Willamette Week, "Rogues' Gallery," April 10, 1996

Young lives have already been taken

They say "military intelligence" is an oxymoron. Well, that's certainly true for the Oregon National Guard, which earns rogue status for perpetuating one of the oldest urban legends in the book. Last month, the Guard's counter-drug program circulated a flyer warning parents that drug dealers were selling paper "tattoos" laced with LSD to schoolchildren. The tattoos depict blue stars, Mickey Mouse, Superman or other cartoon characters, the flyer says, and children may absorb the illicit drug through their skin by simply touching them. Absorption can lead to symptoms such as hallucinations, "uncontrollable laughing" and even death - "Young lives have already been taken," the missive warns. While the tattoo method of acid dissemination is not uncommon, the alleged distribution of such tattoos to school children is so ancient a tale that it has been documented in books on urban mythology. So why the recent revival of this old game of gullibility? It turns out that the bogus alarm originated in the e-mail system of the U.S. Department of Defense in February and was taken a little too seriously by the Washington, D.C.-based National Guard Bureau's anti-drug program. The bureau fired off the message to state Guard offices, and from there it spread to schools and homes around Oregon. According to Sandy Giffin, director of the Poison Control Center at Oregon Health Sciences University, LSD cannot be absorbed through the skin. Furthermore, there are no documented reports of Oregon tykes taking unintentional trips to Disneyland with Mickey.

Nominations for Rogues: Send to Naomi Gollogly, e-mail ngollogly@wweek.com or write to 822 SW 10th Avenue, Portland, OR 97205.


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