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A weekly show where we debunk common misconceptions. This week, Elliott discusses some misconceptions about illegal drugs!

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Hey, I'm Elliott, and this is mental_floss on YouTube! Today I'm going to talk about some misconceptions about illegal drugs... and marijuana, which may or may not be illegal, depending on where you're watching this video.

(Intro)

Misconception No. 1: Everyone was a stoner in the 60s. Nowadays, when we talk about the U.S. in the 60s, we act as if everyone was a stoned hippie, but that wasn't really the case. Gallup conducted a poll in 1969 and found that only 4% of American adults had tried marijuana. 34% said they didn't even know its effects, although 43% believed that many or some high school kids were smoking it. Those darn high school kids!

Misconception No. 2: People who have taken LSD over 7 times are considered legally insane. According to Snopes, this myth has been around since the 80s, although the number 7 isn't always consistent; sometimes it's 2, 3, 4, 5, you get it. It's worth noting that 'insanity' is a legal term that, broadly speaking, means you can't tell what you're doing is wrong. There are a few different tests that can be used to determine whether a criminal can use the insanity defense in court, but none of these are related to LSD, so any drug user attempting to plead insanity would have to go through the same process as anybody else. A lot of people also think this myth means that the state can commit you to a psychiatric facility, but that's not necessarily true, either. Although the laws vary state-to-state, involuntary commitment is generally for people who pose imminent threats to themselves or others. So, if you did some LSD and became violent, some states might send you to a psychiatric hospital, but not because of drugs from the distant past.

Misconception No. 3: Blue star tattoos are used to distribute LSD to kids. So this urban legend has been going around strong since the 70s, despite there being absolutely no evidence that it's true. The story goes that some anonymous person is distributing temporary tattoos of blue stars to little kids. They contain LSD, so when the child licks the tattoo to apply it, they'll trip on LSD and become 'addicted'. There have been zero documented cases of this happening. Also, experts consider LSD non-addictive.

Misconception No. 4: LSD stays in your spinal fluid and causes flashbacks. It doesn't stay in your spine. LSD gets metabolized by the liver; its half-life is between 2.5 and 4 hours. That said, there's something known as Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder, or HPPD. As the name suggests, this is when someone experiences a change in perception after doing a hallucinogen, like LSD, but experts don't consider them actual flashbacks. Often, someone will just experience stuff like halos around objects or see some movement where there is none, and it's not that common. One study from UC Berkeley found that 4.1% of people who had used hallucinogens presented HPPD-like symptoms.

Misconception No. 5: Some people are born as 'crack babies' and will experience major health problems. OK, so let me start by saying I'm obviously not telling you that it's cool to do cocaine while you're pregnant -- crack is whack. But for a long time, people believed in 'crack babies'. In 2013, a 25-year study concluded about babies who had been exposed to cocaine while they were in the uterus. The researchers found there was no statistically significant difference between those babies and babies who weren't exposed to cocaine in terms of long-term health problems. According to the study's lead researcher, "Poverty is a more powerful influence on the outcome of inner-city children than gestational exposure to cocaine."

Misconception No. 6: Most people who do crack get addicted. Actually, addiction rates for crack are similar to other drugs, like alcohol. Only 10-20% of people who try crack become addicted - that means that 80-90% of people who have tried it do not struggle with crack addiction.

Speaking of addiction, Misconception No. 7: It's nearly impossible to recover from meth addiction. With the proper combination of medication and behavior therapy, recovery is possible. Meth destroys the dopamine receptors on a person's brain, so it takes about a year for those to regrow. Luckily, we now have anti-depressants that can help addicts cope while that happens. According to a study conducted at the Matrix Institute, an addiction research organization, their treatment for meth addiction was about equally effective as treatment for cocaine addiction; 50-60% of people were clean after a year, so it's more effective than treatment for heroin addicts, and less effective than treatment for alcoholics.

Misconception No. 8: George Washington smoked weed. In a few letters in his diary, Washington wrote about India hemp, a plant that he grew and knew a lot about. This was a reference to cannabis, but Washington wasn't growing it to smoke it. He primarily used it to produce hemp, which was used to make clothes. We know that he wasn't smoking it because modern weed has around 5-20% THC, the important chemical. The hemp that Washington was growing had less than 0.3%, so it would have had no effect at all. He would have just been doing it for no reason, and he had a lot to do - he's not going to waste time.

Misconception No. 9: Super Mario Bros. is about drugs. According to creator Shigeru Miyamoto, the mushrooms that make Mario grow and shrink are not drug references. He claims he was influenced by the role of the mushroom in ancient folklore.

And finally, Misconception No. 10: Trick-or-treaters are frequently given candy laced with drugs. Every Halloween, it seems that we hear about 'the danger of candy containing heroin, or some other drug'. It turns out that every time something like this has been observed, the child who ingested drugs had actually gotten hold of them some other way. Then, the family conveniently blamed 'poisoned Halloween candy - it must have been the Twix, oh no.'

Thank you for watching Misconceptions on mental_floss on YouTube, which is made with the help of all of these nice people. If you have a topic for an upcoming Misconceptions episode that you would like to see, leave it in the comments, and I'll see you next week - goodbye!