Why Burger King Changed Robert Downey Jr.'s Life Forever

In 2003, Robert Downey Jr. found himself driving to a Burger King. His car, as LondonNet quotes from a now lost interview with Empire, was filled with "tons of f***ing dope." As ABC reported in 2000, Downey had already survived years of volatile drug use, going to jail in 1999 and getting arrested in November 2000, four months after his release. The actor's publicist noted that he had worked hard to maintain some level of sobriety, albeit a relapsed one. It's not unreasonable to think that a prison sentence would do nothing but harm that precarious state.

A visit to Burger King, however, as Downey continued in his explanation to Empire, proved different: "I have to thank Burger King. It was such a disgusting burger I ordered. I had that, and this big soda, and I thought something really bad was going to happen." After this, he states, he tossed his drugs into the sea, reportedly giving up on drugs forever.

Business Insider points out that this episode inspired the bit in the first Ironman movie in which Tony Stark's first wish upon returning to America from his imprisonment was for "an American cheeseburger." The burger he gets turns out to be from Burger King. He munches on it as he explains that Stark Industries will cease its previous endeavors of arming the military. The parallels between Robert Downey Jr. and Tony Stark play so strongly that it is difficult to ignore the possibility of intent.

Does RDJ hate BK burgers?

At a glance, it seems that Burger King did not fare well in Robert Downey Jr.'s story. After all, if a product's role is to be so disgusting that it saved an addict's life, one might read it as a backhanded compliment. Another way of reading it is that Downey was so full of himself that the sight of him eating a Burger King drove him to sobriety. Neither seems likely, however.

The most likely reason for his life-changing moment is that his drugs caused the burger to taste disgusting. The National Institute of Drug Abuse lists dry mouth, or xerostomia, as a possible short term effect of heroin. Symptoms of xerostomia listed by the American Dental Association include "trouble chewing, swallowing, tasting, or speaking" and "altered taste or intolerance for spicy, salty, or sour foods or drinks." 

So, the theory, then, would be that Robert Downey Jr had bitten into a burger that should have tasted good but turn absolutely foul in his mouth. Perhaps this visceral reaction drove him to realize how much his drug dependence was destroying him, redoubling his efforts to quit. On a more anecdotal note, this is also the reasoning that people give on Reddit to the story, citing their own drug experiences.