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What is a drug ?

By Chrisfs in Op-Ed
Sun Jan 21, 2001 at 05:16:55 AM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)

I was reading the story on the drug reform laws proposed in New Mexico, when I thought to myself "What is a drug ?" and the answer was more elusive than I thought. The biological/pharmaceutical answer is that 'any substance that causes a physiological effect in the body is a drug' but this answer covers a much wider area that the generally accepted mainstream definition .

Using that defintion, it is almost possible to say that almost anything we ingest is a drug including food . Food has a definite physiological effect on the body, it gives us energy (until we use it up) and can alter our mood, (People can become grumpy when hungry and much more pleasant when fed). It helps us think better, have more energy and feel more better and more alive. It's also pretty well known that people can develop food addictions, wherein they rely on food to relieve their emotional problems. These are all things that we ascribe to drugs and yet we think of food as an entirely different category.

Contrast this to the media's definition of a drug as a powerful, often illicit, immoral substance with dangerous side effects and a potential for addiction. When the phrases, 'Just say no to drugs' and 'zero tolerance to drugs' come up, drugs mean heroin, marijuana, speed and cocaine and only sometimes alcohol and tobacco and yet I'm pretty sure there are more alcohol and tobacco addicts in the the U.S. than any other type of addict . (I think ,contrary to popular belief, that legalizing a drug does not decrease the number of addicts, but it does reduce the harm done by those addicts to themelves and others). Breweries and wineries advertise their alcohol products as fun, or sexy or sophisticated and gloss over the deleterious effects, Would you call a winemaker in Sonoma County or the Burgundy region of France a "drug dealer" to his face, do you even think he is one?

Companies strive to avoid defining their products as drugs even when it would be perfectly rational to do so. Asprin, Tylenol, Motrin are never refered to as drugs in their ads. They are medicines or pharmeceuticals. Because drugs are bad and medicines are good.
Companies that sell herbal remedies like Ephedra for colds (and weight control) and St. John's Wort for depression have fought tooth and nail to prevent their products to be classified by the government as drugs. They aren't drugs, they're all natural food supplements. Because drugs have side effects and the potential for overdoses whereas all natural food supplements could never hurt you. (There's cases of people dying from taking too much Ephedra).

So what is a drug ? and what does that word connote and is it fair ? What is the difference between a drug and a medicine and a vitamin ?


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What is a drug ? | 45 comments (40 topical, 5 editorial, 0 hidden)
Yeah. (2.20 / 5) (#1)
by pb on Fri Jan 19, 2001 at 03:48:57 AM EST

I always thought this was pretty funny, myself. Remember, kids: when your teacher suggests Ritalin, just say no! :)

P.S. There are probably more caffeine addicts out there, actually. Show of hands? *raises both hands*
"See what the drooling, ravening, flesh-eating hordes^W^W^W^WKuro5hin.org readers have to say."
-- pwhysall
The line is very hazy (3.00 / 3) (#2)
by spiralx on Fri Jan 19, 2001 at 04:30:23 AM EST

Even when you're talking about the media and government's definition of the word "drug". In recent years people looking for a high or low have taken to using temazepan, prozac, valium, ritalin and the latest one I've heard of is oxycotin. Now that pharamceutical companies are producing stronger and stronger drugs to feed America's "treat it with a pill" mentality, many of these substances are becoming used recreationally, and in the event all illegal drugs were wiped off of the face of the Earth people would switch to legal ones in a flash.

You're doomed, I'm doomed, we're all doomed for ice cream. - Bob Aboey

Oxytocin?! (none / 0) (#43)
by tzanger on Tue Jan 23, 2001 at 09:26:31 AM EST

Wait till the little peckerheads get a good contraction or two (especially the guys) -- I think that will stop being a favourite drug! :-)

[ Parent ]
According to DARE... (3.00 / 2) (#4)
by JackStraw on Fri Jan 19, 2001 at 07:44:11 AM EST

a drug is "anything that changes your state of mind or produces other physiological or psychological effects, but is *not* a food."

Or at least to the best of my recollection.
Does that mean that alcohol is not a drug, because it has calories and nutrition (especially if it's not processed and such)? If we consider lettuce a food, then how is eating marijuana different? It might even have more calories than lettuce.

