The 1960s brought us tie-dye, sit-ins and fears of large-scale drug use. Hippies smoked marijuana, kids in ghettos pushed heroin, and Timothy Leary, a Harvard professor, urged the world to try LSD. In popular imagination, the 1960s were the heyday of illegal drug use – but historical data indicate they probably weren’t. In fact, surveys show that drug abuse was comparably rare, as was accurate information about the effects of illegal drugs.
In a 1969 Gallup poll, only 4% of American adults said they had tried marijuana. Thirty-four percent said they didn’t know the effects of marijuana, but 43% thought it was used by many or some high school kids. In 1972, 60% of Americans thought that marijuana was physically addictive (research shows that it is generally not physically addictive because regular users rarely show physical withdrawal symptoms, but marijuana can be psychologically addictive).