By Cheryl Steinberg
This is in no way an endorsement to go out and do some drugs. We just think it’s important for people to know what’s up before having discussions about drugs. Below are common misconceptions about drugs that seem to stand the test of time. Get ready to have your mind blown; even I was surprised by some of these. Here are 10 surprising drug myths busted!
Ecstasy Eats Holes in Your Brain.
Around 2000, MTV and Oprah Winfrey took to the air to make this erroneous claim. Apparently, this myth was based on a brain scan of an ecstasy user that was misinterpreted; the scan showed what appeared to be ‘holes’ in the brain tissue, however, this was the result if how a computer coded the image. The areas that were thought to holes were in fact areas of decreased blood flow.
Yet, the following year, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) continued to allege that ecstasy caused permanent brain damage. But, a decade later, NIDA reversed its position and issued a study concluding that ecstasy may not cause harm to the brain at all.
Most Crackheads are Black.
Despite media and news reports that like to perpetuate this one and despite the popularity of depicting crackheads as Black (think Dave Chappelle’s character Tyrone Biggums), a 1991 NIDA study reported that 52% of crack users were white. Furthermore, in 2012, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found that 62% of adults who had smoked crack in the past year were white; only 27.9% were black.
As far as overall drug use, some data shows that whites have a higher rate of drug use than blacks, even though there is a greater percentage of a blacks incarcerated for drug-related crimes.
There is a ‘Crack Baby’ Epidemic.
The many early studies declaring the emergence of a new social problem: the crack baby had failed to account for the effects of poverty and insufficient prenatal care as other factors leading to the birth defects and developmental problems that were occurring. To be sure, it’s not a good idea to smoke crack while pregnant (or at all) but, crack just isn’t quite as bad as initially thought.
Barry Lester, the Brown University professor who directed the Maternal Lifestyle Study, told The New York Times, that, when comparing the babies of crack smokers to those of non-crack smokers, “Are there differences? Yes. Are they reliable and persistent? Yes. Are they big? No.”
And, in fact, some experts now say drinking alcohol during pregnancy leads to more pronounced and devastating effects on the baby than does smoking crack.
Doing Heroin One Time Will Get You Addicted.
Yes, heroin makes you feel good. And yes, if you do it long enough, you will go into nasty withdrawals. But, doing heroin once does not mean that you will wake up a full-blown junkie the next day. In actuality, only 23% of people who try heroin go on to become dependent on it. And, although that’s still a pretty high number, it just doesn’t support this drug myth. And, in case you need something to compare it to: 32% of those who try tobacco go on to become dependent. Therefore, cigarettes are more addictive than heroin.
The War on Drugs Is Working.
If you read our blog, then you already know that this one’s a big fat lie. But, for those who aren’t in “the know,” the war on drugs has been an utter failure, causing more harm than good. Despite costing a lot of money – $1 trillion since 1971 when Nixon declared war on illicit drugs, the only thing to come out of the war on drugs is having the world’s largest prison population. Not really anything to brag about. As for any lasting result? Furthermore, The Wire reported that the overall drug addiction rate has remained fairly constant – around 1.3%, since the 1970s.
Heroin Overdoses Are Common.
This one came as a surprise to me. Especially since we’ve been experiencing a heroin and overdose epidemic in this country as of late. As it turns out, not all heroin overdoses are really heroin overdoses. The cause of a so-called heroin overdose is more likely attributed to the mixing of drugs: many heroin users concurrently take tranquilizers, alcohol, and cocaine and are therefore at greater risk for sudden death. Likewise, in a 2014 article in The Daily Beast explained how regular heroin 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.”
Heroin is More Dangerous Than Alcohol.
Again, this is something we have written about on a couple of different occasions. You may recall the name Professor Nutt who, in 2010, developed a rating system that ranked 20 drugs based on the 16 different types of harm they might cause, e.g. to self and community. Alcohol ranked the highest in several of the categories, including accidents and suicide, health risk, rate of addiction, injury, family adversities, and economic cost to the community. And, overall, alcohol had the highest score, meaning that it had the highest level of danger associated to it. Just for reference, alcohol rated a 72, while heroin was in a far second place with a 55, followed by crack at 54. Things that make you go “Hmmm.”
