DoseNation Podcast

Weekly news, talk, and interviews. More »


· Articles
· Gear
· Interviews
· News
· Reviews
The 70 Greatest Drug War Myths Revealed

Fire Erowid

Drug Law / Policy

1. Drug use is declining: We're winning the Drug War.

Government and media reports often use statistics to show that drug use has declined, yet illicit drug use amongst 12th graders has increased by 33% in only 6 years.

2. Drug use is on the rise: We need more funding for the Drug War.

Government and media reports often use statistics to show that drug use is worse than ever, yet lifetime use of illicit drugs amongst 12th graders has declined 27% since 1981.

3. Statistics are used to prove the truth.

Statistics can be used to support many things. There are a variety of ways to talk about trends in drug use over time. The three primary studies used are DAWN (Drug Abuse Warning Network), which tracks drug mentions in emergency room visits, the Monitoring the Future Study which surveys 8 12th graders each year, and the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse conducted by SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration). Using statistics from these organizations we can say both Myth #1 and Myth #2 are true, even though they obviously suggest completely opposite ideas. Illicit drug use moves in cycles; there will be ups and downs in the natural course of things. Realistically, current drug use among 12th graders is very similar to what it was in 1975. It went through a higher period in the late 70s and early 80s and a lower period in the late 80s and early 90s. There is every reason to believe these trends will continue to cycle over time. Be careful when reading statistics (even ours)... the more information you have about the source of the data the better.

4. Law enforcement is the most effective drug control technique.

A recent study by the Rand Corporation looked at "The Benefits and Costs of Drug Use Prevention." Looking specifically at cocaine use, they found that $34 million in treatment funding would reduce cocaine use by 1 percent, while $250 million of domestic law enforcement would be required to make a similar 1 percent reduction. If we wanted to make a 1 percent reduction through source-country control (coca leaf eradication and seizures of products in the source countries), we would need to spend nearly $800 million.

5. Increased law enforcement decreases drug use.

In 1973, the total amount spent to enforce the drug laws of the United States was less than $100 million. Over the next 20 years it increased steadily until in 1994 it was over $12 billion. That's a 120 times increase in 20 years. During that same time, self-reported illicit drug use amongst 12th graders has stayed about the same while the Drug Abuse Warning Network showed an increase of around 50% in emergency room drug mentions. If increasing spending for law enforcement were a functional theory for decreasing drug use, one would hope that a 120 times increase in spending would show at least some concrete decrease in drug use.

6. Drug arrests do not account for much of the current prison population.

Between 1850 and the late 1970s, the U.S. incarceration rate remained relatively stable at about 100 inmates per 100,000 people. Since the late 1970s, the rate has skyrocketed to 600 per 100,000. State and local drug arrests rose from 58,000 in 1980 (remember that was nearly the height of self-reported drug use by 12th graders) to 1,580,000 in 1997. That's an increase of 2700%, while during that time the population increased by only 20%.

7. Prohibition works.

The use of mind-altering inebrients is as old as recorded history and is unlikely to go away anytime soon. Marginalizing psychoactive drug users simply reduces the normal social pressures towards responsible behavior and creates rebellious subcultures. The prohibition of alcohol created a huge black market which resulted in violent and powerful Mafia control of the alcohol trade. Drug prohibition has created extremely powerful, armed gangs and drug cartels in control of the drug trade.

8. "Just Say No" is an effective campaign.

The harms done by the "Just Say No" campaign are painfully obvious. While perhaps effective on very young children (who are at low risk for drug use as it is), as soon as children start questioning this overly simplistic theory, it becomes ineffective. By asking "What if I don't just say no?" a child is already beyond the scope of the program. A realistic drug education program needs to be honest with children, teaching them about the real risks of specific substances so they can practice responsible behavior whether or not they choose to use psychoactives. Campaigns based on "Just Say No" have not been shown to be effective.