-The bus came by, I got on... that's when it all began.

brownies (none / 0) (#5)
by Inferno on Fri Jan 19, 2001 at 07:52:33 AM EST

wouldn't that make cannabis brownies a food rather than a drug? (they're both, imo)

[ Parent ]
Individual ingredients (none / 0) (#6)
by B'Trey on Fri Jan 19, 2001 at 08:35:19 AM EST

You don't classify a brownie based upon the whole thing. You classify the ingredients individually. A canabis brownie is a food with a drug in it.

[ Parent ]
How about... (none / 0) (#18)
by Wah on Fri Jan 19, 2001 at 11:56:01 AM EST

...a good joke.

Isn't that what D.A.R.E is after all?
Fail to Obey?
[ Parent ]
My POV. (3.66 / 3) (#7)
by inspire on Fri Jan 19, 2001 at 09:08:25 AM EST

The substances you mention in your article are all drugs - from aspirin to ephidra and heroin. What matters not is not whether something be referred to as a drug (actually, in the medical school where I study, most medications are usually called drugs). A drug is merely a substance that is taken to produce a desired effect on the body (well, perhaps this definition is too broad, as then sugar, H2O etc can be considered drugs). But you know what I mean.

"Drug" is a word that has been thrown around by the popular media so much that most of the viewing public mentally substitute the phrase "illicit drug" whenever they hear it. A similar parallel can be found with the word "hacker" in the media - most people take it now to mean "cracker".

What I find more interesting, though, is what constitutes an "illicit drug". What is it about heroin, marijuana, metamphetamine, that makes it so different to nicotine or alcohol? The most logical reason I can think of off the top of my head would be scale - the more potentially "fucked" it can make you means it become illegal. However this is inconsistent as different drugs affect different people in different ways. Perhaps it's a matter of being able to tax a particular substance like tobacco at an exorbarant rate.

Here's an interesting thought experiment:

Imagine a pharmaceutical company developed a drug (whoops, theres that word again) that produced a "high" similar to that experienced by heroin or cocaine users. It is proven to be completely (physiologically) non-addictive and non-harmful to the human body. The pharmaceutical company generously decides to release it on the market for a price everyone can afford.

What do you think the reaction of the public to such a drug would be - positive or negative? Would John Q. Citizen be praising the pharmaceutical company, or calling for the drug to be banned?
What is the helix?

Non-addictive (3.00 / 1) (#9)
by kovacsp on Fri Jan 19, 2001 at 09:33:21 AM EST

Just because something isn't physically addictive doesn't mean people can't get addicted. If something produces a "high" people are likely to take it over and over again to get that high, regardless of whether their body has developed a physical dependency on the drug.

People can get "addicted" to the internet. That's why most definitions of addiction are much broader these days. Something along the lines of "you behave a certain way at the expense of your family, friends, work, and even yourself."

So, in that case, assuming there are no benefits (or at least the ills outweigh the benefits) or social conventions (as there is with alcohol and tobacco) concerning this new wonder drug, I'm sure many people would be calling for it to be banned.

[ Parent ]
Addictiveness (3.00 / 1) (#10)
by inspire on Fri Jan 19, 2001 at 10:04:02 AM EST

That was exactly the reason I said it was non-physiologically addictive. Of course, there is a strong psychological component to addiction, but that just can't be helped - you can not make anything that is non-psychologically addictive as that is too variable between people.

People are addicted to chocolate, they are addicted to the internet, gambing and sex. However psychological addiction does not constitute grounds for banning something. Imagine calling for a ban on chocolate because some people can't control themselves and eat tons at a time.

The whole reason for the hypothetical was to create a situation where a benefit-only, zero-harm drug was produced, however the benefit being closely linked to what people consider to be immoral (and is currently illegal). In this case, I would imagine people would be calling for a ban on this hypothetical drug, but what would be the grounds of their complaint? It harms no-one, doesn't cause an increase in the crime rate (I mentioned that the drug company would be giving it away cheap), and isn't illegal. But people would intuitively think "oh my god, this stuff makes you high" and want to ban it.
What is the helix?
[ Parent ]

Such a drug already exists. (none / 0) (#35)
by vorpal on Sun Jan 21, 2001 at 08:36:18 AM EST

And it is called marijuana. AFAIK throughout history only one death has been recorded as a direct result of marijuana, and that was a man who was standing in a field when a bale of marijuana fell on top of him from a passing plane.