Crack Makes You Skinny.
Although crack is an appetite suppressant, it is not a very strong one. There are other drugs out there, like amphetamines that have both a stronger appetite-suppressing effect as well as a longer half-life. It’s true that many crack smokers experience some weight loss and weight loss is even considered one of the symptoms of an addiction to crack cocaine addiction. However, that weight loss could be a result of other reasons, such as a lack of concern about nutrition and an the tendency to spend all available funds on drugs rather than food.
Marijuana is a Gateway Drug.
This one is more about coincidence rather than cause-and-effect. Although it’s been found that someone who smokes pot is 104 times more likely to try cocaine, it’s important to remember that correlation between marijuana use and hard drug use does not necessarily mean causation. Al Arkowitz and Scott Lilienfeld wrote in Scientific American, “Many studies have found that most people who used other illicit drugs had, in fact, used marijuana first. Although results such as these are consistent with the gateway hypothesis, they do not prove that using marijuana causes the use of other drugs.”
And besides, how many people who went on to using hard drugs used alcohol and cigarettes first? I bet it’s more than those who smoked pot first.
Prison Keeps People Sober.
Some people seem to be under the impression that going to jail will help them ‘kick’ their addiction but, that just isn’t the case. Drugs are smuggled into prisons all the time, either by an inmate’s visitor, eve by some of the guards, or else by other inmates returning from their work-release assignments or from a furlough. And, in recent years, there have even been some stories of people attempting to smuggle in drugs using drones.
If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse, it can be hard to find answers – even in the vast universe of the internet. Call us toll-free at 1-800-951-6135 to speak with an Addiction Specialist – someone who can answer your questions and talk to you about substance use disorder, addiction, and the signs to look for. We can also talk to you about your options on handling the situation.
By Cheryl Steinberg
Is the solution to stopping binge drinking alcohol (a drug) the taking of another drug?
According to a couple of key players in the debate, the answer to this question is ‘yes.’
Recently, a patent has been filed for a drug that seems to curb alcohol intake while producing some of the euphoric effects of the club drug ecstasy, also known as MDMA.
Some Statistics on Alcohol
In 2012, there were 3.3 million deaths worldwide in which alcohol played a part. And campaigns aimed at awareness and prevention have done little to nothing in reducing the amount that people are imbibing overall; alcohol consumption has remained steady and has even increased on the global stage.
These sorts of alarming statistics and the of alcohol and the overall scale of the alcohol problem has led some people, like David Nutt, who is the Edmund J Safra Professor of Neuropsychopharmacology and Head of the Department of Neuropsychopharmacology and Molecular Imaging at Imperial College London. It was Dr. Nutt who created a scale that ranked drugs from most dangerous to least dangerous and came to the conclusion that, of all drugs, alcohol ranks as the most dangerous in the world, with heroin and then crack being a distant second- and third-place, respectively.
Professor Nutt was once the government chief drugs adviser in the UK and was fired from his official post because these findings didn’t support the general attitude that alcohol is socially acceptable. Nutt refused to leave the debate on drugs alone and even staked his reputation on his findings, even putting his job on the line, which he eventually lost because he refused to back down.
Party Drug to Curb Binge Drinking?
So, why are we talking about a professor in the UK? Because he has come to play an important role in this latest harm reduction attempt.
Last month, an application for a patent was filed for a drug that is supposed to give people a pleasant intoxication while limiting the amount they drink.
Why would an Ecstasy-like drug be better than alcohol? Is it the lesser of two, more-or-less equal evils?
Well, actually, according to Professor Nutt’s scale, ecstasy ranks quite low on his harms scale, in both effect on the individual (i.e. health) and the community (i.e. on others).
The drug designer behind mephedrone, a now widely-banned chemical that has caused at least one death and has been implicated in 13 others in the UK, referred to by his pseudonym, Dr. Z, initially intended his new creation to be sold as a legal high, in and of itself. But after having meeting and talking with Nutt and trying it on himself, Dr. Z plans to gift the patent to Nutt’s charitable research group DrugScience, with the hope it will be used as a “binge mitigation agent.”
The efficacy of the drug, called “chaperone,” will depend on the results of extensive testing – including how quickly it is absorbed and how it mixes with alcohol.
