May be a case of research failure, especially in older works. Seldom played straight in recent decades, but there are exceptions. Often overlaps with Scare ’em Straight. Subtrope of G-Rated Drug.
You wouldn’t know that from the movies, though.
It’s a matter of debate whether second-hand marijuana smoke has any real effects (sometimes referred to as a “contact high”), beyond giving some people a splitting headache and nausea from the smell. Contact highs do occasionally turn up in fiction, usually in the context of someone being exposed to pot for a long period of time in an enclosed space like a vehicle.
Dean Bitterman or the Doting Parent is tricked or cajoled into smoking up, or more likely eating a pot brownie. Five minutes later, they’re riding a unicorn through a rainbow, or arguing with the plants, or being chased by musical notes in time to the background music. Expect to hear Steppenwolf’s “Magic Carpet Ride” or “White Rabbit” by Jefferson Airplane. It’s almost as if they’ve taken a powerful hallucinogen. Yes, in their universe, marijuana is LSD.
Continuing on this trend, often when the effects of LSD are shown, they are powerfully overstated. Even on low doses, characters will experience detailed hallucinations and Datura-esque delusions, when in reality a single tab of LSD will usually only give someone visual distortions that are readily distinguished from reality.
Marijuana is one of the less potent psychoactive drugs. It causes euphoria, thirst, hunger, and occasionally lethargy or paranoia, and it can also cause your thought processes to become one long string of Fridge Logic and/or Fridge Brilliant moments (which may or may not be remembered once the effects wear off). It also takes a little while to get used to it—often, people doing it their first time don’t feel any effects at all. Even very high doses won’t cause hallucinations in 99% of the population.
It is worth mentioning that large doses of marijuana can produce hallucinations in some people. The array of effects experienced from any dose vary considerably from person to person, and from one strain of the plant to another. Research into the former effect may be partly responsible for the myth, along with journalists that ignored how large a dose the “psychonauts” used and what counts as a hallucination to experimental psychologists. Also, even those who regularly smoke cannabis may experience unexpectedly strong effects when vaporizing it, which is a more efficient method of administration. When eating it, it can take a long time to kick in, so a common mistake is to eat too much because it seems to have little effect – only to find oneself extremely inebriated for half a day when the full effects come on. Such an overdose can cause visual and auditory hallucinations, but those are not enjoyable at all and are often combined with panic attacks, nausea and so forth. Hallucinations remain unlikely, but judgement and driving will be impaired. A person who has consumed enough marijuana to experience hallucinations is unlikely to be able to walk on two feet, let alone drive, so anyone who would have consumed it unwittingly would have called an ambulance at this point and would not go on a wacky drug-fueled adventure.
Another cause of this trope may be that the medium lacks the ability to portray intoxication from a first-person perspective accurately while also not making the intoxication seem much less powerful than it is. There are many drugs that have subtle and/or mild visual or auditory effects, if any at all, making it very difficult to portray the severity of a high dose accurately. It can sometimes help to think of the effects as metaphors.
This page also covers the use of exaggerated or inaccurate effects in other drugs. Examples which involve alcohol may also fall under Pink Elephants.
The Marijuana Is LSD trope as used in popular culture. Marijuana is one of the less potent psychoactive drugs. It causes euphoria, thirst, hunger, and …
LSD and the “classic” psychedelics all share one thing in common: their molecules very closely resemble the neurotransmitter serotonin, which has an impact on mood, perception, appetite and more.
Tripping on acid can be one of the most profound experiences in some people’s lives. Just a tiny speck of LSD (scientifically known as lysergic acid diethylamide) will trigger an experience that can last 12 hours, depending on the dose and purity. It gives users a teeth-rattling “trip” packed with amplified colors that ripple and flow across their distorted perception of time and space. Ego, or the sense of self, can disintegrate into the soul’s ectoplasmic goo.
Important for taking any substance are set and setting, or being comfortable in your brain and body while tripping in a safe place. “If there is something wrong with your physical or mental setting, mixing psychedelics can enhance all those bad things,” said Ivan Romano, co-founder and co-director at Drugs and Me, a harm reduction research group based in the U.K. “It can take you to a very bad place.”
When coming down from a trip, some people might want something to take the edge off. So it’s not uncommon to mix LSD with depressant drugs such as alcohol or benzodiazepines like Xanax, that slow down the nervous system. But this combo can quickly become life-threatening.
This combo is often sought at raves, with users attempting to get both drugs to “peak” at the same time, usually by taking the MDMA several hours after the LSD kicks in, as they both have different zeniths. Yet, we don’t know much about how physically safe this combination is. There’s limited hard data on LSD and MDMA combos—or any other drug mixed with acid – because research for this kind of thing is extremely expensive and the ethics can be sticky.
“Depressants are very dose-sensitive, so if you take too much you quickly get into dangerous doses,” Romano said. Plus, you’re more at risk of losing your balance and other accidents. “When you mix these two drugs you have the clumsiness of one and all the perceptual distortion of the other. So the risk of injuries and accidents is much higher.”
For example, in 1964 a researcher named Oscar Resnick at the Worcester Foundation for Experimental Biology in Massachusetts gave four men a small dose of LSD, between 40 and 75 micrograms. All four men had been taking isocarboxazid, an MAOI, for several weeks.
“Back in the 1950s, when therapists were first exploring LSD psychotherapy,” said Baggot, “it was pretty common to give a stimulant as well. It seemed to improve moods and make patients more communicative. Amphetamines do have safety concerns, particularly when they’re used without medical supervision. Higher doses can increase blood pressure and body temperature, and cause brain oxidative stress. Combining LSD and amphetamines increases all these safety concerns.”
One of the most common mixtures, popular since at least the early ‘80s, is “candyflipping,” or mixing LSD and MDMA, also known as “ecstasy” or “Molly.” Effects vary, but many users report this combo gives overwhelming feelings of unbridled euphoria from the MDMA, on top of the weird wonderment from LSD. Some users who have combined these two substances say the effects of MDMA, which typically last about four hours, also seem to be extended by the acid.
Despite being relatively non-toxic, LSD is powerful and mixing it with other drugs can be a risky ride.