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Myth Busting: Facts on Substance Use

With Spring in full swing, more and more people are getting ready for a busy concert, festival, vacation, and event season. This often means an increase in opportunities for using alcohol and substances in these social settings where people feel “safer” to experiment than they normally would. There is a lot of misinformation out there, and peer pressure isn’t something that only affects teens. Myths about substance use are pervasive. Often the more someone hears a myth, the more likely they are to accept them.

Below are some common myths and evidenced-based facts along with some ways to reduce harm.

Myth 1: I can control how quickly I can sober up if I need to.

FACT: Time is the only proven way to sober up.

Alcohol and substances can vary depending on how they impact a person. What makes one person feel euphoric can make someone else feel incredibly paranoid. Each body is unique and metabolizes substances differently. A body’s ability to metabolize a substance is what allows a person to sober up. For your body to process and break down a substance takes time. There is no proven, reliable way to “trick” your body into sobering up faster. It takes as long as it takes. It should also be noted that mixing substances to feel less intoxicated is incredibly dangerous. While you may feel less intoxicated—like drowsiness—you are still just as intoxicated as you would be without mixing. The more alert feeling, while feeling like sobriety, often leads people to make more dangerous choices and ignore symptoms of over-intoxication and/or potential overdose.

The best way to increase your safety while using substances is to come up with a plan beforehand and communicate your expectations while sober. Make plans for a safe ride home before leaving, and maybe have a back up plan (just in case). Understand your tolerance and pace yourself. Allow some time to pass before continuing to use or drink. This way you can see how you are feeling and check in with yourself.


Myth 2: There aren’t long-term effects from smoking marijuana.

FACT: Marijuana started to become legalized in the U.S. for recreational use in 2012, the truth is they are still doing research on long-term effects.

Similar to early use of cigarettes, vaping, and alcohol, there are undeniable consequences to substance use, but there isn’t large enough body of data to show what long-term health effects a person could experience from use of marijuana because it has only been legalized in a handful of states for 12 years.

Studies are also suggesting marijuana use can cause functional impairment to cognitive abilities, declines in IQ, lowered verbal memory, general memory disruption, and more. New studies are being conducted to investigate these early findings. The problem with prior scientific data was that it was not always collected reliably and without a skewing bias to support results.

The main take away is, there is a growing body of evidence that shows cognitive and mental effects from habitual marijuana use, but more studies are still being conducted. There needs to be more longitudinal studies to better show long term health outcomes for individuals who engage in habitual use of marijuana.


Myth 3: If the product is available without a prescription, then it can’t be that dangerous.

FACT: Recommended dosages are put on the label to protect consumers from potentially, fatally overdosing on the products.

Roughly 178,000 people are hospitalized each year due to adverse drug events from the use of over-the-counter medication. While many medications are safe and effective when used as directed per packaging instructions, there is still some risk to consuming any substance. Many medications that can be found in the OTC aisle are abused to produce a high. Some are even featured as “challenges” on social media apps. The Lake County, IL Coroner reported in 2018, 24 deaths occurred that involved the use of prescription medication as well as included common OTC medications.

When starting a new medication or supplement, it is always best to consult your healthcare provider and pharmacist to see if there are any interactions and side effects. This can help you determine if the benefits outweigh any potential risks.

Myth 4: You can use peyote, LSD, and other hallucinogens to treat schizophrenia, psychosis, and other psychological disorders.

FACT: There needs to be more research conducted to prove it does provide any therapeutic relief and to understand its benefits and risks.

Due to the classification of these substances, research is limited on how these substances actually interact with the brain and the long-term health consequences of habitual use. Coupling  that with many researchers still studying disorders, like schizophrenia, to fully understand how the disease affects the brain, it cannot be conclusively said if there is any therapeutic benefit for this type of treatment. While esketamine has shown promise for depression relief, it is NOT recommended as a first option for treatment, should be taken as prescribed by the recommending physician, and has serious side effects. The same cannot conclusively be said for hallucinogens treating disorders like schizophrenia until there is larger body of research showing the benefits as well as the risks.


It is important to remember that often these myths are rooted in anecdotal stories, cultural norms, and at times a small piece of scientific evidence. This makes them spread quickly and makes them difficult to dispel. It is important to share your new knowledge with others so that these myths can be put to rest.

If you, or a loved one, are struggling with substance use, mental health, or other behavioral concerns, or are seeking more information on managing symptoms, please contact Nicasa Behavioral Health Services at 847-546-6450 or email info@nicasa.org.