Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume. 34, Number 15. August 4, 1971
The Editor, Sunday Times, Wellington For Publication
Your lead story of the 4th July (Hip Trip to Death? Mushroom Mania!) probably served to boost your sales but has contributed only negatively to the growing problem of drug abuse in New Zealand. It serves only to increase curiosity. What we need are facts, not sensationalism.
At first glance it would appear that the article serves to warn those who have heard of the hallucinogenic properties of Fly Agaric and Psilocybe Mexicana that these mushrooms are poisonous. But on looking at the article published in the student newspaper "Salient" on May 5th (yes, two months ago) I find that the toxicity of these fungi was emphasised. I would be surprised if Marie Taylor's "Mushrooms and Toadstools of New Zealand" failed to do the same, even though mention was made of "magical" properties.
How then do you justify the use of more than half of your front page to arouse even more curiosity in drugs?
Further, some parts of the "Sunday Times" article are vague and others are of no obvious relevance.
* Rod Bryant, the author, fails to inform readers as to just how he knows "New Zealand hippies are rushing to buy a book on local toadstools". I would also like to know how Mr Bryant defines hippy". This word is emotionally overcharged with a variety of meanings. To find a journalist using it outside of inverted commas immediately arouses my suspicions.
* I would also appreciate a definition of "rush" as in "Students Rush Magic Mushroom", your billboard headline. As a student, I demand a full explanation of this headline which is libellous in its ambiguity.
* And what is the meaning and purpose of these two paragraphs:
"Psilocybin is one of the hallucinogenic substances derived from toadstools. It is in the same class as Mescaline derived from the peyote cactus."
"The laboratory prepared equivalents are LSD and the similar but more powerful STP."
Anyone who knows the effect on behaviour of Mescaline knows that it is related to Psilocybin because both are hallucinogens. But the similarity ends there. Mescaline belongs to that group of hallucinogens containing a "phenyl ring", Psilocybin to the group containing "indole nuclei". LSD and STP which are also lumped together here can be similarly differentiated. (My source is "The Drug Dilemma" by Sidney Cohen, McGraw-Hill 1969, p.12).
Why LSD and STP should be the "laboratory-prepared equivalents" of Psilocybin and Mescaline when both Psilocybin and Mescalin have been synthesized (the former in the 50's, see "The Chemical Religion" by Peter Turkel, Paulist Press. 1969, p.115: the latter in the 1920's, see "Drugs" by Peter Laurie, Penguin 1969, p.98) is beyond my imagination unless it is a case of name-dropping.
These two paragraphs typify the article's confusion, redundance and lack of thought. We cannot afford this standard of journalism when it comes to drug abuse. Especially as there is no nationwide system of drug education to exploit to good advantage the curiosity aroused in young people.