6 Insane Drug Myths People Used to Teach as Fact
Life has never been good for people who like drugs. Well, unless you're including every second of every day before the 1920s. Children's medicinal heroin is still a few years of hard lobbying from finding its way back to the shelf, but pot users finally have a light at the end of the tunnel, and there's even hope for MDMA, thanks to Zoloft's shit-eating incompetence at treating PTSD.
It's the dawn of a new era. "New" doesn't mean "free of bullshit," though. And being hip doesn't mean you aren't prone to believing a whole galaxy of lies.
Drug Addicts Are Easy to Spot
This is the 21st century, and no one besides the odd straight-edge kid and maybe your eighth grade counselor believes any of the lies peddled by D.A.R.E. We're enlightened, and we know that someone who likes the occasional puff of the devil's lettuce or dose of magic mushrooms can still be a productive member of society. But our tolerance for illicit narcotics comes to a quick end once "hard" drugs enter the picture.
Meth, for example: It's basically crack for poor white people. We know it rots your face, and Breaking Bad has given us a pretty clear picture of average users:
They're emaciated wraiths living in the margins of society and making their money through a combination of drug dealing, panhandling, and ATM-based murder. Those drug addicts exist. And so do these:
She snorts it right off the breast pump.
Researchers from the great schools of America's meth belt (the Crystal League?) have concluded that meth use is often seen as a necessity:
"The long hours and tedious work in oil fields, agriculture, construction, ancillary health care, and fast food restaurants may be more tolerable on methamphetamine. Users report using meth to provide the energy to work multiple jobs or be a good mother."
And that's a critical part of the whole meth story. It's a stimulant, and large numbers of people rely on it because they need more energy than 60 hours of manual labor and three kids leave them with. Is all that meth helping their lives out in the long run? Of course not, but they aren't living the party life 24/7. They're doing a bump before their 16-hour shift at Walmart, because have you ever had to work a 16-hour shift at anything?
"Shoot my scrotum full of caffeine, I don't even care anymore."
It's also worth noting that Walt's infamous "blue" meth wouldn't have made one fuck of difference to street-level addicts. Any sane dealer is going to cut that shit because it means more profit! There's only one group of meth users that would really care about 99 percent purity: rich people who like to party. And these people aren't getting busted on the street or breaking any visible bad. They have lawyers and nice cars, thus rendering them functionally invisible to most copdar.
So yeah, the stereotype of the unemployed drug addict isn't particularly accurate. The gub'mint estimates that three-quarters of drug users are employed. That shouldn't be too surprising if you've been to any good parties. But while we're busting myths, let's talk about the drug-addicted welfare recipient, tokin' his marijuanacrack on Uncle Sam's dime. Drug users are just about as common among welfare recipients as they are anywhere else. There's zero evidence for a giant underclass of drug-addicted welfare sucklers. It's almost like bad shit happens to sober people too.
This guy makes $200,000 a year when he's not montaging his way through packets of pain pills.
Addiction Is Like a Lurking Monster
One of the few things I did take away from my high school drug awareness class was the knowledge that some substances are inherently addictive. Try heroin or crack just once and BOOM, sweet lady addiction has you dead to rights. The Reefer Madness bullshit gets wiped out as soon as you meet someone who smokes pot without having their life boil up in catastrophe, but absolutely everything about heroin looks sketchy, and crack smells like burning garbage. Factor in those horror stories of abuse and meth mouth, and the only way drug addiction makes sense is if these substances are like vicious narcotic tigers dragging poor souls into madness.
"Run for your lives, it's ketamine!"
Only no, of course that's not how it works. Chemicals aren't ninth-level wizards: They can't dominate people. At most, 23 percent of heroin users become dependent, while 80 to 90 percent of people who try methamphetamine or crack never develop an addiction. The whole substance model of addiction is based on a study that showed that rats trapped in cages, alone, will choose heroin over food. This was extrapolated as "Heroin's so addictive, it'll make you stop eating!"
"Yeah, alright. Shoot me up."
What it really said was "Rats trapped in cages are so miserable, they'll drug themselves to death." Another scientist took rats that were already addicted and put them in a cage with friends, exercise toys, and space to run around. Shockingly, the rats vastly decreased their drug use and started doing normal healthy rat stuff. Some of them still took drugs on occasion, but hell, who doesn't?
Drugs Cause Crime
This is basically the whole premise that kicked off the war on drugs, as well as the underlying assumption behind both RoboCop and the Judge Dredd reboot. It makes sense: Even if you're talking about drugs that don't cause violent behavior, like heroin or pot or sizzurp, people who get addicted to that shit commit a ton of crime just to buy more. This is the world as police procedurals have painted it for us.
"We caught him stealing crack to buy liquor."
