Talking about Things You Don’t Understand

Some clarifications in response to some very confused statements over the past few days.

1.  Amphetamine is a particular molecule: It isn’t a category.  Stimulant is the category.  Amphetamine has nine carbon atoms, 13 hydrogen atoms and a nitrogen atom that are arranged in a very specific way.  There aren’t ‘types’ of amphetamine.  Here’s its picture.  If the atoms are different, or the positions are different, it’s not amphetamine.

There are, however, different products that contain amphetamine.  Adderall contains amphetamine and some other stuff.  Dexadrine contains amphetamine and some other stuff.  Over-the-counter products legally cannot contain amphetamine.

What Tara Ragan, AJ Allmendinger’s business manager, said on SiriusXM Speedway Thursday afternoon what that they hadn’t been told the substance.  I think she’s confusing the drug and the product in which the drug could have been.   The toxicology testing cannot tell you where the drug came from, only that the drug is there.

2a.  “nanograms” is not the appropriate unit to use in discussing toxicology tests.  The unit, as I described in detail, is nanograms per milliliter of fluid.  If the allowed limit is 250 ng/mL, then you would find 250 ng in one mL, 500 ng in 2 mL, 750 ng in 3 mL, etc.  A number in nanograms is meaningless without reference to the volume of fluid being tested.  If you don’t understand what you’re talking about, find someone who does or don’t talk about it.

2b.  Again, on SiriusXM Speedway, Ragan said that her comment on ‘nanograms over’ was made without knowing what the NASCAR limit is for amphetamine.  First, I’m incredulous that the testing information would be presented without the threshold.  Second, I’m incredulous that AJ’s camp would have made that important a statement based on a guess.  She cited a figure of 1000 ng/mL,  As I mentioned above, the federal guidelines are 250 ng/nL, which is four times smaller than the figure she used.  The DOT limit is 500 ng/mL.  “A few nanograms” means totally different things depending on the cutoff.

3.  It doesn’t matter how much he’s over – if he’s at all over, he’s guilty.  It doesn’t matter in terms of the rule.  Yes – you’re over, you’re guilty.  It does matter in terms of public perception.  If you hear that someone was picked up for drunk driving with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.09 or with a BAC of .22, most of us think two different things.  Most of us can conceive of misjudging having one drink more than we should have – but getting a BAC of .22 means you are totally, out-of-the-park plastered and I don’t think most of us could conceive of getting behind the wheel under those conditions.

4.  “I’m not a (doctor, toxicology, pharmacist, chemist) and I don’t understand everything”.  Perfectly fair.  Then find someone who does understand it and get them to explain it.

I suspect everyone in AJ’s camp is wandering around in that daze you get when something terrible happens.  When someone dies or your spouse leaves you, everything becomes confusing.  Angie Skinner suggested that they should get a crisis management specialist.  I think that’s the right idea because you need someone who is not emotionally caught up in the situation.

ADDED:   A couple people asked whether there is really no way to tell where the amphetamine came from.  Here’s the long answer:  The test only tells you that the molecule was there, but not where it comes from.  Caveat:  Adderall has a specific combination of amphetamine, dextroamphetamine, etc.  If you do the analysis and find that ALL the components of that prescription drug or other substance are there, that’s a pretty clear suggestion that it came from a particular drug that has a well-characterized composition.

The only analogy I’ve been able to think of is imagine that you were examining the contents of  dead person’s stomach because they had a peanut allergy and died.  You look in the stomach and you find peanuts.  There’s no way to tell where the peanuts came from if that’s all you found.  However, let’s say you find bread and jelly, too.  Then you can conclude that the person ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  But with only the peanuts and not the bread and jelly, you can’t say.  Let me know if that’s not clear.

8 thoughts on “Talking about Things You Don’t Understand”

  1. I appreciate that you do this because it is a way to clear up muddied waters. I’m wondering what it is, but my primary concern is, while it’s not legal to have amphetamines in OTC items, could a not so upstanding company put amphetamines in a dietary supplement and not tell the consumer? I understand that’s a huge risk, but companies are shady.

    I’m glad he’s not going the Mayfield route though, but I do wish they’d stop making statements that are trying to downplay the severity of this because it only frustrates those of us interested in facts.

    1. Patti: Unfortunately, there is a long history of unscrupulous manufacturing, especially in supplements and especially in supplements that are manufactured outside the U.S. I wrote some time ago about the Chinese companies that substituted melamine in baby formula to make it go further. Six babies died in China. The year before that, there was the melamine in pet food scandal, which killed pets in the U.S. So I would not be at all surprised if a shady company put something illegal in their products to make them more attractive to consumers. The problem is going to be proving it. If AJ’s people find that there is amphetamine in a box of partially used supplement, how long before people say that his team places the amphetamine there? Going on the words of many people who know AJ well, they can’t believe this is something he did knowingly – imagine being accused of something you didn’t do and there is no way to prove that you are innocent.
      Thanks for reading!

  2. Thanks for posting this. Very clear and concise which unfortunately most of what has been written by AJs side is not.

  3. I can’t quite come up with it, but I know there is some good word play to be had on a website called ‘Building Speed’ when you write about amphetamines and how they’re put together.

  4. Thank you for the clear explanation. Now I understand better why NASCAR took a stand since there is no wiggle room in the results.

  5. Once again you gave people the ultimate in unbiased reporting on the science of drug testing! Thank you!

  6. Appreciate the clarity. I guess part of the confusion stems from the word amphetamines often used in its plural form. Makes one think there are many types.

    And, yes, Tara did seem to muddy up the waters with some of her statements.

    Funny that as a non-drug user I had to be a NASCAR fan to learn about amphetamine.

    Anyway, if you don’t already Diandra, you could write text books on various subjects. You have a clear communication skill.

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