This Is Your Brain On Drugs And Other Tall Tales

Jessica McKeil April 10, 2019 1 comment

Anti-drug campaigns still exist, but none so ubiquitous as flat girl, high karate kid, and the fried egg. Do you remember these?

Growing up in the 1990s, television programming exposed us all to a lot of anti-drug campaigns. Between after-school specials and favorite family sitcoms, commercials educated us about the dangers of drugs. Drugs would ruin our school lives, smash our brains into smithereens, and likely leave us homeless. While there may have been some truth to the depictions of meth and heroin, when we review the anti-cannabis commercials today, they leave us scratching our heads. Did we really believe the messaging from “This is Your Brain on Drugs”?

It’s time to reexamine these public service announcements. With legalization spreading across North America, it’s safe to say even government policies about cannabis are changing. You might be surprised to find out that many of the messages we absorbed as children have been entirely disproven by recent research. This is your brain on drugs? Probably not if you are talking about cannabis.

Do You Remember ‘Flat Girl’?

In a public service announcement, paid for by Above the Influence, an off-screen voice tries to communicate with a girl named Sarah. Sarah appears entirely deflated on the couch, unresponsive to the questions. Thanks to the details supplied by her friend, we find out she’s been smoking cannabis. According to the friend, she hasn’t been the same since: “lazy, and boring…You know, we used to have so much fun together.”

Personality Changes After Smoking Cannabis?

This commercial told us if we smoked cannabis, it would change our personality, our drive, and our ambition. Does this have any truth?

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Cannabis consumers have long associated certain strains, cannabinoids, and terpenes with energetic qualities and creative stimulation. There is some scientific support for disproving the assumptions that cannabis dulls your brain.

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Can Cannabis Hurt Your Brain?

Removing chronic (read: substance abuse) cannabis consumption and adolescent consumption from the equation, does casual adult use cause neurological impairment? According to an in-depth report from the National Academies Press, there are no confirmed long-term health issues associated with cannabis use.

Another analysis found that while cannabis may impair neuropsychological function over the short term, the neuropsychological function returns to normal with abstinence of 72 hours. Furthermore, the authors conclude, “it is impossible to unambiguously establish whether cannabis use is a cause, consequence, or correlate of altered motivation.”

The Anti-Cannabis Karate Kid

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In this TV spot, a karate student prepares to chop a board in half while standing in front of a room full of his peers. After long deep breaths, his karate chop lands sideways and the board slams into his face. According to the message of this commercial, if you consume cannabis you can expect to be “high for a night, slow for a month.”

Yet, today, cannabis for athletic performance is a booming industry. Many elite athletes use cannabinoids like CBD as an integral part of their sports recovery. Instead of impairing performance, many pro-athletes believe it improves their performance. Moreover, many of the medicinal properties of cannabis are applicable to the sports world. Cannabis is an anti-inflammatory, neuroprotectant. It also helps soothe pain and reduce anxieties.

This is Your Brain on Drugs


The “This is Your Brain on Drugs” series of public service announcements are famous. There are many versions of these anti-drug TV spots, all using an egg to represent your brain. This specific spot claims that drug use fries our brains. The father in this advertisement demonstrates drugs’ effects by cracking an egg into a hot pan. We are led to believe there are severe consequences for our brains if we choose to consume drugs.

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Regarding cannabis use, the “This is Your Brain on Drugs” fried egg message couldn’t be farther from the truth. Potent strains of cannabis may cause short term impairment (the ‘high’), but there is no scientific evidence supporting long term damage. If you stop consuming cannabis, your brain returns to normal cognitive function. Furthermore, as mentioned above, researchers theorize that cannabis is a potent neuroprotectant, which could protect the brain from damage during stroke or post-concussion.

Stop Cannabis Propaganda Wherever you Find it

If you still ‘sit on the fence’ about any of the messages from these outdated commercials, it’s worth diving into your own research about cannabis. We know much more about the positive impacts of cannabis use today than we did two decades ago when “This is Your Brain on Drugs” originally aired. Cannabis is safe to consume for medicinal and recreational purposes.

Popular opinion followed by political opinion has reversed most of these assumptions from our youth.

Author avatar

Jessica McKeil

Jessica McKeil is a freelance writer focused on the medical marijuana industry, from production methods to medicinal applications. She is lucky enough to live in beautiful British Columbia, Canada where the cannabis industry is exploding. When not writing, she spends much of her time exploring in the coastal forests.

1 comment

  1. KELLY Michael SCOTT

    Oh myyy! These things have always been absolute B.S. and obviously so to even a semi intelligent person. I get some of my best work done “Stoned”. My landscaping is top notch, my writing and art is more inspired, so is my cooking. I love smoking when I get deep in the woods while hiking or climbing. Many of the worlds best advancements were made by those who smoked. These silly things are just a way to spread fear, the fear that you will wake up and see what is really going on in the world around you, and that you will then put a stop to the corruption. Have you noticed that only those who would be jailed for their treasons against the world are the ones who put this kind of Schlock out there to scare the sheeple???