But science has found the literal opposite to be true: Only a small percentage of drug users commit non-drug crimes. When arrested drug users commit a second crime, it's almost always another case of "caught getting high." There's no armed robbery switch that enough hydrocodone flips in your head. If you're willing to shoot a man for drugs, you'd probably be willing to shoot him for a whole bunch of reasons.
Surveys of the prison population have found that 60 percent of incarcerated drug users didn't start until after their first arrest. So there's a pretty clear connection between being in prison and drug addiction. Someone should look into that.
He's about 10 seconds away from seeing if the ink in those pages is hallucinogenic when smoked.
Pot Is "Natural" and Therefore "Safe"
"Hey, bro, did you know that Ecstasy is, like, bad for you? That's why I stick with ganj. That's Mother Nature's high, yo. So you know it's safe."
Mother Nature never makes poisonous stuff! Except, like ... cobras.
Cracked has already weighed in on the whole "natural drugs aren't always safer" issue. If you still have doubts, take a huge dose of Datura and then a huge dose of LSD and see which one leaves you shitting blood in a field. (Hint: Datura means "unending fountain of death poop" in Navajo.) But this is about an even more insidious myth: the idea that smoking pot is harmless because, on its own, pot is super benign.
Here's the thing: Pot farmers are in it to make money. And one thing that fucks up your whole money-making potential is bugs eating your goddamn crop. Hence, lots of pot winds up doused in pesticide. The folks growing corn and cabbage have to undergo scrutiny by the FDA to make sure their products don't hit your table completely drenched in poison. Marijuana is still about 40 percent illegal at the best of times. Drug dealers are the only authority scrutinizing your pot, and they don't really care if your dank nugs smell like Agent Orange farted off a burrito filled with Raid.
Prepare for the chronic ... obstructive pulmonary disorder.
There's no government oversight to make sure you aren't smoking a big fat bowl of DDT, and that means you totally are. Up to 70 percent of the pesticides on a bud transfer into the smoke. You gotta cough to get off ... and to vastly increase your risk of emphysema. It's true that marijuana has never been anyone's primary cause of death, but between 1997 and 2005, the FDA listed it as a contributing cause to 279 deaths.
Everyone is Lying to You About Flashbacks
Acid flashbacks are one of those rare cases where the anti- and pro-drug sides come together in irresponsible ignorance. Back in school, your D.A.R.E. cop probably told you stories of kids leaping from tall buildings because they fell back into a trip from years before and suddenly thought they could fly. It was obvious B.S., so a few years later, when your druggie friend vehemently denied that LSD caused flashbacks, you assumed he was right.
He told the truth about how all those clouds were laughing at me.
Here's the truth: Heavy, long-term psychedelic use can cause "flashbacks" in anyone. But these flashbacks aren't you suddenly going "FUCK YEAH, THESE ARMS ARE WINGS NOW, ASSHOLES!" and doing a Wilbur Wright off your deck. They're more like tiny halos glowing around objects, or a vague sensation that the stucco on your wall is actually a subtly shifting pattern. Sometimes little tracers follow stuff like cars and tennis balls.
It's a little like having shitty night vision. And if you have shitty night vision, you might want to put some time between night driving and any three-month acid binges.
Four-month acid binges are perfectly safe, as any physician will tell you.
These hallucinations aren't dangerous or really that bothersome. The trouble starts when people worry about them: The symptoms are mild, but stressing yourself out about possible brain damage can be, well ... damaging. Tragically, the point at which this stuff becomes a bother is the point at which more drugs won't relax you. It's nature's cruelest Catch-22.
Pot is a Gateway Drug
There's a whole family of research that kicked off with scientists grabbing one line from a middle school anti-drug course and going, "Let's make our hypothesis the opposite of that." Case in point: The idea that marijuana is a gateway drug.
Although it might be a gateway to obesity.
You probably know that's untrue, since most people know way more occasional pot users than they do crackheads. But research actually indicates that pot is the opposite of a gateway. Which is ... what, one of those slides on a crash-landed airplane? Anyway, studies in the wake of medical marijuana laws show that a 20 percent drop in heroin use corresponds with a 10 to 20 percent surge in marijuana use.
If you want the populace to get fucked up less often, the best way might be to stop hassling them about it. Portugal decriminalized drug use 10 years ago, and while more adults do drugs now, fewer teens do, and fewer people of all ages die from overdoses. It makes a lot more sense when you think about drug use from the perspective of a stupid person. If you're dumb and your friend has a seizure because of whatever felony you just snorted, you might just leave him to die in his car, because fuck calling 911 and bringing The Man down on you both.
"Just leave him there. He'll die as he lived -- covered in pee in the back of a car."
And that's really the best case for ending the war on drugs: It'll make things safer for kids, poor people, and the stupid.
Robert Evans is a columnist and runs Cracked's Personal Experience article team. You can reach him here.