5 Myths About Illegal Drugs You Probably Believe

As a kid, chances are you heard a wide range of "facts" about drug use from a variety of sources. Even as your parents were telling you that a single bong hit would land you directly in some disease-ridden Mexican prison, your stoner friend was pulling you aside to tell you that one hit off of his bong would make you at one with the universe and cure any potential cancers you might have. But as with many things on which opinions vary so widely, much of what you've been told is utter horseshit.

To be clear, we're not advocating the use of any of these drugs, and we're outright telling you not to break the law unless you want to risk ruining your life. But that said, there are a lot of myths out there in need of busting.

#5. LSD Makes You Insane

Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images

The Myth:

Trip on LSD more than seven times and you'll be declared legally insane. The government will grab its official red Sharpie and scrawl "Total Nutjob" across your permanent record, and your family will probably desert you to some Cuckoo's Nest-esque psych ward. If you're lucky, you might start believing that the laws of physics don't apply to you, allowing you to escape from your self-induced hell (by attempting to "fly" off the roof of a building or dodge freeway traffic).

Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images
Not pictured: "SHIIIIIT!"

The Reality:

The first problem with this myth is that "insane" isn't a real legal term, except in rare cases of pleading the insanity defense (the media love to latch onto such cases with their little lamprey mouths, but in actuality they don't occur very often). Plus, there's no scientifically accepted mental disorder that can be diagnosed simply based on past drug use.

The second problem with this myth is that LSD can't make you insane. In a 1960 study, LSD was given to 2,000 people, half of whom were known to be either mentally ill or genetically predisposed to mental illness. Only 0.13 percent of the test subjects exhibited any form of psychotic behavior, and nearly all of those who did were in the "already kind of crazy" bucket. Scientists hypothesized that LSD doesn't "cause" psychoses, it triggers them -- meaning that the people exhibiting psychotic behavior already had underlying mental problems. Even so, many of the horror stories you've heard about people jumping off the high dive at the Crazytown pool after tripping on acid are completely made up.

Creatas Images/Creatas/Getty Images
That's not what crazy looks like. It's what we picture when we're doing our mandatory LSD at Cracked.

So, acting as an alarm clock to a user's hibernating psychotic tendencies is the closest LSD comes to "causing insanity." However, even drug-related psychosis isn't exactly "insanity" as it's popularly defined. For one thing, it's temporary, only occurring during use and withdrawal. The symptoms of such psychosis are delusions and hallucinations -- and do you know which other, totally legal drug can cause the exact same symptoms? We bet you can't guess. Go on, guess.

That's right: Alcohol actually causes psychotic behavior much more widely than LSD. A study found that in 2007 more patients (over 160,000 people) were diagnosed with alcohol-related psychosis than with alcohol-related liver damage (cirrhosis). As a matter of fact, you've sort of known about this since you were a kid, even though you may not realize it: Remember the scene in Dumbo where the titular elephant overdoes it on the bubbly, kicking off the "Pink Elephants on Parade" musical number? Yeah, "seeing pink elephants" is a euphemism for alcohol-related psychosis. Oh, that Walt Disney ... always using his kiddie pictures to poke fun at serious societal issues.

Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images
"OK, that's a good start. Now, can we make the clouds rain blood that the castle is vomiting?"

#4. Natural Drugs Aren't as Bad for You

Adam Taylor/Digital Vision/Getty Images

The Myth:

This one you've heard from your hippie friends: "Don't believe 'The Man' when he says all recreational drugs are bad for you! What I'm giving you are but plants and mushrooms that grow from Mother Earth herself! It's far better to put something natural into your body than some chemical that came out of a factory!"

The Reality:

Let's start with the obvious: A substance being "natural" means precisely squat in terms of its potential risks and benefits. For example, opium, which is squirted straight out of a poppy, is a highly addictive narcotic that can easily kill you dead if you overdo it. Check out this chart comparing all the drugs the popular kids are doing nowadays:

Via Wikimedia Commons

Drugs on the lower left are safer, while ones to the upper right are dangerous-er. Note that everyone's favorite natural drug, marijuana, is just about on par with perhaps the very definition of a synthetic drug -- LSD -- in terms of lethality, while being higher up the dependence ladder. And hey, check out alcohol up there playing alongside cocaine and morphine and heroin like he thinks he's one of the big kids or something. At the risk of causing you to fall into a PowerPoint-induced catatonic state, here's another chart for you to take a gander at:

Via Economist.com
Warning: Do no smoke these charts. They are only digital images. Dumbass.

This one's the result of a study led by neuropsychopharmacologist David Nutt to rank drugs in terms of the harm they cause to their users and others. While the vegan-friendly mushroom is at the bottom of the list, it's not so far behind Ecstasy and acid, both puked out of some laboratory beaker somewhere. Pot and tobacco are up there near the top mingling with Walter White's favorite synthetic drug, and hey, look at that: Alcohol takes the very top spot. It probably seems like we're bullying poor little booze at this point, but we contend that he's asking for it.

So just because a drug is natural, that doesn't necessarily mean it's any safer -- sometimes, it's quite the opposite. We mentioned above that the poster child of synthetic drugs, LSD, can cause its users to go on psychotic rampages if they're predisposed to them. Do you know which other drug can do that? If you guessed the poster child of all-natural drugs, marijuana, give yourself one (Acapulco) gold star.

Of course, most people are too distracted with a bag of Chili Fritos to act on it.

#3. PCP Turns Normal People Violent ... and Grants Superhuman Strength!

Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

The Myth:

In the original Terminator film, when the cops see a man with superhuman strength punching through walls, they say, "He was probably on PCP." After all, everybody knows that PCP causes violent behavior, grants superhuman strength, and, oh yeah, makes you go crazy and cut off your own face. When rapper Big Lurch murdered his girlfriend -- and ate some of her -- a few years ago, he blamed PCP.

So a guy on PCP is a cop's worst nightmare, an instant psychopath who can swat off Tasers like flies, flip squad cars with his bare hands, and snap handcuffs in two like some kind of ball-tripping Superman.

Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images
"We gave him some made out of soldering wire, just to fuck with him."

The Reality:

Actually, research shows that PCP does not in fact cause users to exhibit violent behavior or saw their own faces off ... unless those users are already predisposed to such behavior. So in other words, if you're already just about batshit enough to have face-mangling urges before you use PCP, guess what's going to happen after you take some?

As for giving you superhuman strength, no, PCP is not Captain America's Super Soldier Serum. It is true, however, that PCP fucks around with your perceptions -- so you could very well think you're Captain America -- and it anesthetizes you against feeling pain, so you might decide that your face is made of iron and you want to see what happens when you run it through a window. In that sense, it's much like everyone's favorite standby drug, alcohol ... which, in direct contrast to PCP, has in fact been shown to cause aggression.

David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images
Do NOT mention his hair when he's on the Natty Light.

We're not saying that PCP is good for you, or to run out and do it (users have a way of finding themselves on the news the next day). We're just saying it's not magic.

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