Party-goers might look to chaperone as something to do as a sort of tail-gating activity, to kick off the night or they might add it to each drink as a way of increasing their buzz.
There are also the unpredictable effects. From the little testing that has been done, the effects of chaperone varied, with some of the experimenters reporting that they lost the desire to drink. Another unpredictable aspect of the drug is the time it takes to kick in. The effects don’t kick in immediately and can take up to 2 hours to hit. Then, it might take as long as 5 hours before the user has the desired effect of not wanting to drink. By then, the chaperone user could have already imbibed quite a bit of alcohol.
Dr. Z says that this isn’t necessarily a problem, as long as people taking the drug know these things in advance.
Nutt admits that “you need scientific tests. Anecdotal evidence isn’t enough.” These would involve finding out what receptors it binds to and figuring out a safe dosage, for example, before raising funds to conduct clinical trials to see whether chaperone really does reduce alcohol intake.
Most cultures around the world use drugs for pleasure, so a drug like chaperon could be a “win-win” situation, he says, acting both as a binge mitigator and providing some of its desirable effects.
If you or someone you love has a drinking problem or seems to be a problem drinker, they may have the disease of alcoholism. These issues often “look like” one another and it can be difficult to know what’s really going on. But, you can call an Addiction Specialist toll-free at 1-800-951-6135 to answer your questions and help you figure out what course of action to take.
One street drug that has been growing recently in publicity and popularity has some seriously troubling and lasting side effects on users. The drug referred to as “Molly” or “Ecstasy” is MDMA (short for 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine) and is a man-made substance which can include chemicals or additives such as caffeine, dextromethorphan (found in some cough syrups), amphetamines, PCP, or cocaine to be used as substitutions for MDMA in the commonly manufactured tablets it is sold in. Those who actually cook up this narcotic can make it with whatever they want, putting its purity at question, and causing its potential to be lethal to be a high risk factor if mixed with dangerous materials. MDMA has been called a “club drug” due to its popular use at all night parties and in the rave subculture. It has effects similar to those of other stimulants, and it often creates a feeling of euphoric connection to others, even though it comes at a high cost.
Long Term Effects of Molly Use: Biochemical
The long term effects of Molly use have a lot to do with the biochemical effects induced upon people taking the substance, which include serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine release. Long term effects of Molly use can also act directly on a number of receptors. Research on possible long-term effects of Molly use have mainly focused on two areas.
- The first area of long term effect of Molly use is possible serotonergic neurotoxicity, because so much of the effects of MDMA are said to be attributed to the drugs influence on serotonin levels released in the brain.
- The second area is psychiatric and behavioral problems that might result from MDMA use.
In addition to these two main areas of research on long term effects of Molly use, there have been a number of animal studies suggesting MDMA can cause other possible neurological changes, including apoptosis and non-serotonergic neurotoxicity. So in short, using Molly can actually slowly but surely perform its own negatively charged brain-surgery on someone abusing the substance. The only trouble with the exact measurement on the long term effects of Molly use on the brain is that these studies have primarily been performed on animals.
- Some animal studies have shown that high doses of MDMA in non-human primates can cause long-term damage to the serotonin nerves in the brain. The average user takes a smaller and safer dose, but it is possible that the human brain is more susceptible to damage
Long Term Effects of Molly Use: Cognitive Function
Some studies find that repeated MDMA use may lead to subtle changes in learning, memory, attention, mood, and decision making. Long term effects of Molly use is expected to have the most influence on these cognitive function, which primarily refers to things like the ability to learn new information, speech, and reading comprehension. A list of long term effects of Molly use includes the following:
- Long-lasting brain damage affecting thought and memory
- Damage to portions of the brain that regulate critical functions such as learning, sleep and emotion
- Degenerated nerve branches and nerve endings
- Memory loss
- Kidney failure
- Cardiovascular collapse
Over 100 studies on the long term effects of Molly use have found a consistent negative effect on cognitive and psychomotor function (which is the relation between cognitive function and physical movement). Even more troubling is that these long term effects of Molly use appear to be permanent, as those who were users in the past who have been without recent exposure to MDMA showed performance difficulties that were equal to or even exceeded those noted in current users.
