Sometime, around the late eighties and early nineties, an ongoing public scare reach it’s peak. Teachers all over the country were receiving reports, usually in the form of paper handouts, of children being given LSD laced stickers or rub-on tattoos, possibly by over-zealous drug dealers. Apparently, reports of this go as far back as the late seventies and they still occasionally turn up to this day, usually towards the beginning of the school year.
As it happened, school administrators would get fliers warning of these LDS laced, rub-on tattoos. The most common design associated with the alleged tattoos were “blue stars.” For this reason, the whole phenomenon is referred to as the “blue star acid” scare. In some contexts, the stars were described as a blue stars similar to those associated with the Dallas Cowboys. Early versions of the story, dating from the late seventies, alleged that the tattoos or stickers featured Mickey Mouse or other Disney characters. Latter, the blue stars were added, as were other cartoon characters and butterflies. On fliers printed after 1990, Bart Simpson is alleged to be a common feature on the tattoos.
To be clear, there is no confirmed evidence that anything described in the fliers has every actually happened. These reports were either the result of a deliberate hoax, or a fast spreading urban legend. The most common variant of the fliers appeared around 1992, and featured the signature of a J. O’Donell, who is said to be affiliated with Danbury Hospital in Connecticut. The hospital, of course, has no record of ever having an employee by that name.
It is likely that the story has it’s roots in one or more police reports describing acid blotters, which featured cartoon characters such as the pink elephants from Disney’s Dumbo. Blotters, though are not rub-on tattoos or stickers. They are used for taking LSD orally and though they sometimes feature cartoon images, they are clearly not meant to appeal to children. David Gross, who wrote Blue Star Acid FAQ suspects, that a well-intentioned, but ill-informed, church group, misunderstood police reports about the blotters and sent out the first wave of fliers. Since then copies of copies of copies of the different fliers have been distributed across the US. Additionally, Brazil, Mexico and Portugal are known to have their own versions of the blue star legend.
Though there has never been a confirmed case of anything the fliers allege, suburban parents and teachers ate the story right up. This was, after all during a time of extreme drug paranoia. Reagan was relaunching the War on Drugs, and the DARE program was telling kids across the country to “just say no”. Children growing up around this time were taught to be aware of maniacal drug dealers willing to stop at nothing, to get play-ground aged kids hooked. Their alleged methods apparently included giving kids free samples or using LSD laced rub-on tattoos. This led to a concentrated effort to teach a generation of kids how to avoid getting expensive drugs for free (a situation, they are not likely to be in).
In real life, drug dealers are out to make money, and avoid getting themselves arrested. As such, they are highly unlikely to accept the huge risks, and limited potential payoffs of giving playground aged suburban kids free drugs. Being caught giving an elementary school child an acid trip, would quickly land one in jail, not to mention scare off other would-be clients. This is simply not the type of attention drug dealers are looking to attract. Despite the image that the Reagan administration was promoting, drug dealers tend to be ordinary humans, motivated by their own self-interest, rather than evil monsters looking to poison America’s youth. Realistically, people growing up will get offered free drugs, not by anonymous drug dealers, but by their friends, and it really is not that big of a deal.
Unfortunately, for far too long parents seemed far more interested in promoting wild stories about drugs than given their children an honest take on the issue. That unfortunately, has led to failed efforts to scare children straight like the DARE program, which has been shown to be counter productive. My take home from this, is that Americans should be more honest with their children, and that people need to be more responsible and do a little more fact checking before spreading stories like this one.