9. DARE is an effective program.

There has been considerable controversy surrounding the effectiveness of the government funded Drug Abuse Resistance Education program (DARE). While many argue that intercepting children at a young age and teaching them that drugs are wrong is the way to go, a California study of 5,000 students found that the Los Angeles-based DARE program was ineffective in reducing drug use among school children. Likewise, a federally funded Research Triangle Institute study found that except for tobacco use, the DARE program was no more effective than whatever drug education (if any) was offered in the non-DARE control schools. And a six-year study of 1,798 students found that DARE had no long-term effects on a wide range of drug use measures and there is some evidence that those students who were DARE graduates may have gone on to more drug use than those in the control groups.

10. There are no legitimate uses of illicit psychedelics. That's why they're illegal.

There are many therapeutic uses of psychedelics such as MDMA and LSD, which have been pushed underground by the current drug laws. Psychedelic therapy (MDMA & LSD), addiction treatment (ibogaine & GHB), spiritual use (peyote & mushrooms), the medical uses of marijuana, and research into the workings of the mind are only a few of the possible uses of these substances.

11. Drug use costs society more than drug laws and enforcement.

A number of studies have attempted to estimate the total "societal cost" of alcohol and drug abuse. These studies are often cited in media reports and political discussions of how much damage "drugs" do. The calculated costs are used to show that more spending on "drug prevention", police, and prisons makes economic sense. But by examining the calculations used when determining these "costs" it becomes obvious how ridiculous they are. Included in the costs of drug abuse are such things as forgone earnings for those drug users who are in jail, productivity losses due to people who have died prematurely, lost "legitimate earnings" of drug dealers, and the costs of prosecuting all of those charged with drug related crimes. All costs paid privately by the substance user (lawyer fees, wages for lost days of work, etc.) are included in these estimates.

12. Drug use is higher in the Netherlands than in the USA.

A study conducted earlier this year by Amsterdam University and the Dutch Central Bureau of Statistics found that 15.6% of Dutch people aged 12 and over had tried cannabis, compared to a U.S. figure of 32%, and that the number of people who had used cannabis in the past month was also more than twice as high in the U.S. Similarly, cocaine and heroin use in the U.S. is three times higher (based on percentage of population) than in the Netherlands.

13. Tolerance of soft drugs leads to an increase in hard drug use.

There is an argument that if a society tolerates the use of soft drugs such as cannabis, the use of both soft drugs and harder, more addictive drugs such as heroin and cocaine will increase. The Netherlands is a good example of a western nation with a policy of soft drug tolerance. As the numbers above show, their tolerance has caused neither a higher rate of soft drug use, nor an increase in the use of harder drugs compared to the U.S. with its policy of strict intolerance.

14. Politicians have informed opinions about drug laws.

The politicians who introduce and vote on bills know very little about the realities of different types of drug use. Their opinions are often based on knowledge provided by prohibitionist special interest groups and one-sided media reports. Because the issue is framed in terms of "drug abuse" and the "drug war", they are unlikely to search out opinions discussing the merits of psychoactives. During hearings for the passage of many of the anti-drug laws, Congress has been unwilling to hear experts testify against their seemingly foregone conclusions. A classic case of this was the first criminalization of cannabis with the Cannabis Tax Act, where Congress turned away testimony against the bill from the American Medical Association. Unfortunately, this leads to an unbalanced view of the issue which allows no room for differentiating between harmful, dangerous drug use and the peaceful, healthy, and possibly spiritual use of psychoactives.

15. The Drug Czar is knowledgeable about drugs.

Barry McCaffrey is a military man, not a trained medical professional or social worker, who has worked to bring military justice into the realm of social policy. He appears to be primarily a figurehead for the "drug war" with little practical knowledge about the more complex issues of drug use. His knowledge of psychedelics seems non-existent and several serious mistakes in citing facts about Swiss and Dutch drug policy experiments last year showed that his familiarity with international policy issues is limited.

16. Recreational drug use can be ended.

There are a wide variety of substances that people can and do use to achieve a high. For example, inhalants are not illegal and are easily available in most homes and from hardware or home supply stores. They are not going to go away and they are more harmful than almost all of the illegal drugs. By working to reduce non-medical use to zero, we are simply pushing kids towards significantly more harmful substances. The long recorded history of the use of psychoactives by humans shows that there has never been and there will never be a drug-free world.