While there is some controversy as to the addictive nature of Molly being mental rather than physical, or some dispute if it is even a reality, it is still relevant to understand that due to the nature of how the drugs Molly or Ecstasy are made with so many different chemical combinations the risk of overdose, serious health complications, or death is very much a real factor. Also it is important to consider that one of the obvious long term effects of Molly use is how it disrupts behavior and emotional responses, and how the mind and body correlate those feelings. Long term effects of Molly use can permanently damage the way the mind processes emotions and other chemical reactions in the brain.
If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135
We’ve all heard the crazy drug urban legends and may have even believed some of them. Like, if you’ve taken 7 hits of acid in your lifetime, you are considered to be clinically insane. This one’s false, but, there is some drug-related folklore that’s actually true, or in-part true, despite how outrageous the tale seems. Here are the 5 most notorious drug urban legends (that are actually mostly true).
#1: PCP will turn you into a flesh-eating zombie
Terrifyingly enough, this one is mostly true, in that there have been a couple of cases of people using PCP then eating human flesh. You read that right. You may or may not remember the story of Antron Singleton, aka “Big Lurch” – his rapper name.
In 2002, after a nearly week-long PCP binge, Big Lurch was found walking the streets of Los Angeles in the middle of the night, naked, covered in blood and howling at the moon. When authorities went to his apartment, they found his roommate dead “with her lungs torn from her torso, and her body and face covered with …bite marks.” Upon examining Antron’s stomach contents, doctors found it to be “full of human flesh.”
In another disturbing PCP-related case, in 2009, a man ate the eyes of his 4 year old son while high.
#2: Molly is pure MDMA
Many people distinguish between Ecstasy (pill form) and Molly (powder/capsule form) saying that Ecstasy is almost always cut with other substances such as amphetamine, meth, and cocaine among others while molly is purely MDMA. The fact of the matter is that, just because you’ve obtained MDMA in powder form and it was sold to you as ‘Molly,’ that doesn’t mean that it’s pure.
The DEA has said that the purity of Molly is almost a myth because it comes in powder form and can easily be mixed with other drugs, which makes it even more dangerous. In fact, cocaine, crack, ecstasy, meth, and even bath salts have all been found to be mixed in with the supposedly ‘pure’ Molly.
#3: Drug dealers are selling colored and flavored crystal meth and calling it “Strawberry Quick (Quik)”
Emails began circulating back in 2007 and have been seen as recently as 2012 urging parents to beware of a new “tactic” by drug dealers who are targeting children by manufacturing a form of meth that is pink in color and smells and tastes like strawberry. The emails instructed parents to worn their children about accepting candy from strangers or even classmates and stated that there had already been cases across the country of this “Strawberry Quick.”
This notorious drug urban legend is a mixture of truth and myth because, while there are instances in which police have seized colored versions of crystal meth that resemble candy, the part about it being manufactured in this way so as to appeal to children is not true.
“We checked with all of our labs, and there’s nothing to it,” U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration spokesman Michael Sanders said. “It’s not a trend or a real problem; I think that this was maybe someone with good intentions but jumped the gun.”
#4: Eating bagels with poppy seeds can cause a false positive for opiates on drug tests
This notorious drug urban legend was featured on an episode on the hit series Seinfeld, in which the character Elaine had eaten a poppy seeded muffin and then failed a drug test at her place of employment. As with every other episode, hilarity ensued. The thing is, this has actually happened in real life.
There are actual documented cases where people have lost their jobs or been turned down for job positions due to ‘dropping dirty’ for opiates on drug screens. It was determined that in these cases, the person had consumed poppy seeded bagels and other such baked goods causing a false positive for opiates.
This one is also a mixture of truth and myth because the federal guidelines for agencies that drug test have since the cut-off level for a positive, in order to eliminate many of the poppy seed-related false positives that were previously occurring. Therefore, it is no longer really a thing you can claim if you were to come up positive for opiates on a drug test.