But the government and media have taken marijuana, absolutely slandered it and spread lies about it to the worst degree, and thus it is no longer socially acceptable to openly admit to smoking it. (Studies "fixed" by the US government in the 1940s are now proving to be grossly false).

You could argue that marijuana smoke can cause damage to the body (which is true, but to a lesser extent than tobacco smoke, because no one - except perhaps someone with a death wish - sits around and smokes 25 cigarette sized joints a day). All associated risks can be eliminated by eating marijuana.

Unfortunately, society as a whole has to learn to think for themselves (as opposed to believing media glorification and government lies). Just because alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine (to a lesser extent) are the socially acceptable drugs is no indication of their safety or addictiveness. Personally, I've done 18 different drugs, and the only ones I've ever become addicted to were alcohol and nicotine (but did manage to quit both two years ago after many failed attempts).


[ Parent ]
Definitions (4.75 / 8) (#8)
by iGrrrl on Fri Jan 19, 2001 at 09:31:45 AM EST

According to Webster's Medical Desk Dictionary (which I happen to have on my desk, and is partly US-centric):

drug n 1a a substance used as a medication or in the preparation of medication b according to the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act(1): a substance recognized in an official pharmacopoeia or formulary (2): a substance intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease (3): a substance other than food intended to affect the structure or function of the body (4): a substance intended for use as a component of a medicine but not a device or component, part, or accessory of a device 2: something that causes addiction or habituation

(Note 3: a substance other than food...)

In my biologist's view, I think of a drug as a compound not produced by the body itself which nonetheless can interact with the cells of the body. In other words, cells have these receptors for their own reasons, and it turns out that chemicals from other sources can stimulate (or block) these receptors. (Note, a ligand binds a receptor and inhibits or stimulates the cell by a cascade of subsequent biochemical effects. This is a special field of interest for me.)

For example, we make "endogenous opioids", which are peptide (protein fragment) molecules. These are released in response to pain and stress (runner's high, or jalapeno-lover's buzz). The opioid drugs long known in human culture bear no chemical resemblance to the version the body makes, yet they stimulate the specific opioid receptors pretty well -- sometimes better than the native ligand. Similarly plant cannabinoids look nothing like the arachidonate-related natural ligands.

By these definitions, ephedra and St. John's Wort contain drugs.

I like herbal supplements. Echinacea usually works for me if I take it at the first sign of a cold. However, I'm acutely aware that the active ingredients are technically drugs. A tea of willow bark contains salicylic acid, the same stuff in a pill of aspirin. Chewing coca leaves puts cocaine in your system. Willow and coca could be called herbal supplements or "food," but they contain drugs.

Not all drugs cause addiction, and not all people will become addicted to typically addictive drugs. The receptors for drugs vary among people, as do the wiring/biochemical systems underlying addiction in the brain. The social issues surrounding the currently illegal drugs are as complicated as the physiological processes those drugs affect.

Definitions are easy. Answers aren't.

You cannot have a reasonable conversation with someone who regards other people as toys to be played with. localroger
remove apostrophe for email.

Out of interest... (5.00 / 1) (#11)
by inspire on Fri Jan 19, 2001 at 10:27:50 AM EST

What exactly is your field of study? I've been reading a few of your diaries and was able to keep up with the first few, but my relatively limited medical knowledge (absorbing chunks of trivia during med school in between coding and beer-drinking contests) lost you later on.

Now, to some discussion.

I like the receptor-ligand definition of drug, however it is probably too narrow. Not all drugs work at a receptor site in the classical sense - for example penicillin works by blocking the action of transpeptidase by acetylating to it and changing its structure (and as a result a bacteria can't make its cell wall and die).

Nor does the "not produced by the body itself" part quite work - for example, insulin, while not made by diabetics, is usually considered a drug. Or is insulin only a drug for diabetics, and not for non-diabetics? Lots of "drugs" are synthesised by the human body, and are used in medical treatment because some individuals, for whatever reason, are deficient in a particular substance.

Maybe definitions aren't that easy. But it doesn't matter -- definitions are irrelevant. As long as we all know what we are talking about, whether it be {heroin, cocaine, cannibis}, {paracetamol, aspirin, ibuprofen}, or {ginko, echinacea, vitamin D}, whether we call them "drugs" or "medicines" or "quargs" doesn't make any difference.

