The Dope Series: Introduction to Drugs

As I begin a new semester of school, I have decided to share my new knowledge with you all regarding many topics, like I have done so in the past with my knowledge in psychology and sociology. This is my way of giving back to the society that has taught me so much. After all, education allows you to open your scopes so that one day, we may relay our knowledge back onto the world. For this reason, I have decided to begin a series here on my blog that gives you the ins and outs of both legal and illegal drugs (for educational, not recreational, purposes). Drug problems are on the rise and sometimes it is hard to grasp just how severe these problems are when you’re missing a big part of the equation: the actual drug. Hopefully this series can shed light onto these issues or at least give you, the reader, a better understanding of what is out there in the world. So I introduce to you chapter one of The Dope Series: an introduction to drugs.

Disclaimer. Be aware that the information provided in The Dope Series has been collected from Criminalistics An Introduction to Forensic Science written by Richard Saferstein. The information provided is subject to change as new evidence and research is collected.

Introduction to Drugs

Let us begin with the definition. A drug is any natural or synthetic substance that is used to produce physiological or psychological effects in humans or other higher-order animals. It is important to note that although many drugs are naturally occurring, others are subject to synthetic manufacturing through modification of the original, often times naturally occurring, chemical compound. There are two kinds of synthetic drugs. Semi-synthetic and fully synthetic. Both are created in what is referred to as a “clandestine laboratory.” With semi-synthetic drugs, clandestine labs will substitute one or more molecules within the naturally occurring chemical compound of a drug, with a similar molecule. This combination of semi-natural, semi-lab (synthetic) molecules can create similar, or sometimes even more severe, effects to that of the original drug. Fully-synthetic drugs are created by replacing all of the naturally occurring molecules with substitutes. Reasons for these synthetic modifications may be to work around a legal patent. Additionally, some drugs produce physiological effects, such as reducing inflammation in joints, while others produce psychological effects, such as paranoia.

There are many kinds of drugs that produce very different effects. You have your opiates, that are typically used for pain relief. You have your hallucinogens, that are known for distorting visual and auditory perceptions. You have depressants and stimulants, that are known for slowing down and speeding up your central nervous system, respectively, and you have your club drugs, which are associated with the “rave scene.” We will discuss each of these drug classifications separately and in great detail as we move along the series. What I did want to focus on is the difference between illicit, prescription, and recreational drugs.

Illicit is a fancy word for illegal. When we refer to drugs as being illicit substances, it is the same as saying these drugs are illegal substances. There are however, some instances in which illicit drugs may be allowed for professional use. For example, many illegal drugs are used by forensic investigators for the purpose of identifying a drug used in an overdose case or drug-facilitated sexual assault. Prescription drugs fall within the category of controlled substances. The use and possession of controlled substances are strictly limited to specific agencies for specific purposes. You have your over-the-counter controlled substances that are health products available to the general public in a pharmacy. You have your prescription drugs that are authorized for consumption by a medical doctor. You have your licensed drugs that require an individual a specific authorization card (licence) for consumption (like a medical marijuana licence), and lastly you have your hospital use drugs. These are drugs that are only found in hospitals for use by physicians. Recreational drugs is any substance (legal or illegal) that is consumed without medical justification for its psychoactive effects. Whether it is cocaine or a beer, there has to be the intent of “getting high” (or drunk) to be considered a recreational drug.

On the next chapter of The Dope Series, we will be discussing the terrible effects of drug dependence, drug tolerance, and the societal implications of drug use.

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