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March 10, 1989

Crime Labs or the Street for Drug Information?

Author Affiliations

Plainwell, Mich

Plainwell, Mich

JAMA. 1989;261(10):1445-1446. doi:10.1001/jama.1989.03420100079026

To the Editor.—  The article about the value of obtaining information for physicians regarding what drugs are on the illicit market emphasizes speed.1 Another important issue is accuracy. "Street researchers" may report correctly what they have heard, but the question is: Of what value is hearsay from the street regarding the identity of drugs sold and used there? The answer is: not much.Data from the Wisconsin Crime Laboratory collected in 1970 and 1971 show that street drugs often are not what users/sellers believe them to be (Table 1).While street users talked about strychnine in marihuana, synthetic tetrahydrocannabinol, psilocybin, and mescaline, none of these was found. The four cases of mescaline were all natural peyote buttons (which contain mescaline).Further evidence that street talk regarding the identity of drugs on the street is not a reliable indicator of what actually is there is in the list of items