vial." The belief that strychnine is found in LSD is a common one among users, supposedly explaining some of the physical discomfort that may accompany its use. Strychnine, however, is not a substance that forensic analysis has found in LSD (see note 4). Another stated, "Ground glass, always, to get a higher profit -- XTC (MDMA) is always cut." Again, as we have seen, ground glass is not found. Another respondent providing little substantiation merely stated, "Like I said, it's common." The fine distinction between this category of respondent and those who believed in dangerous adulteration but acknowledged that they had no firsthand knowledge could perhaps be typified by this example: "Don't know the cutter, know victims of rat poison (including myself)." This person clearly believes he "knows" that rat poison is used but is unable to state it unequivocally.

In the end, only five were considered to be reporting what were potentially "true" examples of problematic cutting. Of these, four referred to talcum powder. Talcum powder, if it were a common cutting agent (and it isn't -- being hardly ever found in analysis (cf DEA 1990-1993), and if it was repeatedly administered regularly over time under specific conditions, might cause problems to susceptible individuals. It does not, however, as an occasional diluent, present significant health risks to the drug-using population in general. Moreover, it is clear by the responses to the question asking them why they would not use a dangerous substance that those using talc did not conceive of it as such. It is, after all, still found as a "filler" in some over-the-counter drugs, such as some brands of aspirin. One respondent reported using "a very small amount of strychnine to teach a guy not to bullshit us"; however, as argued elsewhere (Coomber, 1996a), the purposive use of a poison to harm a targeted drug user cannot be seen to be indicative of or meaningful for a normal understanding of drug adulteration/dilution practices any more than can the use of a car to purposely injure someone be seen as indicative to a normal understanding of road hazards and related accident statistics.

(11.) The Home Office Forensic Science Service, however, has found that " `ecstasy' drugs (MDMA, etc.) are almost always encountered as tablets. The content is typically 100 mg, with lactose as the major excipient" (King, 1995).

(12.) The real issue surrounding this death is whether it is pertinent to blame the drug or the information and practices that surround its use (ISDD, 1996). Many individuals consume large amounts of water because they believe this will alleviate the effects. If Leah Betts had not consumed the water, she would not have died. The amount of water she consumed was sufficient to produce hyponatremia regardless of any pharmacological effects from the MDMA. To blame the drug alone in such contexts is clearly unuseful and smacks of scape-goating. If she had not believed the drug's effects to be alleviated through drinking water, she would not have consumed so much so quickly. The inquest of Leah Betts's death recorded a verdict of accidental death caused by nondependent use of drugs. Although hyponatremia was the literal cause, it was deemed that if Leah Betts had not taken Ecstasy, she would not have died. The reporting of the inquest findings showed a picture of Leah Betts with the caption "Poisoned by drug" (The Independent, 1.2.96), and subsequent media reporting (which has been copious) almost without deviation refers to her as someone who died after taking one Ecstasy tablet.

(13.) Indications are that in all probability this now also holds true for the US and elsewhere too (cf DEA 1990-1994).

(14.) The sense in which "myth" is being used here is consistent with modern colloquial usage, which is closer in its approximation to a widely held falsity like those stated in the text. Myths proper, in the academic understanding of them, have been discussed more usually as "a narrative of events; the narrative has a sacred quality; the sacred communication is made in symbolic form; at least some of the events and objects which occur in the myth neither occur nor exist in the world other than in the myth itself; and the narrative refers in dramatic form to origins or transformations" (Cohen, 1969:337). Thus, in this paper at least, I am not attempting to unravel the deeper meaning that the belief in dangerous adulteration has for society. Rather, I am concerned with the more narrowly focused problem of demonstrating its falsity and how it may have originated. For further discussion of myths and their meanings, see Samuel and Thompson (1993).

(15.) Relative, that is, to most other contested notions. I of course accept that almost nothing is completely uncontested. Also, because almost everything, including scientific "laws" (witness evolution vs. creationism), is often contested, most things are a "myth" to a significant proportion of people. Sometimes this contestation is derived from an ideological position. In relation to dangerous adulteration, contestation is rare, especially in the scientific literature.

(16.) The theme of desperation in fact was a common link to each of those interviewed in Coomber (1996b). It was the desperate "junkies" (usually heroin) who were considered to be likely to adulterate/dilute the drugs they sold, removed of any care of the way they diluted their samples.

(17.) Regular users will tend toward having a regular supplier whom they trust. When this supply is unavailable, users are forced to look elsewhere for their drugs. In contradiction to much dope-fiend mythology, rather than seeing an alternative provider as likely to provide drugs with incentive (i.e., in an attempt to boost custom, provide good-quality drugs), users often expect to be given a raw deal by the "other" dealer.

(18.) Sudden deaths of heroin addicts have been speculated to occur when there is a change in the context or environment where the drugs have been taken (Bucknall and Robertson, 1986). It is thought that this relates to the psychological aspect of tolerance whereby tolerance to effects is partly inclusive of set and setting as well as drug. In this way an experienced addict who uses heroin in unfamiliar circumstances may be relatively less tolerant because familiar cues are missing, resulting in overdose from a "normal" dose. The notion of literal high purity or poisonous adulteration is often unsupported by the fact that other users also participated in the use of the same drug at the same time and that forensic analysis sometimes shows the drug to have no unusual characteristics, not even high purity. The combined use of other drugs, particularly alcohol, is also often hypothesized to be a contributing if not causal factor.

(19.) These are but a few. Others could include Congreve's The Morning Bride; Chaucer's The Arcadia; Wilde's Lord Arthur Savile's Crime; Shirley's The Cardinal, but again, this list is only a small and indicative selection of the way poisoning has permeated a broad range of literature.

(20.) While this imagery has often represented such activity as one-dimensional and descriptive, at times it is clearly a metaphor for much more. Alexander (1971:19) has further alluded to the often suggested idea that in Hamlet "poison" is portrayed both literally and as a metaphor for a kind of "enemy within," a hidden corruption that disguised from that around it will insidiously bring it down. Thus the fear of adulteration is part of a broader fear of that which we hold dear being destroyed (sin of sins) by that which we hold dear. We fear, but what we fear most is our fears being realized through betrayal.

(21.) And indeed outside of criminal justice systems. A number of murders in Northern Ireland in 1985 and 1986 have been linked directly to the Irish Republican Army (IRA). Direct Action Against Drugs is reputedly acting on behalf of the IRA. They "have occasionally issued threats of direct action against drug dealers, which they claim is popular in communities which suffer the most from the consequences of drug dealers' activities" (Sharrock, 1996).

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