Drugs (General)

17. All illegal drugs are alike, equally harmful, equally bad.

The term "drugs" is frequently used to refer to any illegal, psychoactive substance (i.e. "and then he got into drugs"). This is an almost useless breakdown. There is huge variation in effects and risks from heroin to cocaine to hallucinogens. One of the greatest problems of the drug war is that these distinctions are lost, making policies and discussions meaningless. To talk about psychoactives in a useful way requires detailed information about each specific substance, methods of use, and those who use them.

18. There is no such thing as responsible use of illicit drugs.

Because there is little differentiation made between the different types of illicit drugs, it is perhaps easier to think of anyone who uses a scheduled substance recreationally as a stereotyped, hapless, self-gratifying junkie rather than considering the millions of individuals who use illicit drugs responsibly. While the use of some substances can lead to addiction, the majority of recreational users are not slaves to addiction. A recent study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found that 7 of 10 illicit drug users are employed full-time.

19. Drugs aren't fun.

Probably only effective against very young children, this myth is propagated by many of the online prohibition sites who fail to mention any of the positive effects of drugs, from pleasurable feelings to spiritual and therapeutic uses. Many people continue to use recreational psychoactives because they enjoy the effects or find that their lives are better with responsible use of a substance than without. While various substances can be very hard work, very useful, and very unpleasant, to suggest that they cannot also be fun is ludicrous.

20. Any use is abuse.

Throughout history there have been many peoples who have, as a society, used psychoactive drugs. Families and religions have gathered around the use of peyote in North America, psychoactive mushrooms in Mexico and Siberia, DMT and harmaline in the Amazon, ibogaine in Africa, kava in the Pacific Islands, cannabis in India & the Middle East, tobacco in the Americas, coca in Peru, and many more. In these cultures, use of psychoactives was and is part of normal life, not considered criminal or deviant or abnormal, but often a path to a fuller connection with life. Responsible, acceptable, beneficial use is possible within a society.

21. "Spiritual use" of psychoactives is just a front for those wanting to legalize drugs.

There is a great deal of evidence to suggest that mystical experiences can be facilitated with the careful use of psychoactives. Hundreds of books have been written addressing the topic from all angles.

22. Drug use is immoral / wrong.

Barry McCaffrey said in a national television interview that even drinking a glass of alcohol to experience the relaxing effects was "morally wrong." The predominant view in the US and parts of Europe against any enjoyment from ingesting plants seems to come from a long history of the denial and fear of pleasure, including those found through sex, recreational psychoactives, music, dancing, and other "non-productive" recreational activities. Let's keep religious beliefs out of the laws.

23. Illicit drugs are poor quality.

The quality of street drugs varies widely, depending on the substance. One of the main problems is determining quality. While powder or pills can be virtually anything, the quality of cannabis can generally be determined by look and smell. Substances like ketamine, which often come with pharmaceutical company packaging, are quite likely to be pure. Most importantly, pharmaceutical grade, top quality Schedule I substances are available on the black market.

24. Winners don't do drugs.

Kerry Mullis, Nobel Laureate and biochemist, attributes his discoveries to his use of LSD. Sigmund Freud and Thomas Edison both used cocaine, William James used and wrote about nitrous, Pope Leo XIII used and endorsed Vin Mariani (a combination of wine and cocaine) along with William McKinley, Queen Victoria, Jules Verne, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and others. Florence Nightingale used opium, Carl Sagan used cannabis, Aldous Huxley used mescaline and LSD, Clinton used cannabis, and George W. Bush used cocaine. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, founders of Apple, both used LSD, and there's every reason to believe that the digital revolution and the development of personal computers was inspired and carried out by a culture of cannabis smokers and psychedelic users.


