Misconceptions About Drugs

Many urban legends and misconceptions about drugs have been created and circulated among young people and the general public, with varying degrees of veracity. These are commonly repeated by organizations which oppose all classified drug use, often causing the true effects and dangers of drugs to be misunderstood and less scrutinized. The most common subjects of such false beliefs are LSD, cannabis, and MDMA. These misconceptions include misinformation about adulterants or other black market issues, as well as alleged effects of the pure substances.


Some of the strangest urban legends told are those about lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), a potent psychedelic drug that gained popularity in several countries in the 1960s and 1970s, and experienced a brief resurgence in the mid to late 1990s before declining from 2000 onward. The drug’s relation to the 1960s counterculture was likely part of the reason for such legends.

Attempted murder

“Anyone caught selling LSD can be charged with attempted murder.” This is a common urban legend that the psychotropic effect of LSD is such an extreme danger to human life that the seller could face charges of attempted murder or manslaughter. This myth may have origins in stories about long prison sentences for possession or sale of LSD, that may have been comparable to sentences given to those convicted of murder.

Babysitter places baby in the oven while high on LSD

This is an unverifiable drug-scare story dating to the 60s of a hippie babysitter girl putting a baby in the oven and a turkey in the bassinet. It has been debunked by Snopes.com. This myth is parodied in The Simpsons episode “The Secret War of Lisa Simpson,” in which the children go on a school field trip to a “scared straight” wax museum at the local police station. One exhibit contains a wax dummy of a hippie woman eating a sandwich with a baby in it. Chief Wiggum says “That’s right, she’s got the munchies for a California Cheeseburger!”

In May 2009, partial ostension of this legend may have occurred when an Ohio man high on PCP allegedly tried to put his 28-day-old son into a conventional oven, only to be stopped in time by the child’s mother. Also, in March 2010, a Kentucky man put his five-week-old baby in an oven (without turning it on, and without any injury) while very drunk and high on marijuana that he believed was likely laced with PCP; he was also sleep-deprived from working. In 2005 China Arnold infanticided her near month-old baby with a microwave oven, but she claimed to be under the influence of alcohol, not LSD. There are a limited number of cases reported in which babies were put into microwaves, though these cases were not known to involve any drugs. These were often deliberate attempts of infanticide. However, there have been no known cases of microwaving (or baking) babies involving LSD specifically, or any other psychedelic drug (including cannabis) alone. There are, however, many reported cases of psychotic violence under the influence of PCP (see below). PCP is not related to LSD.


A “bad trip” is easily caused by an expectation or fear of ill effects, which may later be blamed on “bad acid.” This legend was made famous at the 1969 Woodstock festival, when concert-goers were warned to stay away from “the brown acid,” which was allegedly bad.

One possible reason people believe that they had “bad acid” could be because they were simply sold a much higher dose than usual, which is not uncommon due to the inherent lack of quality control of illicit drugs. The stronger the dose, the stronger and potentially more anxiety-provoking the trip can get.

However, drugs described as LSD in the 1970s occasionally actually contained PCP, amphetamine, or other drugs that have quite different effects from LSD. There are now many research chemicals (DOB 2C-I, DOC, DOI, etc.) that can be nearly indistinguishable from real LSD before use, and thus can be easily confused with “bad acid.” Some of these, such as 25I-NBOMe are even potent enough for psychoactive doses to fit on blotter paper, and may occasionally be sold as LSD when the latter is scarce. The idea of adulterating blotter LSD with these chemicals, however, has no known basis in fact.

“Bananadine” LSD

Main article: Bananadine

The false claim states that it is possible to synthesize LSD or some similar hallucinogenic drug called “bananadine” from banana peels or other common household foods and chemicals. The actual synthesis of LSD usually requires advanced knowledge and experience in organic chemistry and requires both expensive laboratory equipment and expensive, carefully controlled precursor chemicals.

Originating from a recipe originally published as a hoax in the Berkeley Barb in March 1967, variants of this legend often circulate on the Internet and were popular on BBSs well before the widespread availability of Internet access through William Powell‘s “The Anarchist Cookbook.” This book claimed “Musa sapientum Bananadine” was a mild psychoactive drug found in banana peels. The slang terms “mellow yellow” and “saffron” (for the color of the peels) were borrowed from the 1966 Donovan song, “Mellow Yellow,” perhaps because the phrase “electrical banana” is mentioned in one of the lines. According to The Rolling Stone Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock and Roll, Donovan claimed he was actually referring to a banana-shaped vibrator.[citation needed] The song itself, despite its “psychedelic” feel, was written about Donovan’s bout with hepatitis (which causes jaundice).

Blue star tattoos

A document warning about tattoos that are drugged, possibly inspired by the legend.

One popular legend is the blue star tattoo legend. This legend frequently surfaces in American elementary and middle schools in the form of a flyer that has been photocopied through many generations, which is distributed to parents by concerned school officials. It has also become popular on Internet mailing lists and websites. This legend states that a temporary lick-and-stick tattoo soaked in LSD and made in the form of a blue star, or of popular children’s cartoon characters, is being distributed to children in the area in order to get them addicted to LSD. The flyer lists an inaccurate description of the effects of LSD, some attribution (typically to a well-regarded hospital or a vaguely specified “adviser to the president”), and instructs parents to contact police if they come across the blue star tattoos. No actual cases of LSD distribution to children in this manner have ever been documented. LSD is not addictive, and it is unlikely to be abused by an unwitting user. Therefore, there is no plausible motivation for a drug dealer to distribute LSD in this manner


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