5 Myths About Illegal Drugs You Probably Believe

As with many things on which opinions vary so widely, much of what you've been told is utter horseshit.
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.

LSD Makes You Insane

5 Myths About Illegal Drugs You Probably Believe
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).

5 Myths About Illegal Drugs You Probably Believe
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.

5 Myths About Illegal Drugs You Probably Believe
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.

5 Myths About Illegal Drugs You Probably Believe
Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images

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

Natural Drugs Aren't as Bad for You

5 Myths About Illegal Drugs You Probably Believe
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:

Active/Lethal Dose Ratio and Dependence Potential of Psychoactive Drugs Heroin Very high Nicotine Morphine High Pentobarbital Cocaine Moderate/high Ep

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:

Harm caused by drugs 100-madimum Harm to others Harmto users 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 Alcohol Heroin Crack cocaine Methamphetamine Cocaine Tobacco Amph
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.

5 Myths About Illegal Drugs You Probably Believe

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

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

5 Myths About Illegal Drugs You Probably Believe
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.

5 Myths About Illegal Drugs You Probably Believe
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.

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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.

"Crack Babies" Exist

5 Myths About Illegal Drugs You Probably Believe
Getty Images/Lifesize/Getty Images

The Myth:

If a mother uses crack cocaine while pregnant, the baby will be born with severe brain abnormalities, and not in a cool X-Men sort of way, either. Growing up, the child will be a bumbling dumbass who will never effectively blend in with his or her classmates. According to the anti-drug campaigns of the '80s and '90s, we were all destined to live in a future where it would be impossible to step outside without bumping into one of these dimwitted former "crack babies," although presumably their state-mandated headgear would protect them from any physical harm resulting from said bump.

5 Myths About Illegal Drugs You Probably Believe
Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images

He ate the rest of the outfit. #CrackBabyProblems

The Reality:

There's no denying that the kids shown in all those television specials on crack babies had more than their fair share of problems. However, most of those problems stemmed from the simple fact that they were born prematurely. Although prenatal cocaine exposure may increase the chances of a premature birth, it turns out that most children born as so-called "crack babies" aren't mentally distinguishable from other children by the age of 6. Much like your average Internet user, they do tend to display short attention spans, but there were no significant effects on their intelligence or classroom behavior. So tell us, how does it feel to know that all those times you insulted little Jimmy by saying his momma smoked crack just retroactively lost their burn?

To put all this into perspective, over-the-counter vices appear to be just as or even more damaging to babies than crack. Smoking tobacco while pregnant is at least on par with smoking crack, while prenatal alcohol exposure regularly causes "cognitive impairment, learning disabilities, and behavioral disorders." Meanwhile, prenatal cocaine exposure's worst effect is that crack babies "may be considered at increased risk for language delay."

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Jupiterimages/Creatas/Getty Images

If only she could vocalize "I'm a Transformers fan, dickheads!"

So, sometimes crack will make babies learn to speak more slowly. On the other hand, alcohol will cause them to have much more serious obstacles to overcome than having to try a little harder on their English homework (although that will prove problematic for them, too).

"But Cracked, are you saying we should smoke crack while pregnant, because technically it's no worse for the baby than smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol?" No. We're saying not to do any of those things, including the legal ones. Again, we're debunking some of the bullshit that you've been hearing for the last 30 years, we're not saying to go cram the stuff into your bloodstream or break the law. One side effect of the "war on drugs" has been an enormous amount of completely exaggerated and/or blatantly false information spread into the world, and that's always a bad thing.

5 Myths About Illegal Drugs You Probably Believe
Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images

It's probably best not to get your crack information at a crack convention filled with crack smoke.

And while we're on the subject, we guess we have to hit this one final point ...

