Photo: Atomazul/Shutterstock

Lies, Misconceptions, and Urban Myths About Your Favorite Drugs

Lifestyle Cannabis
by Joshywashington Sep 30, 2011
With a topic as vilified and mysterious as drug use there are bound to be many urban legends of death, destruction, and cannibalism. Some are true, most are not.

WEED ~ Cannabis sativa

1 joint=pack of cigarettes. I remember this one from 6th grade, that smoking a joint had as much evil and tar as 1 whole pack of smokes. Well it’s bullshit. It is oft repeated that cannabis smoke has a higher chance of giving you cancer but that is simply not true. While tons of pot smoking may lead to bronchitis and other respiratory ailments, there is little evidence that pot alone can cause lung diseases like emphysema that are generally linked to cigarettes.

Weed killed Bruce Lee. The martial arts god died of cerebral edema after ingesting the painkiller/muscle relaxant Equagesic. His autopsy also disclosed evidence of marijuana in his system. The initial opinion of Dr. Peter Wu was that Bruce suffered an allergic reaction to either cannabis or Equagesic. But considering there has never been a single proven death that can be linked to the direct effects of cannabis alone it seems unlikely Lee died due to killer ganja.

George Washington smoked weed. Imagining the founding fathers passing the peace pipe around after a hard day on the plantation is pretty easy considering Washington and Jefferson both grew hemp. However awesome it would be, there is no evidence that either president smoked herb. They just used the fibrous stalks for rope and paper…or so we are told.

A study at the University of California found that people who smoke marijuana are no more likely to develop lung cancer or head and neck cancers than non-smokers.

Marlboro goes green. This urban legend asserts that tobacco companies such as Philip Morris are waiting for weed to be legalized so they can sell it to the masses. A similar myth is that Marlboro and Philip Morris have purchased the rights to common names of popular strains, such as Maui Wowie, Purple Haze, and Trainwreck. The official statement is this is absolutely untrue. But you know they’re thinking about it.

The U.S. Constitution is written on hemp paper. Some stoners say that the Constitution was written on hemp paper, a popular paper option of the day, but it was actually penned on parchment. Now, drafts of the Constitution were likely written on hemp, but the actual document was not.

ECSTASY ~ methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA)

MDMA saps spinal fluid. Propagated in part by Eminem’s 2000 songs “Drug Ballad” and “The Kids,” this legend could have its origins from a 1994 study where the spinal fluid of ecstasy users was tapped and analyzed for the presence of serotonin breakdown products. Obviously, in this case the researchers, not the ecstasy, were responsible for draining subjects’ fluid.

Swiss cheese brain. A popular myth that surfaced around 2000 was that MDMA eats holes in your brain. Although certain substances can do your gray matter significant damage, no known drug can put physical holes in it. The idea probably comes from misread results of SPECT scans that map activity levels in different parts of the brain. While scans of ecstasy-influenced brains can exhibit regions of decreased activity (which may visibly appear as “holes”), they indicate nothing about the brain’s physical structure.

LSD ~ Lysergic acid diethylamide (acid)

Attempted murder. Anyone caught selling LSD can be charged with attempted murder, or so the urban legend goes. This is totally bogus. No state or federal law allows for an LSD dealer to be charged with murder.

The legend of the dude who thinks he is an orange. Man takes too much acid, man thinks he is an orange….forever. That is how I heard it. Similar versions say he is a glass of OJ or milk, doesn’t really matter, it’s funny to think about. However, Wikipedia thinks this rumor is unfounded. Although psychotic breaks may occur while taking strong hallucinogens, you won’t fall off the edge of sanity unless you are already crazy.

Legally insane. This myth states that anyone who has taken LSD more than 7 times can be declared legally insane. This untruth was invented sometime in the ’60s and was parroted in an episode of Dragnet, further legitimizing the urban legend. If you have taken 7 hits of acid you are not insane — you are just at Burning Man.

Spinal fluid flashback. I have heard many people repeat this legend, which says that residue from LSD is retained in the spinal fluid and can be released many years after ingesting resulting in a “flash back.” There is no consensus on the nature of these “flash backs.” The body may store toxins in fat tissue and residues of some drugs can be found in spinal fluid, but LSD is not one.

The babysitter and the oven myth. This is a story dating to the ’60s of a tripping babysitter putting a toddler in the oven that has oft been repeated but never verified. There have been no known cases of cooking babies involving LSD specifically. PCP is another story…

METH ~ Methamphetamine

Strawberry Quick. Legend has it that nefarious dealers have put meth in sweet beverages such as strawberry Nesquik and gave it to children. First reported in 2007, claims there is no hard evidence that dealers are putting meth in drinks and handing it out to children. Now the free Monster energy drinks by the stadium are different…

Crystals in lungs. This false rumor asserts that a user who is melting meth crystals to inhale the vapor runs the risks of the vapor recrystallizing in the lungs, causing respiratory damage. This claim is untrue. Crystallized meth is highly soluble in water and absorbs quickly into the blood stream.

PCP ~ phencyclidine

An intravenous anesthetic developed in the ’50s, PCP use causes people to do some really fucked up shit. Separating the myth from the fact is difficult for this reason.

Embalming fluid. A popular myth is that PCP is in fact formaldehyde, or embalming fluid. Actually, the phencyclidine molecule has no relation to embalming fluid. Formaldehyde is highly toxic, but that hasn’t stopped confused/stupid people from dipping cigarettes in the nasty stuff and smoking them. Confusing this urban myth is the fact that people mix PCP with formaldehyde for some god forsaken reason.

Cannibalism. Ok, this is kinda true. Although PCP won’t turn you into a cannibal, there have been cases of cannibalism related to heavy PCP use. The rapper Big Lurch killed a woman and ate part of her lung in 2002 while high on PCP, and in 2009 a man ate the eyes of his 4 year old son while high. This is no myth and it is really disturbing. So, PCP makes you a zombie?

SHROOMS ~ psilocybe

Bleeding brain. A popular rumor is that magic mushrooms make your brain bleed, and that bleeding is what induces the psychoactive properties of psilocybin mushrooms. That is obviously not true. Structurally similar to serotonin and DMT, psilocybin hijacks the brain’s serotonin receptors until the body eventually breaks it down and cycles it out.

Mario power up. It is believed by stoners and geeks everywhere (including the author) that the ‘Power Up’ mushrooms featured in the ‘Super Mario’ games are modeled after the hallucinogenic mushroom called Amanita muscaria. While Shigeru Miyamoto, the creator of Mario, denies this, he says the ‘power up’ mushrooms are based on Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.

COCAINE ~ benzoylmethylecgonine

Cocaine in Coca Cola. It is true derivatives of the coca leaf were added to Coca Cola for years after its 1886 invention. Just how much blow was in the frizzy drink is unclear. But by 1902 it was as little as 1/400 of a grain of cocaine per ounce of syrup. By 1929 Coke was effectively coke free. As a side note, early in his career Sigmund Freud promoted cocaine as a safe and useful tonic that could cure depression and sexual impotence. Go figure. Can you debunk or verify a drug-related urban myth? Leave a comment below.

Discover Matador