25. Drugs are dangerous.

Overly simplistic claims like this are meaningless. The risk profile for each drug is unique. Many illicit drugs are very safe while others have specific dangers like addiction, overdose potential, or long term health risks. Cocaine and heroin are among the more dangerous illegal drugs while drugs such as LSD, psilocybin mushrooms, and cannabis are quite safe. Discussions about the dangers of illicit drugs must take into account the specific substance as well as the types and methods of use.

26. Doctors are knowledgeable about illegal drugs.

Unfortunately, the issues around illicit drug use are often hazy. Information is poorly distributed and important issues are misunderstood. Because of the complexity of the issues and the illegal nature of the topic, many doctors will either not provide any information, or will provide information which is so ridiculously overstated in the direction of "safety" that it is useless.

27. Drugs are scheduled based on how dangerous they are.

In reality, psychoactive drugs are scheduled based on how likely they are to be used recreationally rather than how safe or dangerous they are. The most dangerous substances (poisons) are not scheduled at all while psilocybin mushrooms, one of the least dangerous psychoactives, are Schedule I. And no serious researcher believes that cannabis is more harmful than the drugs scheduled under it. Gastro-intestinal complications caused by anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofen lead to more than 7,600 deaths annually, while there are less than a handful of deaths directly attributed to the use of LSD, psilocybin, and cannabis combined this century. A more reasonable scheduling system would look something like the proposal recently made to the French government which would classify drugs based on the harm they do. This system would put alcohol, heroin, and cocaine in the top category, tobacco, amphetamines and the psychedelics in the middle, and cannabis in the third, least dangerous group.

28. It is dangerous to combine drugs.

Again, this is an oversimplification. There are many combinations of drugs which, when used carefully, can be quite safe. Some psychoactive drug combinations actually make each of the individual substances MORE safe. And, as expected, there are combinations to be avoided.


29. Illegal drugs are more dangerous than alcohol.

Alcohol is blamed for over 100,000 deaths each year, about half due to alcohol poisoning or illnesses caused directly by alcohol and the other half due to automobile accidents, suicides and homicides. In comparison, all illicit drugs combined are the direct cause of only 5,000 deaths each year.

30. Alcohol is legal because it's a part of our tradition while illicit drugs are not.

While there seems to be some truth to this idea, it is also a fairly narrow-minded and euro-centric view. While the use of alcohol is traditional in Northern European culture, cannabis, peyote, khat, kava, and mushrooms are all traditionally used in other cultures, including some in North America. The U.S. is made up of peoples from many places.


31. Marijuana has no therapeutic value.

There has been huge debate about the legitimacy of the medical uses of marijuana. In 1997, the well respected Institute of Medicine (IOM) was chosen by the federal government to conduct a year-long review of the scientific evidence on the topic. Their report released in 1999 found that "the accumulated data suggest a variety of indications, particularly for pain relief, antiemesis [vomiting], and appetite stimulation. For patients, such as those with AIDS or undergoing chemotherapy, who suffer simultaneously from severe pain, nausea, and appetite loss, cannabinoid drugs might offer broad spectrum relief not found in any other single medication."

32. Medical marijuana supporters are only trying to get recreational use legalized.

People argue that the medical marijuana movement is supported primarily by those who want to get recreational use legalized and see the medical movement as a stepping stone towards that end. But it's important to recognize that those who believe in recreational use are quite likely to believe in the right of individuals to use cannabis medically as well. Just because an individual supports legalization does not make their support of medical use any less legitimate.

33. Marijuana is a "gateway drug."

The recent Institute of Medicine study also reported that "there is no conclusive evidence that the drug effects of marijuana are causally linked to the subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs." This myth is based on a confusion between cause and correlation. While it's true that most people who use heroin have smoked cannabis, it's also true that most heroin users have drunk alcohol. Just because there's a statistical correlation between two behaviors does not mean one caused the other.

