Regardless of whether you think you’re the drug expert or if you know nothing about drugs, these myths are probably ones you have heard before. And guess what? You probably thought they were true. We are here to shine a light on 5 of the biggest drug myths you probably believed. Don’t worry if you’re surprised, we were too.
5 Drug Myths You Probably Thought Were True
1. Drug Myth: Ecstasy Eats Holes in Your Brain
The myth that ecstasy eats holes in your brain began in the early 2000s maybe even in the late 90s, either way it really hit mainstream societies ideas about the drug when both MTV and Oprah Winfrey, incorrectly made the claim. They both told us that ecstasy eats holes in your brain based on an ecstasy user’s brain scan that had been erroneously interpreted. In the scan, what appeared to be holes in the brain tissue, was in fact an illusion caused by the way a computer coded the image. The spaces that looked like holes were actually areas of decreased blood flow. It was a striking image and it hooked the public’s imagination as well as fear. So much to the point that even NIDA said the following year that ecstasy caused permanent brain damage. Ten years later, though, NIDA reversed its position completely, issuing a study concluding that, when factors like sleep deprivation and previous drug use are accounted for, ecstasy may not harm your brain at all.
2. Drug Myth: Most Crack heads Are Black
Yep we are going there. This belief has become so entrenched in media and pop culture that even Dave Chappelle has a skit riffing on the stereotype of the black crack head. And while it is a long-standing stereotype it is also a myth. As far back as 1991, a NIDA study reported that 52% of crack users were WHITE. Today, it is true that overall there are more black crack smokers than white crack smokers BUT SAMHSA found that in 2012, 62% of adults who had smoked crack in the past year were white while only 27.9% were black. Furthermore, some data indicates that whites have an OVERALL higher rate of drug use than blacks. Despite these trends, blacks make up a large percentage of the state prison populations for drug crimes.
3. Drug Myth: Crack Causes “Crack Babies”
This sounds like it should be true right? The thing is though, that crack doesn’t actually cause the level of fetal damage that was initially believed. Many early studies found that birth defects and developmental problems actually failed to account for the effects poverty and insufficient prenatal care had. To be clear about this though, smoking crack while pregnant still isn’t okay. It just not as bad as what was initially thought. How? Well, Barry Lester, the Brown University professor who directed the Maternal Lifestyle Study, told The New York Times, when comparing babies of crack smokers and non crack smokers, “Are there differences? Yes. Are they reliable and persistent? Yes. Are they big? No.” In fact, some experts now estimate that the effects of smoking crack during pregnancy are less pronounced than the effects of drinking alcohol.
4. Drug Myth: Heroin Overdoses Are Common
The increase in overdoses due to heroin the past couple years has resulted in a discussion about how to prevent and treat heroin addiction like never before. BUT, as it turns out, though, not all overdoses are really overdoses. In a 1998 paper, Stanton Peele—author of Love and Addiction—wrote, “Heroin overdose is almost nonexistent. Rather, heroin users who concurrently take tranquilizers, alcohol, and cocaine are those at risk for sudden death.”
Likewise, in a 2014 article in The Daily Beast, Dr. Anand Veeravagu and Dr. Robert Lober explained how regular users can appear to overdose: “In many cases, what causes a daily, well-tolerated occurrence to suddenly result in an unexpected death is the mixture of substances, such as alcohol or sedatives.” Of course, that’s not to say that heroin isn’t dangerous; it’s just that the true causes of heroin-related death are not always reported or understood accurately.
5. Drug Myth: Heroin is More Dangerous Than Alcohol
I have talked about this one many times. And yet because alcohol is socially acceptable it is touted as being “safe.” When in all reality it is more dangerous than heroin. While it is difficult to offer a definitive comparison between such different substances, some—including former British drug czar David Nutt—have tried. In 2010, Nutt created a rating system and ranked 20 drugs based on the 16 different types of harm they might cause. Alcohol was ranked the highest in a number of categories, including accidents and suicide, related disease, addiction, injury, family adversities, economic cost, and community. Overall, alcohol had the highest score—indicating the highest level of danger—with a 72, while heroin lagged behind in second place with a 55.