EIN: 36-2605412

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.

Teen Gambling Risks

A significant body of research shows that young brains are often the most impressionable and that presence of addictive substances can drastically alter and stunt normal brain tissue development. The influence of these substances can have both immediate social and behavioral consequences, as well as far reaching health impacts that can affect a person for decades to come. The risk of substance use for teens is well known, and talked about with parents, caregivers, and educators. So, why is it that gambling is often left out of this conversation?
It seems like more and more, tech companies and advertising firms want people on their phones as much as possible. While many adults feel they are “immune” to this kind of aggressive marketing technique, often the most vulnerable are kids and young adults.

Dr. Timothy Fong, co-director of University of California, Los Angeles’ Gambling Studies Program, said in 2022, “Young people are significantly at higher risk of developing gambling disorder than adults, in part because their brains are not fully developed. Their ability to evaluate risk, their ability to handle loss, isn’t as secure as an adult.” The International Centre for Youth Gambling Problems and High-Risk Behaviors reports approximately 4-6% of high schoolers have a serious gambling problem. An additional 10-14% are considered at risk for developing disordered gambling.

Gambling in high school, while illegal, can take form in any number of ways. Games of chance and poker, dice, gifted scratch-off and other lottery tickets, and even borrowing access to online gaming apps are all common ways for a young person to gamble. For many it is the simple thrill of small wins and does not escalate much beyond that point. However, sometimes early “big” wins can propel a person to invest more time and energy to continue chasing their next windfall. Some signs and symptoms of teens experiencing gambling harm are:

  • Lost and stolen money and objects of value
    •  Often teens do not fully grasp the impact of their gambling costs. They are not able to see the signs that they have or are about to lose money. Teens may become more tightlipped about their finances. They be unable to explain why they have accumulated both debt or large sums of cash. This can look like repetitively borrowing money without repayment, depleted bank accounts, and/or stealing money from friends and family. Teens may also begin to sell personal belongings so they can continue to gamble. In some cases, teens will “barter” objects of value to offset their debts with peers.
  •  Constantly playing games
    • Teens are impressionable and can often get hooked early on by video games quickly. This includes traditional gambling platforms like casino games, video poker, and lottery tickets, but also general video games and fantasy sports. You might notice a sudden, increased interest or obsession with sports scores and heightened reactions to gaming outcomes as signs of disordered gambling.
  • Behavioral changes
    • Behavioral changes can include changes in appetite, loss of interest in activities, poor performance in school and/or at work, new or worsening school troubles, friend group fallouts, and at times unexplained injuries or physical altercations with peers. Teens may also have unexplained absences from school.

Some ways you can help a teen in your life with understanding the risks of gambling are:

  • Have a conversation with them about gambling risks.
    • With the increase of accessibility to gambling products and services, it is important to educate yourself and your teens about safer ways to gamble and the risks. It is more impactful to be proactive in these conversations than reactive.
  • Monitor their gaming and browsing history.
    • Often teenage mobile and online games are linked back to their caregiver’s credit cards and banking accounts. Make sure to check your statements often for increased transactions to online games your teen is playing. Loot-crates and in-app purchases to advance in a game can become addictive to teens. If you find your teen is frequenting online betting sites, have a conversation with them about why they are using these sites, what they are getting out of it, and how these actions are impacting them financially. This may be a sign they need to quit gambling or look into additional resources for assistance.
  • Examine your own betting practices.
    • It is important to lead by example for teenagers. Often they may model behaviors they see at home. Apply your education about gambling risks, evaluate your own gambling behaviors, and set a positive example for your teen so they can set reasonable gambling limits as well.

There is never any shame in seeking help when you or your loved ones are experiencing harm from gambling. It is important to seek professional help for gambling as it can have life-long, serious consequences emotionally, physically, and financially. National Problem Gambling Screening Day is 3/12. A free resource that is used by professional counselors is available at the following link: https://e.helplineil.org/screener/. This screening tool is quick and easy to follow.

If you or a loved one wants to talk about the results of the screen, or are experiencing gambling difficulties, mental health challenges, and/or substance use concerns, please contact Nicasa Behavioral Health Services at 847-546-6450 or info@nicasa.org. Whether someone is just starting to gamble, is beginning to experience challenges, or has serious concerns about their gambling or the gambling of a loved one, access to help is available 24/7/365 – it is free and confidential. Illinois helpline staff can be reached 3 ways: phone: 1-800-GAMLBER; text: GAMB to 833234; chat: www.areyoureallywinning.com

Nicasa also offers trainings and classes on gambling. These workshops are available to all who serve Illinois residents of any age. Follow the link to learn more information and register: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSc02SXbTlL7SMZIlhKobGuqHsucIlh1VlO5YjliVG5x_k-KPA/viewform