34. Cannabis is "toxic."

The 1999 Institute of Medicine report found that "marijuana is not a completely benign substance. It is a powerful drug with a variety of effects. However, except for the harms associated with smoking, the adverse effects of marijuana use are within the range of effects tolerated for other medications." Likewise, the British UK Lords Report found that "the acute toxicity of cannabis and the cannabinoids is very low; no-one has ever died as a direct and immediate consequence of recreational or medical use. Official statistics record two deaths involving cannabis (and no other drug) in 1993, two in 1994 and one in 1995; but these were due to inhalation of vomit. Animal studies have shown a very large separation (by a factor of more than 10,000) between pharmacologically effective and lethal doses."

35. Cannabis causes sterility.

A recent report by the U.K. House of Lords found that "animal experiments have shown that cannabinoids cause alterations in both male and female sexual hormones; but there is no evidence that cannabis adversely affects human fertility, or that it causes chromosomal or genetic damage (WHO report Ch.7)."

36. Cannabis causes birth defects.

The NHS National Teratology [i.e. fetal abnormality] Information Service states, "There are a few case reports of malformations following marijuana use in pregnancy. However, there is no conclusive evidence to suggest either an increase in the overall malformation rate or any specific pattern of malformations." There is some reason to believe that heavy smoking, whether of marijuana or tobacco, may lead to shorter gestation and lower birth-weight babies due to the inhalation of carbon monoxide in the smoke, which lowers the ability of the blood to carry oxygen to the fetus.

37. Cannabis causes a-motivational syndrome.

The UK House of Lords report also stated that "the occurrence of an 'a-motivational syndrome' in long-term heavy cannabis users, with loss of energy and the will to work, has been postulated. However it is now generally discounted (van Amsterdam Q 503); it is thought to represent nothing more than ongoing intoxication in frequent users of the drug (RCPsych p 283)."

38. Over time, cannabis causes brain damage.

A Johns Hopkins University study of 1,300 individuals administered a basic mental functioning test to adult cannabis smokers and non-smokers on two occasions spaced eleven years apart. They found that "over long time periods, in persons under age 65 years, cognitive decline occurs in all age groups. This decline is closely associated with aging and educational level but does not appear to be associated with cannabis use."

39. Cannabis permanently damages short-term memory.

During marijuana intoxication, thought processes change and some people find it difficult to track specific thoughts. Studies show that during marijuana intoxication, the ability to store and then recall words, images and sounds is diminished. However, this effect is generally limited to the duration of the effects of cannabis. There are dozens of studies that look at possible cognitive and memory impairment in cannabis users, and they have widely varying results. Generally there seem to be minor differences found in both short-term memory and complex cognitive functions of long term cannabis users when compared to non-users, and many argue that the studies are poorly controlled and inconsistent in their findings. The recent UK House of Lords Report found that "there is some evidence that some impairment in complex cognitive function may persist even after cannabis use is discontinued, but such residual deficits if present are small, and their presence controversial."

40. Marijuana slows down brain activity.

Even the American Medical Association is willing to repeat this one. This is probably based on a 1985 study which found that long-term cannabis users completed one test slower than non-users. However, when the subjects were asked to retake the test and answer as quickly as possible, no differences were found.

41. Marijuana is "X" times more potent than it was in the '60s and '70s.

Nonsense. Realistically it seems that cannabis has seen a slight increase in potency between 1970 and the present. The myth that it has increased by anywhere from 10% to 500% seems based primarily on poorly collected data, inconsistent testing methods in the 1970s, and a desire to convince ex-pot smokers and parents that somehow marijuana has changed dramatically from the mostly harmless intoxicant they knew when they were young. Most of the early testing was done on shipments seized by the DEA, 90% of which were imported (primarily from Mexico) and only seizures over 200 pounds were tested. Obviously, large truckloads of Mexican brown leaves are going to be lower quality and less potent than the indoor grown California bud that wasn't included in the testing. Additionally, it has been suggested that poor storage of seized cannabis may have caused degradation of the active ingredients before testing. Tests from the 1970s showed cannabis potencies ranging from 2-10% while good quality marijuana buds in the 90s range from 5-15%. While the availability of top-grade cannabis has certainly increased some over the past 20 years, comparing grade for grade it seems that marijuana potency has only increased by a small amount if at all.