Answers... now thats where it gets really tough.
What is the helix?
[ Parent ]

my work/your point (4.00 / 1) (#24)
by iGrrrl on Fri Jan 19, 2001 at 02:37:27 PM EST

What exactly is your field of study?

Specifically I do calcium channel regulation, but mostly as it affects neurotransmission. My over-arching specific interest is how the quaternary structure of the channel 1) affects the biophysics of the calcium current, and 2) interacts with the signalling molecules in the biochemical cascades which regulate channel function. Synaptic vesicle fusion downstream of those events depends on calcium entry, and very small changes in channel function make big changes in local calcium concentration. Anyway, much of what will be in my dissertation is molecular anatomy - can't ask who does what until you know who is there.

I like the receptor-ligand definition of drug, however it is probably too narrow.
Agreed, and you point up good examples with antibiotics and antivirals, and with replacement therapies. I was thinking in the illegal drug vein, and most of those drugs either directly interact with cellular receptors or act as blocking ligands for transporters.

Cool response, thanks.

You cannot have a reasonable conversation with someone who regards other people as toys to be played with. localroger
remove apostrophe for email.
[ Parent ]

What is the definition to be used for? (3.00 / 1) (#12)
by error 404 on Fri Jan 19, 2001 at 11:00:03 AM EST

The use of the definition makes a big difference.
Electrical banana is bound to be the very next phase
- Donovan

Drug: Something without big business behind it.. (4.40 / 5) (#13)
by Zukov on Fri Jan 19, 2001 at 11:18:54 AM EST

The word is used gererally today in a negative sense.

There is a lot of profit in the following "substances"

  • Nicotine
  • Caffine
  • Alcohol

    And so these items are not called "drugs", even though the consumption of these "substances" (or their delivery system) is probably the leading cause of premature death in the US.

    ȶ H (^

    Yes, I have just bumbled upon Gnome Character Map. Please ! me.

  • difference between drugs and medicine (2.00 / 1) (#15)
    by rebelcool on Fri Jan 19, 2001 at 11:29:09 AM EST

    its only a drug if you enjoy taking it. :)

    COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site

    This may have been a joke, but... (4.00 / 1) (#34)
    by inspire on Sat Jan 20, 2001 at 11:35:24 AM EST

    It raises a very serious point - what if a "perfect drug" was invented, that didn't have any negative side effects whatsoever (we're in hypothetical land here). See my other post for more details.

    Would society frown upon this drug just because it gives people a "high" without the normally-associated "lows"? Would it be shunned because it disrupts the fundamental social yin-yang?
    What is the helix?
    [ Parent ]

    What if... (none / 0) (#38)
    by cr0sh on Sun Jan 21, 2001 at 07:16:00 PM EST

    One could obtain artificial endorphins (actually, can they already? I am not sure here - I know opiates are similar, in that they substitute for endorphins, but they aren't endorphins) - in a pill form, let's suppose. Let's further suppose they didn't cause any harmful side effects (outside of a psychological "want").

    Would these endorphin pills be considered a "drug" - that is, something morally reprehensible to ingest (and that is really what a drug is - actually, what the word has been contorted to mean. You don't hear the words "Drug Store" much any more - it has been supplanted with "Pharmacy", or in the collective sense, "Walgreens")?

    I tend to think it would - but it would be (at least in American culture - I am not sure how other cultures and societies would react) similar to the attitude toward sex: We all do it, we all enjoy it - to an extreme. But we are deemed a sinner if we so much as breath a public word about it.

    [ Parent ]

    Yes, frown society would (and does) (none / 0) (#41)
    by kumquat on Mon Jan 22, 2001 at 02:17:20 PM EST

    While there isn't much of anything that has no negative side effects at all, it could be argued that MDMA (ecstasy) comes fairly close to that definition. The only real negative side effects to reasonably casual use are the possibility of dehydration (which is not caused by the drug itself, merely by the fact that dumb-asses forget to drink while dancing themselves silly); and decreased cognitive ability associated with prolonged use.

    Now you may think that the negative cognitive effects are pretty damn important, and I won't disagree, but MDMA was made illegal many years before that link was discovered. In other words, it was made illegal simply because it made people "feel good". When the drug was outlawed in the late 80's in the US it was done so on the basis of lies and scare tactics only, not on the basis of any solid medical research.

