It’s fairly common knowledge that drugs are bad for you, but sometimes all the hype leads to widespread misconceptions about exactly what they can do to you. Before you go frightening your loved ones with outdated drug myths, find out which ones are just overblown scare tactics.
Marijuana is a Gateway Drug
Ever since the days of Reefer Madness, pot has been demonized by the media in countless different ways. Though many of the most outrageous claims have already been debunked, the claim that marijuana leads to abuse of other drugs has stuck around. It’s no surprise, since there is actually a strong correlation. Someone who smokes marijuana is 104 times more likely to use cocaine than a person who’s never tried pot. The problem is, correlation doesn’t mean causation—in fact, it’s easy to flip the concept on its head and point out that someone who uses cocaine is simply inclined to hard drug use and had to start somewhere. It’s a clever claim, but a myth all the same.
You Can Always Spot an Addict
Thanks to aggressively unpleasant representations of drug addicts in the media, many people think they know exactly what an addict looks like. Gory PSAs featuring meth addicts with open sores, rotting teeth and the works convince us that even one round of the drug will leave users looking like zombies. Likewise, alcohol, marijuana and other drugs have their own stereotypes—and that makes it hard for us to recognize addiction in our friends and family, let alone ourselves. To complicate matters further, an estimated three-quarters of chronic substance abusers are employed, meaning that you almost never know by sight who could be an addict.
Everyone is OD-ing on Heroin
While heroin-related deaths have been devastating the country in record numbers lately, it turns out that most people aren’t actually overdosing. These deaths don’t usually happen due to the heroin alone, but a combination of multiple drugs and alcohol. The phenomenon of tolerance means the body can often deal with increasing levels of drug abuse—albeit with a slew of negative health effects. But when users create a cocktail by adding alcohol and other drugs to the mix, it can mimic the appearance of overdose.
Ecstasy Will Eat Your Brain
Starting in the year 2000, a brain scan began making the television rounds that showed dark spots caused by lack of proper circulation. Unfortunately, it was interpreted by the world at large as evidence that ecstasy would eat holes in your gray matter, which just isn’t true. Even the National Institute on Drug Abuse got behind it at the time, though they completely retracted that statement a decade later.
Heroin—Not Even Once?
Popular PSA campaigns targeted at hard drug deterrence like to feature terrifying scenarios that show you exactly how far off the deep end you’ll fall if you use heroin even one time. While trying illegal drugs of any kind is always inadvisable, it still may not lead to the gruesome images shown on screen. In fact, about 23% of people who try heroin end up becoming dependent—meaning that heroin actually has less addictive potential than tobacco, which touts a dependency rate around 32%.
New research on drugs and addiction is always turning up new evidence, and the facts you thought you knew can often turn out to be dead wrong. With something as serious as addiction in the balance, it pays to know fact from fiction when it comes to drugs.