42. Sinsemilla is a new technique which has caused increased potency.

The process of separating males from females early in their development to produce seedless buds is hundreds of years old. This technique, which produces somewhat more potent buds, was even written of in a letter by George Washington.

43. The smoke from one joint causes more lung damage than a whole pack of cigarettes.

Both NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse), the federal government's primary drug-oriented medical research branch, and the recent UK Lords report on cannabis conclude that smoking one joint delivers 3-5 times the tar and carbon monoxide of a cigarette. See below for a fuller discussion of cannabis vs. tobacco smoking.

44. Cannabis is more dangerous than tobacco.

The main argument against this rumor is in the quantities of marijuana smoked by the average user compared to the quantities of tobacco smoked by the average cigarette smoker. While the average cigarette smoker smokes about 1 pack a day, the average cannabis smoker doesn't even smoke daily, but intakes an average of about 1/3 of a joint a day. Let's round that number up to a full joint a day just to be sure.

As stated above, NIDA reports that smoking a joint delivers 3-5 times the tar and carbon monoxide of a cigarette, while the Institute of Medicine states that they are approximately equal. Even if we go with the highest of the NIDA numbers and assume 5 times more tar and carbon monoxide exposure from a joint than a cigarette, when we multiply 1 joint a day by 5 times the tar and carbon monoxide we get the equivalent of 5 cigarettes a day. The average cigarette smoker smokes 20 cigarettes a day.

Then consider that cancer risk is related closely to lifetime exposure of inhaled smoke. Over time 90% of cannabis smokers reduce their intake or quit, while 30-50% of those who have ever smoked cigarettes are still smokers today. Cigarette smoking is clearly more dangerous.

45. Very few cannabis users are arrested.

In 1997 there were over 695,000 federal, state and local arrests made for cannabis possession and sales. 87% of those were for simple possession and 13% were for sales/manufacture.


46. Crack babies are permanently damaged.

There is significant controversy over the effects that the use of crack or cocaine has on undeveloped fetuses. While it is commonly reported that "crack babies" are underweight, agitated, and cry a lot, more recent studies have shown that the primary causes of the "crack babies" health problems were poor nutrition and poor prenatal care. Alcohol is recognized by most medical associations as far worse for developing fetuses than crack or powder cocaine. NIDA has called the crack baby scare a "gross exaggeration."

47. Cocaine has no medical uses.

Cocaine is primarily used as a local and topical anesthetic in cases of oral and nasal surgery. It has also been used to treat digestive and respiratory ailments, and as an adjunct to other anesthetics in opthomological surgery.

48. Cocaine is more addictive than cigarettes.

The 1998 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse found that of the 10.6% of the population who reported ever having used cocaine, only .8% had used it within the past month, while of the 70% of the population who reported ever having used cigarettes, 28% had smoked within the past month.

49. Crack is far more dangerous than powdered cocaine.

Despite the fact that federal sentencing guidelines are 10 times stricter for crack than for powdered cocaine, many people don't realize that crack and powdered cocaine are simply two different forms of the same substance. The effects of a substance are generally stronger if injected or smoked than if snorted or taken orally. Because it is smoked, crack (freebase cocaine) requires less material for the same high, so it is cheaper. Poorer individuals are more likely to use crack while richer individuals are more likely to pay the extra cost for the powdered cocaine. There has been a strong push to redefine the sentencing guidelines for crack and cocaine so they are equal, calling the current system racist and classist.


50. GHB is a "date rape drug."

Alcohol is by far the most common substance involved in sexual assaults. However, any substance which impairs the ability of people to adequately respond to a situation or defend themselves if the need arises could be used in the same way. There will always be drugs, whether prescription sleep aids or black market depressants, which can render a person unconscious. The DEA is aware of 13 sexual assault cases involving 22 victims where the victims were under the influence of GHB.

51. GHB alone (without alcohol) isn't dangerous.

High enough doses of GHB, even without alcohol, can lead to vomiting, convulsions, and short-term coma. It is, however, more likely that these will occur if GHB is combined with alcohol. The combination of vomiting and coma can be a deadly one.