    GBH was recently outlawed for much the same reasons, although it does have the tendency to kill people when combined with alcohol. Of course that link was conveniently ignored when the legislation was enacted. "GBH kills" was the cry heard, even though there has never been so much as one single case of death attributed to the substance alone.

    [ Parent ]

    Each drug is different (3.00 / 1) (#16)
    by botono9 on Fri Jan 19, 2001 at 11:37:22 AM EST

    (I think ,contrary to popular belief, that legalizing a drug does not decrease the number of addicts, but it does reduce the harm done by those addicts to themelves and others).
    It depends on the drug. If you try to lump all drugs into one big category you run into some trouble. Alcohol and tobacco have such high rates of use due to their level of social acceptance. If you legalize heroin use you will not see the number of addicts rise to the level of alcohol or cigarettes because shooting heroin is not socially acceptable. It is not kosher to shoot up in public, but it is acceptable to light up or go out and have a beer.

    The public's attitude towards tobacco is changing rapidly, and I think you will see a large decrease in the number of users in the coming decades.

    "Guns are real. Blue uniforms are real. Cops are social fiction."
    --Robert Anton Wilson

    Legal changes (3.00 / 1) (#37)
    by Chrisfs on Sun Jan 21, 2001 at 02:12:09 PM EST

    Yes, but the act of legalizing something makes it socially acceptable. The consumption rate for alcohol (and the incidence of alcoholism) was very low during Prohibition compared to before and after it. (Yes there were plenty of speak-easies but for many people just making it illegal stopped them from drinking). I hjave heard the argument that legalizing a drug will reduce the number of people taking it because it will no longer have an 'outlaw' status, and that was the point I was disputing.

    [ Parent ]
    it's not use, but abuse (none / 0) (#44)
    by dabadab on Tue Jan 23, 2001 at 11:23:13 AM EST

    Don't forget, that in speak-easies ppl were NOT drinking ONE glass of some fine wine - they were drinking LOTS of alcohol. And yeah, a hundred ppl drinking a glass of some fine wine after dinner is not a problem, while one alcoholist is.
    Real life is overrated.
    [ Parent ]
    It's arbitrary...... (1.00 / 1) (#17)
    by daystar on Fri Jan 19, 2001 at 11:45:40 AM EST

    .... which is just one of them many reasons I favor legalization. To outlaw heroin on the assumption that "it can only hurt you", but to leave christianity in place is just TOO random for my tastes. Mind you, I'd want BOTH to be legal, but would not mess with either...

    btw: Vitamin C can't really be considered a drug because you will die without it. Or maybe that makes it the ultimate drug? Should it be banned because we need it?

    There is no God, and I am his prophet.

    Last I checked, (1.50 / 2) (#28)
    by xriso on Fri Jan 19, 2001 at 08:09:25 PM EST

    Christianity doesn't quite fall under the category of "drug". However, I do agree with the legalization of self-mutilation. Yes, I think self-mutilation is wrong, so I will avoid doing it, and I will try to convince you not to screw yourself. But, if you really want to, I'm not gonna force you to stop.
    *** Quits: xriso:#kuro5hin (Forever)
    [ Parent ]
    whoops (3.00 / 1) (#32)
    by xriso on Sat Jan 20, 2001 at 12:34:13 AM EST

    OK. That probably looks like a troll to you. But I'm actually serious. I am strongly against unneeded restrictions. What is wrong is when you encroach on other's rights.

    I say separate the church and state! Both are being contaminated by the other.
    *** Quits: xriso:#kuro5hin (Forever)
    [ Parent ]

    To Marx it did (none / 0) (#40)
    by kumquat on Mon Jan 22, 2001 at 01:59:32 PM EST

    "Opiate of the masses"

    'Course he was using it as an anology...

    [ Parent ]

    Technical vs Popular definitions (4.50 / 2) (#19)
    by Simon Kinahan on Fri Jan 19, 2001 at 12:10:45 PM EST

    I suspect the technical definition of a drug is something like "A substance having an effect on an animal's mind or body through some pathway other than the normal nutritional pathways". Thats not really very interesting.

    What is interesting is that in popular usage "drug" is pretty much the modern equivalent of "potion", or of "pharmakon" in ancient Greek. It implies a powerful substance, with strong implications that the power is dangerous, and that the substance might even be a poison in the wrong hands. Drugs can be administered responsbily, by powerful white magicians, or in back streets by their evil counterparts.