#5: PCP is embalming fluid that people dip their cigarettes and joints in to achieve a greater high
This one is confusing because the second part of that statement is true but the first half is not. PCP is an intravenous anesthetic that was developed in the ’50s whereas formaldehyde (embalming fluid) is a completely different – and completely toxic – chemical. What confuses the issue is that, perhaps due to the widely-believed notorious urban legend that PCP and formaldehyde are one-in-the-same and therefore some people often mix the two substances together or, skip the PCP altogether, dipping their ‘smokeables’ in just embalming fluid.
If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.
MDMA has been around for 100 years. It was previously used as a counseling tool by therapists in the ’70s, but was made illegal in 1985.
MDMA is an empathogenic drug – a class all its own – that can induce euphoria as well as feelings of empathy. It has also been described as an amphetamine and a hallucinogen.
Studies in the fields of psychology and cognitive therapy have suggested that MDMA has therapeutic benefits and that it can aid therapy sessions. Currently, clinical trials are now testing the therapeutic possibilities of MDMA in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety associated with terminal cancer and addiction.
1912: MDMA was first synthesized in 1912 by a chemist with Merck Corporation. At the time, Merck was interested in developing substances to stop abnormal bleeding.
1927: Merck researchers perform animal experiments and notice that the substance has some similarities to adrenaline.
1953-1954: The US Army conducts animal experiments with MDMA and other similar drugs. The findings weren’t declassified until 1969. Some suggest that they were looking for non-lethal chemical weapons and interrogation tools.
1965: A chemist by the name of Alexander Shulgin creates MDMA while working at Dow Chemical, but does not try the substance, himself. His focus is on psychoactive drugs.
1967: A student at the University of California at San Francisco describes his experience with taking MDMA to Shulgin. Eventually, Shulgin decides to try the new drug himself.
1972: MDMA is being seen by police in Chicago. Use is spreading slowly but, MDMA remains a rare drug.
1977: Therapists begin using MDMA as a tool in their counseling sessions with patients. The ability of MDMA to help patients overcome emotional barriers was so striking that one psychiatrist dubbed it “penicillin for the soul.”
1984: The growing networks of therapists, chemists and users, which, until this time, had remained largely underground, becomes impossible to ignore when Michael Clegg, who, as a seminary student in the late ’70s, he began giving it to friends, then selling it to cover his expenses, and then selling it for profit. It was Cleg who coined the name “Ecstasy” for MDMA. Now a full-on Catholic priest, Clegg
begins openly selling MDMA in Texas; even advertising it with a 1-800 number and offering shipping.
Seeing this as a ‘crisis,’ – people getting high without risk of getting arrested (MDMA was not a recognized illicit drug at this point), the Drug Enforcement Agency Emergency Scheduled MDMA as a Schedule I drug for a year while it was decided how it should be permanently scheduled.
1985: Hearings regarding the scheduling of MDMA begin.
1986: Judge Young handed down his decision that, based on the laws, science, and use surrounding MDMA, it was safe when used under medical supervision, did not have a high potential for addiction, and had legitimate medical use. Therefore, MDMA should not be scheduled any higher than Schedule III, which would have allowed for therapeutic use yet still made sale without a prescription illegal.
The DEA however rejected this non-binding ruling and declared MDMA to permanently be a Schedule I drug.
1988: On January 27, the courts agreed with the original decision and ordered the DEA to reassess its Scheduling decision. MDMA is removed from Schedule I, and therefore becoming legal once again, albeit only briefly.
The DEA agreed to reevaluate their decision and decided that they came to the same conclusion as before – permanently declaring MDMA Schedule I.
March 2001: Use of MDMA continues to increase dramatically; government increases penalties, making the distribution of MDMA ten times more severely punished than heroin.
November 2, 2001: The US Food and Drug Administration gives approval for human testing of MDMA for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder to the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies MAPS).
September 5, 2003: The infamous MDMA researcher George Ricaurte, who opposed the legalization of MDMA confesses: His claim that his study proved that a “common recreational dose” of MDMA could cause extensive brain damage and Parkinson’s-like symptoms never actually happened.
September 23, 2003: After this confession was brought to light, MAPS was finally granted approval by the Institutional Review Board (IRB) – whose oversight is needed in order to conduct human research.
April 6, 2004: MAPS administers the first dose of MDMA in its post-traumatic stress disorder study.
If you or someone you love is struggling with MDMA abuse, MDMA addiction, or another substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.