52. Many people die from GHB use.

The DEA reports, "Between 1995 and March, 1999 medical examiners have reported 32 fatalities in which GHB was detected in the decedent. Many of these deaths involved the use of GHB in combination with alcohol, which potentiates the depressant effect of GHB. Of these 32 cases, GHB was found to be the sole cause of death in eight cases."

53. GHB is not addictive.

As with many substances, some people have problems regulating their own use (habituation) and some experience physical withdrawal symptoms (addiction) after periods of heavy GHB use. The levels seem similar to the habituation and addiction that occur with heavy alcohol use.

54. GHB is tasteless.

GHB is definitely not tasteless. It generally has a very strong taste like salty baking soda. Most people consider it quite unpleasant. Since GHB has become restricted in many states, GBL and 1,4-Butanediol have quickly replaced GHB for many people. Both of these have even stronger chemical tastes than GHB.


55. All heroin users are junkies.

"One stereotype of a heroin user, often reinforced by the media, is a desperate, deceitful person, at the mercy of an evil substance that turns into a criminal who holds up 7-11 stores with AIDS contaminated syringes. The 'visible' heroin users are often from disadvantaged backgrounds, such as homeless young people. The 'invisible' heroin users may have few problems and maintain otherwise normal lives."

56. Needle exchange programs cause more harm than good.

There have been hundreds of studies of needle exchange programs summarized in a series of eight federally funded reports beginning in 1991. All of these reports have concluded that needle exchange programs reduce the number of new HIV infections and do not lead to increased drug use among intravenous drug users or the general community. Despite recommendations by such groups as the President's Advisory Council on AIDS, the British Medical Journal, The Lancet, and the Journal of the American Medical Association, there is currently a federal ban on needle exchange programs. It seems clear that it is this ban which is currently causing the most harm.


57. Blue Star Tattoo

This is one of the classics, based around the idea that evil drug fiends, in order to get children hooked, are handing out lick and stick tattoos that contain LSD. The theory goes that by giving them their first taste of LSD, the child will become hooked and the dealer will have a new customer.

This story has been propagated through physical fliers distributed to police and community groups as well as more recently on the web. It has very little basis in fact. When contacted, the sources cited on the fliers have no knowledge of the purported problem, and, more importantly, LSD is a non-addictive drug, so getting children "hooked" is impossible.

It seems clear that this story began as a misunderstanding or misrepresentation of blotter paper, the most common form of LSD which is generally printed with colorful images, sometimes including cartoons. But of course, cartoons aren't only for children.

58. Cartoons are used on LSD blotter to attract children.

No, they're designed to attract trippers.

59. Strychnine in LSD

This rumor is spread with abandon, explained variously as "strychnine is a by-product of the LSD production process" or "strychnine is used to bind the LSD to the blotter paper" or "LSD is cut with strychnine." Again, there's little basis in truth for this one. The main argument against this rumor is that active levels of strychnine wouldn't fit on a piece of blotter paper. There seem to be a couple of mentions of strychnine associated with LSD in the professional literature. One screening test in 1971 showed a trace amount of strychnine in a sample of LSD, but was never verified. Then, in LSD: My Problem Child, Hofmann describes one 1970 case where strychnine powder was sold as LSD, but no LSD was actually involved.

60. LSD causes chromosome damage.

In 1967, a report was released by Dr. Maimon Cohen, which announced that LSD caused chromosome damage. This report was based on a study of a single patient and an experiment in which LSD was added to a test tube containing human cells and chromosome breakage was observed. Since this initial report, the idea of chromosome damage has been widely debunked. Apparently the original test subject, who had been treated with LSD 4 times over several years, had also been treated with regular doses of Librium and Thorazine, now known to cause chromosome damage. And as far as the test tube was concerned? Supposedly adding milk directly to human cells will also break chromosomes.

61. After "X" times of doing LSD a person is legally/clinically insane.

There are no laws or statues in the United States which specify a number of LSD experiences one can have before being considered "insane." We've heard that this may be based on a single case in the 70s in which the prosecution tried to discredit a witness by citing his LSD use. But it is certainly not law nor even standard practice.