    If you disagree, post, don't moderate
    New Drug Laws in NY State (3.00 / 2) (#21)
    by Smirks on Fri Jan 19, 2001 at 12:23:08 PM EST

    Interesting you should post this story, because yesterday in the New York Times I read an article (free reg required) about how Gov. Pataki wants to change the drug laws in New York state.

    [ Music Rules ]
    better link (partners) (3.00 / 1) (#33)
    by xriso on Sat Jan 20, 2001 at 12:36:49 AM EST

    partners doesn't require a login. Go there instead.
    *** Quits: xriso:#kuro5hin (Forever)
    [ Parent ]
    coincidence (3.00 / 2) (#23)
    by Arkady on Fri Jan 19, 2001 at 02:18:22 PM EST

    By what must be a completely random coincidence, TomPaine is running an article about U.S. drug policy under Clinton's appointee, Barry McCaffrey.

    It's a good article, and discusses the oddness of the U.S. policy treatment of alcohol and marijuana, bringing up some amusing and conflicting quotes from Barry about which is the most dangerous "drug".


    Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.

    Good drugs and bad drugs (2.50 / 2) (#25)
    by Mantrid on Fri Jan 19, 2001 at 03:31:11 PM EST

    I guess the drugs that are the concern (or perhaps the drugs that should be the concern) are the ones which have particularily bad side effects (generally life threatening medically, remover person's ability to control themselves safely, addictiveness and all the nastiness that goes with that). Of course alcohol and tobacco could fit into this category, so I guess it comes down to what's acceptable to a society.

    ummm... (4.00 / 1) (#27)
    by xriso on Fri Jan 19, 2001 at 08:03:37 PM EST

    IMHO, alchohol and tobacco are drugs. Just because they're so common doesn't mean otherwise.
    *** Quits: xriso:#kuro5hin (Forever)
    [ Parent ]
    Interesting... (1.66 / 3) (#29)
    by sl4ck0ff on Fri Jan 19, 2001 at 08:34:59 PM EST

    Concerning food, I have often thought the same things myself. Interesting article, keep up the good work.
    /me has returned to slacking
    legal vs. scientific distinctions (3.50 / 2) (#30)
    by handle on Fri Jan 19, 2001 at 09:06:32 PM EST

    In most discussions, "drug" is usually a legal distinction because it almost always connotes something regulated by the government, either as an illegal narcotic or as a legal medicine requiring some authority (doctor and pharmacist) to approve your use of it. In that sense, the distinction between a drug and a non-drug is very cut and dried - whatever the government says it is. Because we're talking law and not science, history and emotion enter into the process which is why something like alcohol which is obviously in the same class of recreational chemicals as pot is not regulated as such. Scientifically speaking, I'm not sure if there is a clear distinction. Chemicals have certain effects on the body and classifying them as broadly as drug vs. non-drug is probably fairly useless. Perhaps someone who's a better chemist than me will answer.

    Herbal Drugs (4.00 / 4) (#31)
    by ehayes on Fri Jan 19, 2001 at 10:46:39 PM EST

    >Companies that sell herbal remedies like Ephedra for colds (and weight control)
    >and St. John's Wort for depression have fought tooth and nail to prevent their
    >products to be classified by the government as drugs. They aren't drugs, they're
    >all natural food supplements. Because drugs have side effects and the potential
    >for overdoses whereas all natural food supplements could never hurt you.

    Actually, they fight tooth and nail to not be classified as 'drugs' because
    then they would have to prove that they work, and show their expected
    and possible side effects, contra-indications, proper dosages ....

    Very expensive, in the US, to pass FDA certification, especially for something
    that is grown and cannot be effectively monopolized long enough to pay off
    the certification testing costs.
    And, of course, if you actually go through testing, then people might figure
    out what works and what does not, and I'd bet at least a third of those 'herbal'
    products would fall off the market instantly.

    My personal definition (2.00 / 2) (#36)
    by yes on Sun Jan 21, 2001 at 12:02:41 PM EST

    The way I see it so far:

    A drug is a substance that has a long term negative effect on society, with that effect being directly proportional to the total quantity absorbed by its citizens.

    (But this seems too simple, feel free to correct me!)

