Urban Legends Around Drug Use
5 min

Most Enduring Urban Legends Around Drug Use

5 min
News Research

There have been crazy stories about drugs for as long as people have used them. Most urban legends stem from fears mixed with a stereotype about the drug. What is true and what isn't?

We have all heard them. Urban legends about drugs usually involve misconceptions about drug use, culture, impact and those who use them. Some of these stories are circulated just because they are so funny, strange or unbelievable. Others are promoted by anti-reform organisations to scare kids. The most common drugs at the centre of these legends? Cannabis, LSD and MDMA (or XTC).

Urban Legends Around Drug Use

Many of these urban legends describe incredibly dumb behaviour or “strange” phenomena. For that reason, they are often amusing, even if far from true. That said, some of them also have a grain of truth to them. That is why they sound so “real” sometimes, if not downright funny. Or alternatively, scary.

Heard the one about the babysitter who takes LSD and puts the baby in the microwave? Did you believe it? We are firmly in that territory. Read on for similar silly stories and myths about drugs. Which ones are real and not myths? Learn why should you care about the difference.


Ibuprofen Causes A False Positive

Seriously? This one is actually true. When taken in huge doses, Ibuprofen can in fact cause you to falsely test positive for “illegal” substances on lab tests. However, relying on this as an excuse after testing positive for a test is a bad idea. You are not the only genius to think of this. Testers have seen this before and will get suspicious. At most, it might buy you a little time to beg for a retest.

Want a better strategy? If you’re looking to beat a test, there are products on the market to help you. Commercial tests exist to beat the box for most commonly used party drugs (including cocaine, ecstasy and pot). Some products are increasingly getting more high tech - these are not your parents’ home test kits.

There are also detox products available that really do work. While the best way to flush the system quickly is to drink lots of water, cranberry juice or tea, some people require a little extra help.

Here is an associated strange-but-true urban myth. You might have heard that drinking lots of vinegar is a reliable home remedy to beat a drug test. Yes, drinking vinegar will lower your body’s pH level enough to potentially throw off pH-sensitive enzymes in today’s drug screenings. However, do you really want the upset stomach and diarrhea that can go along with that? High doses of Vitamin C can do the same thing.


Magic Mushrooms As Inspiration For Super Mario

Were magic mushrooms really the secret sauce, if not the inspiration behind the “Power-Up Mushroom” in Super Mario Brothers video games? The red mushroom gives Mario and Luigi super shape-shifting strength and abilities.

If you answered yes, sorry, spin again. Shrooms were not the true inspiration for these games. That honour apparently, per the game’s creator Shigeru Mizamoto, goes to Louis Carroll. His famous book Alice in Wonderland sees the protagonist altering her size after eating shrooms. Despite decades-old speculation that Carroll was actually writing about drug experiences, modern scholars debate this.

Apparently, he was writing about “magic,” not necessarily psychedelic mushrooms. Even though those mushrooms were funny coloured. A good topic perhaps for an English literature term paper?

Altered reality has always been a part of shroom culture. This is the reason why shrooms have long been a feature of religious experiences and traditions in many cultures. The mind-expanding experiences of psilocybin are well documented. This is also why shrooms are popular with artists and other creative types.

Growing shrooms at home is easy to do. Just be aware that it is not legal in all jurisdictions, including certain European states.


Marijuana Today Is More Potent Than In The Past

Boomers love to claim this whopper. The idea behind the theory is that today’s cannabis is somehow more “dangerous” than it was yonks ago.

The truth of the matter? Cannabis today is not “more powerful” than it used to be. There are some modern strains, in fact, bred specifically for their low THC content. However, it is true that some cannabis is bred for its high THC content as well. There are also a couple of strains that have developed a rep precisely because of their potency.

Take Gorilla Glue for example. This baby will put even experienced stoners on the couch with just a few tokes. That is because THC content can reach 30%. This indica is resin-heavy and packs a wallop.

Bruce Banner currently holds the title of “strongest strain on earth.” Clocking in at a reliably high 30% THC and winner of multiple Cannabis Cups, look no further for potency. However, forewarned is forearmed!


Reefer Madness

Cannabis will not drive you crazy or make you do nutty, illegal things. All claims saying otherwise are baloney. It started early in the last century. Films and other propaganda about cannabis were produced by the American government in the early 1930’s to dissuade smokers. At that point, the drug was directly linked to all kinds of “immoral” behaviour. This included dancing with someone of another skin colour or listening to jazz.

There has yet to be any kind of proven link between “madness” and cannabis. This includes both schizophrenia or the sudden desire to listen to Cole Porter.


MDMA Can Cause Holes In The Brain

There are many riffs on this one. They are all false. Ecstasy does not create Swiss-cheese-like holes in the brain. This rumour started to become popular around the turn of the century.

That said, there are some drugs that actually can cause lesions or holes in the brain. These include PCP and ketamine. Methamphetamine users also seem to have structural damage to their brains caused by drug use.


Gnome Legend

If you haven’t heard this one, it goes like this. A group of teenagers who are drunk or tripping find a “gnome” or some other kind of magical creature. They bring the strange, mini-being home with them. When they awake the next morning, they find that they have instead brought home a kid. Some riffs on this idea make it more gruesome - including that the “gnome” was either a dead child or a mentally retarded one.

It does not appear to be true, as there is no real documentation on this event to be found, no matter what drug you hear about inserted into this story.


Drugs Can Make You Fly

Obviously, there is no drug that can give you this power. If you want to fly, book a flight. There are also many riffs on this. Many of them are strangely, if not grotesquely, funny. There is one story dating back to the 60’s about a guy who went insane after taking LSD. Apparently, thinking he was a glass of orange juice, he was not able to bend over and had to sleep upright.

Is this stupid? Yes. True? Enough people believed it to make it to urban myth status, but no, it is not.

Bottom line? Yes, of course, drugs can alter your perceptions. And yes, of course, tripping on a window sill is a bad idea. And if you really want to look like a big orange ball, wear a pumpkin costume on Halloween. Or whenever.

Even if you aren’t tripping, someone might well believe you are. Welcome to the world of drugs and urban legends.


Drugs that have been stigmatised against are controversial for many reasons. This easily crosses the line into strange, if not elaborated rumour. People who take drugs also, particularly in the past, had to rely on word-of-mouth information. In such an environment, whispers can distort even the most factual story.

The skinny on these tales? It is relatively easy to check out what is true and what is not about these drugs these days. You have to do a little research. You might “learn” some alternative facts, but who knows? You might even learn some fascinating truths long blown off as fact.

A decade ago, the idea that cannabis could cure or treat cancer was on the fringes of scientific inquiry. Today, this “urban myth” is well on its way to being proven true. No matter what you heard about what the babysitter supposedly did.


  Marguerite Arnold  

Written by: Marguerite Arnold
With years of writing experience under her belt, Marguerite dedicates her time to exploring the cannabis industry and the developments of the legalisation movement.

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