Rantings of a sub-editor

August 4, 2010

260 children on crack!!!

Filed under: 11-year-olds on crack,bad things — substuff @ 9:19 am
Tags: , , ,

So said the Evening Standard yesterday. This isn’t the kind of thing I usually get my knickers in a twist about – that’s reserved for dangling participles and the like. But this made me really mad.

The story included the following figures:

  • 260 11-year-olds have taken crack
  • 87 have used heroin
  • A further 260 have tried psychedelic drugs including LSD, magic mushrooms and ketamine
  • A total of 693 11-year-olds in London have tried Class A drugs
  • Almost 4,000 have used some form of drug within the last year, although the vast majority of these — around 72% — were glues, gas, aerosols or solvents.

Hidden at the end, where any kind of non-panic-inducing news belongs, evidently, was:  “Overall, the percentage of 11 to 15-year-olds who have taken drugs has fallen, down to 22 per cent last year from 29 per cent in 2001.”

But nowhere, nowhere at all did it say how many children had been questioned in the survey. Was it 4,000, in which case 100% of 11-year-olds are taking some kind of drugs? Or was it four million, in which case the proportion of 11-year-olds who have taken crack is 0.0065%?

If you’re going to scaremonger, at least tell us exactly what we’re supposed to be living in fear of. I was quite disappointed to get to work this morning, not having been mugged by a crack-high 11-year-old rascal. I’d banked on at least a morning in hospital, where I would instantly contract MRSA, having been left on a trolley in a corridor, before being sexually assaulted by the doctor and having three pairs of scissors mistakenly left in my stomach. Boringly, I made it here safe and sound.



  1. “Heroine”?

    Comment by Freelance Unbound — August 4, 2010 @ 9:32 am | Reply

  2. Sorry for the last comment – there was a typo in my email version of this post…

    Comment by Freelance Unbound — August 4, 2010 @ 9:33 am | Reply

  3. If almost 4000 had used some form of drug, then the 4000 equals the 22 per cent mentioned in the final par. That means the sample size must have been about 18,000 (4000 is 22 per cent of 18,000). So the number of miniature crackheads represents 0.014 per cent of the sample. Very sad, and awful for that 0.014 per cent, but hardly stastically significant!

    My paper would have gone with much the same treatment as the Standard, though. A couple of hundred little crackheads is far sexier than “only 0.014 per cent of 11 to 15-year-olds had taken cocaine”!

    Comment by andrea — August 6, 2010 @ 10:30 am | Reply

    • Impressive maths there! And yes, I agree that it’s clearly the most exciting angle to go with. My complaint is simply that the size of the sample is essential to the story.

      Comment by substuff — August 10, 2010 @ 2:54 pm | Reply

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