    Then what do drug stores sell? (none / 0) (#39)
    by kumquat on Mon Jan 22, 2001 at 01:55:00 PM EST

    See subject.

    [ Parent ]
    *Prohibition* is the long term negative effect. (5.00 / 1) (#42)
    by mugwump on Tue Jan 23, 2001 at 06:19:47 AM EST

    A drug is a substance that has a long term negative effect on society, with that effect being directly proportional to the total quantity absorbed by its citizens.

    What utter trollop. You are making the assumption driven into you by society that all drugs are bad. Hey, guess what? Moderate use of Marijuana extends the average lifespan by 2 years. Taken carefully (ie, treat them as sacred), Magic Mushrooms, Mescaline, Acid can assist spiritual development and aid creativity. Entering the K-Hole (Ketamine or "Horse Tranquilizer") can let you reflect on your life from a third person perspective and help you find your way. Marijuana's stimulating of pleasure centres can be a healthy way to motivate yourself to work (ie, reward yourself for a good day's work with a spliff). Ecstasy can help you release your ego and discuss built up issues with other people, which means you release those worries, and often strengthen friendships.

    They can also each lead to individual downfall if they are not taken carefully. This is the biggest argument to keep them all out in the open, so that people can talk about them freely and not get feelings of paranoia that they are doing something "wrong" by taking drugs. Who said that taking drugs was wrong? I thought God gave us free will.

    On topic, a drug is something you imbibe or is released into your system that has an effects your body's system, but is not necessary for normal operation. If it were to be removed, and you could live, then it is a drug.

    But it needs further classification to actually be a useful term:

    • Medicinal drugs: the primary purpose of taking the drug is to solve a disease or ailment, and the user really beleives that
    • Recreational Drugs/Psychadelics: it is the altered state of conciousness that is desired. Only addictive habitually... but that is quite rare. Includes acid, ketamine, mushrooms,
    • Addictive Drugs: it is the presence of the drug in the body that is desired. These are the nasty ones - opiates/opioids (morphine, herion, codeine,...), many amphetamines, depressants ...
    • Performance Drugs: drugs taken with the intent to enhance the body's performance. This generally only works short term... you borrow the high performance from your future in some way usually. This includes amphetamines (caffeine, speed, ...), brain foods (red bull et al), etc.
    • Neurological Drugs: drugs produced by your own brain. Like Dopamine, the chemical released during orgasm to make you associate pleasure with sex, and to focus you on the being or person that you are having sex with to think "yes, that person is for me!". Or Adrenaline, to kick your brain into running at a super high frequency; leaving you with quick reflexes but not able to think very well. These drugs can be just as addictive as any others ...

    This is how I class drugs - by the motive behind their use. I think it is the best way to classify them...

    Warning: this post may contain traces of bullshit.
    [ Parent ]
    Manipulation and definition (none / 0) (#45)
    by 3than on Tue Jan 23, 2001 at 02:10:40 PM EST

     Many people, especially dependable citizens of the U.S, labor under the assumption that they are under control of their lives, to some extent, their actions, to a great extent, and their bodies, almost completely.
     Drugs and drug effects tend to distroy this last illusion, which often topples the other two. When you start taking drugs seriously, and you begin to truly understand the kinds of effects that substances have on cognition, you begin to see the way your body is in a constantly dynamic state. That is, you begin to notice how your mood drops when your blood-sugar level is down after not eating, and the emotional effects that different foods have. You also begin to notice the effects of 'smaller' drugs...you begin to realize how powerful a drug coffee really is, and what benadryl and sudafed do to your head.
     After you understand this, it's hard to see your cognitive processes as what you used to think they were. They are no longer the sovereign, feudalistic king of your body and life that you once thought they were; instead, they are just one of many interrelated processes, affecting and affected by the biological. And not just the biological, but in fact, a truly giant range of things, from macroscopic political happenings to minute day-to-day decisions, like what you eat, how you live, what you go and see.
     In the end, it all adds up to a greatly shifted, and more truly complex, worldview. Drugs, by whatever definition, have much to teach, which is why they have been present in so many cultures for so long. But they are also self-continuing entities, which exist symbiotically with human civilization, with nearly as much life as a virus.
     Drugs are a scary thing to many people, and perhaps for good reason. And like all things, their reality transcends their dictionary definition...

    What is a drug ? | 45 comments (40 topical, 5 editorial, 0 hidden)
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