62. LSD causes flashbacks.

"Flashbacks" are an unusually intense recall of a memory. They are very similar in nature to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which is most frequently mentioned in relation to childhood trauma or soldiers coming back from war. Generally both the initial experience and the trigger experience are stressful and intense. Psychedelics are not unique in their ability to produce intense experiences which can trigger latent memories. Another definition of flashback is having a strange shift in perception (seeing visuals, etc). Transitory visual distortions are uncommon, but not extremely rare, and occur in non-users as well. It is speculated that those who are experienced with psychedelics recognize these states and associate them primarily with their drug use. But as far as we know, serious comparative studies have not been done to look at the frequency of these types of perception shifts in LSD users as compared to non-drug using populations.

63. LSD can be made from Foster's Beer.

No, LSD can not be made from Foster's beer. The rumor is that Foster's beer contains ergot, which is related to LSD, and that through an extraction process it can be converted to LSD. There are very respectable looking sites that propagate this story along with recipes and directions. The Foster's beer to LSD myth is almost certainly the result of something called "trolling" on Usenet in the mid '90s. Someone posted an absurd weird piece of humor intentionally to try to fool uneducated teens. Ergot is poisonous. If there were ergot in Foster's beer, Foster's beer would be poisonous as well. Totally false.


64. MDMA drains spinal fluid.

This rumor is based on a research study which consisted of doing spinal taps on MDMA users in order to test the levels of 5-HT metabolites. This information was either misunderstood or intentionally skewed to suggest that there was a problem with spinal fluid levels in MDMA users. There is no reason to believe that MDMA has any effect on spinal fluid levels.

65. MDMA has been proven to cause brain damage.

This is a huge oversimplification and makes no mention of the large debate surrounding this topic. There have been and continue to be many studies into the effects of MDMA on users. While there does seem to be evidence of changes to the brain in those who use MDMA heavily and frequently, there are very few clinical studies showing any negative effects. This is a very complicated issue.

66. Street Ecstasy is frequently cut with heroin.

This is a persistent rumor with very little supporting evidence. Of three sites doing anonymous testing of MDMA pills over the past several years, there have been no reported findings of heroin in tablets sold as MDMA. While MDMA pills are reasonably likely to contain substances other than MDMA, they are much more likely to be caffeine and amphetamines than heroin.


67. Mescaline comes in microdots, small pills, or geltabs.

An average dose of mescaline is in the 200-500 mg range. 500 mg of a material can be squished into a large capsule ("horse pills"). There is no way that even 200 mg of mescaline would fit into a small microdot or geltab. If it's in a geltab it is almost certainly LSD, though it's possible it could also be a substance with an active dose below 10 mg, such as DOB.


68. Psychoactive mushrooms are "toxic."

The word "toxic" is often used by mushroom field guides in reference to psychoactive species. This is generally an attempt to stop people from eating them while still being able to document them, as well as a misunderstanding of the effects of psychoactive mushrooms. The term "toxic" is often used interchangeably with "poisonous", the clear implication being that they are dangerous or cause damage. Psilocybin mushrooms have not been shown to cause any damage to those who ingest them and are considered one of the safest psychoactives known.

69. Psilocybin/psilocin breaks down in boiling water.

There's a persistent rumor that it's not possible to make mushroom tea because the heat of the boiling water will break down the active ingredients. However, many people consider this their preferred method. Boiling mushrooms briefly seems to cause no noticeable decrease in potency.

Drug Testing

70. Drug testing techniques are accurate.

Independent reviews have shown that urine testing is notoriously inaccurate. There are no federal requirements about drug testing procedures for non-government employees, and employers often use inexpensive, inaccurate testing companies. In 1989, a NIDA study found that only 8 out of 79 laboratories (10%) reported correct results returning positive results for a sample containing drugs and negative for a non-drug containing sample.


Links to all references are available online at:

Tags : psychedelic
Rating : Teen - Drugs
Posted on: 2002-04-10 00:00:00