The War on Drugs Lowered Drug Use Rates

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Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images

The Myth:

If widespread drug use is the problem, what's the solution? Well, the first step is to make drugs illegal -- people are less likely to use them if they're illegal, so drug usage rates drop when laws are put into place. Duh. And if you combine that with the aforementioned tactic of pounding drug-related horror stories into kids' heads while their brains are still nice and pliable, then you're well on your way toward an illicit-drug-free society!

The Reality:

Brace yourself; we're about to fling rapid-fire graphs directly at your face, like shuriken thrown by the world's most pedantic ninja.

5 Myths About Illegal Drugs You Probably Believe
Via Popsci.com


Number of arrests, by type of drug law violations, 1982-2007 1,500,000 1,000,000 Possession 500.000 Salesimanufacture O 1982 1987 1992 1997 2002 2007
Via Bjs.gov


10 8 Rate 2 1970 1975 1980 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005 Year
Via Cdc.gov


You'll notice that all those graphs are showing the precise opposite of a decrease. Drug use in the U.S. has been on a steady rise ever since criminalization began. Overdoses have become more common as laws were put into place, and arrests have been increasing for nearly 30 years. The war on drugs began in the '70s under President Nixon, but really kicked into gear in 1986 with the Anti-Drug Abuse Act -- and, coincidentally, these are also the times when the graphs start booking ass in the wrong direction.

Now, we here at Cracked aren't all about making recommendations on national drug control policies; we're more about trying to figure out how to work in a dick joke while we're showing you a bunch of goddamn graphs. (You could almost say those graphs are quite ... erect, right? Right?) But based on the available evidence, it would seem that either we've had a cultural shift that caused us to use more drugs now than we did during either the 1960s' hippie culture or the 1980s' alleged cocaine epidemic, or the drug laws have somehow caused more people to use drugs. Either way, all signs point to our intangible enemy in the war on drugs having handed us our asses.

5 Myths About Illegal Drugs You Probably Believe
John Foxx/Stockbyte/Getty Images


Scare tactics and oversimplification don't work to prevent kids from developing junkie aspirations, either. D.A.R.E. had no statistical relevance on preventing illicit drug use, and the original "Just Say No" program had the closest thing we've seen to a shining drug-abuse-prevention track record, with its "minimal effectiveness." Just imagine if a penis-enlargement pill had "minimal effectiveness." Now imagine that the penis in question is still using drugs because its drug education was pathetic, and also that penis is your child.

James creates educational YouTube videos about psychoactive drugs and all sorts of other cool stuff. You should also like his organization's Facebook page.

For more things you believe that simply aren't true, check out 5 Ridiculous Gun Myths Everyone Believes (Thanks to Movies) and 5 Myths About the Military You Believe (Thanks to Movies).

If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out 4 Hilariously Dystopian Ways Science Is Reinventing Food.

And stop by LinkSTORM to learn the best way to snort your marijuana.

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Extra Credit: Down for some more drug war disinformation? Check out the worst lessons 80s cartoons taught us about drug abuse. Next, shock your brain with some facts by reading about the surprising medical uses of illicit drugs. LSD can cure alcoholism- and cocaine is an excellent wound dressing for children! Finish up your psychonautical journey with Jack O'Brien's infamous look at the greatest things accomplished while high. You ALSO thank LSD for one of baseball's most famous no-hitters and the discovery of DNA's helical structure.

We have some bad news: Asprin just delays your hangover, coffee can't sober you up and your favorite book sellers are now taking pre-orders for a text book written and illustrated entirely by the Cracked team! Hitting shelves in October, Cracked's De-Textbook is a fully-illustrated, systematic deconstruction of all of the bullshit you learned in school.

GRAGKED aftusry f THE NP youk TONIS Haomllo YU MICHY RE AZ0MBIE AND OTHEH BAD NEWS Tlue Sruf Yo Didin't Nnow AiE the Sttr You Thouht YO Kne THE -TEXAU

It's loaded with facts about history, your body, and the world around you that your teachers didn't want you to know. And as a bonus? We'll explain why the whole food pyramid is actually a triangle of LIES.


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