Drugs:Fact and Fiction/General

Drug use is a threat to physical and mental health. Many of the drugs discussed here are addictive and being caught using or selling them often carries severe criminal penalties.


A collection of psychoactive drugs.

So what exactly is a "drug"?

A drug is any substance - natural or artificial - that changes the normal functioning of the body. This can vary between minor drugs that relieve common illness and symptoms, to drugs that block all sensory input to the brain.

So what separates your typical cough medicine from powerful deliriants? You may be surprised to know that it could be nothing! Several over-the-counter (OTC) drugs are just as powerful as even the most dangerous drugs if taken in the wrong dosages.

For example, several OTC pain relievers contain codeine, which is an opiate. It is usually synthesized from morphine, as is heroin. Common cough and cold relief medications contain Dextromethorphan hydrobromide, more commonly known as DXM. At recommended doses it reduces the cough reflex.

Acetaminophen, on the other hand, is one of the most widely used medications for pain and fever relief. Also known as Paracetamol and APAP, it is sold under the brand names Tylenol and Anacin . It's commonly mixed with DXM and Codeine in several OTC medications. Even acetaminophen, which is frequently seen as harmless by the public can be very dangerous in high doses. Similarly, some preparations of DXM, such as Coricidin Cold and Cough, contain chlorphenamine maleate, an antihistamine, which is deadly in high doses. Abuse of the cough syrup Coricidin have lead to overdose and death. No drug, including OTC medicines, should be take beyond the recommended dosages without first consulting a physician.

These examples show how even abuse of common or "every day" drugs which many people believe to be harmless can cause serious damage. There is no "safe" drug, just because it is legal and sold without a prescription doesn't mean it can be taken at any dosage safely.



Drugs such as those touched on in this book may be readily available and, in some social settings, accepted or encouraged.There is always the option to say no. Many drugs are highly addictive and because of this, experimenting frequently leads to addiction. Drug use is generally considered dangerous and in many cases leads to death or severe harm.

The safest way to not shoot yourself in the head, is to neither load the gun nor pull the trigger. The safest way to avoid bad repercussions from drug use is to not to use drugs.

One always has a choice.



Many illicit drugs are illegal, and as such there are no government regulations controlling purity. Drugs purchased on the black market (or "the steet") may be mixed (or "cut") with other substances to increase profits. These substances themselves can often be deadly. Therefore, it is not possible to know what you are taking when you illegally purchase drugs. Often people feel comfortable with "their dealer" and trust them to sell "clean" drugs. Unfortunately a dealer's source can and often does change. The large number of hands that an illegal substance may pass though make it impossible to know precisely what is being sold.

What to do when things get out of hand


Here are some steps that can be taken if you or someone else has taken drugs and you feel that things have "gotten out of hand". You can:

  • Contact your local poison control center.
  • Go the nearest hospital emergency room.
  • Get an ambulance.

In any of the above cases it is very important to tell the medical profession exactly what you are taking. People are often injured more seriously by not being upfront with their doctors because they wish to avoid other consequences.

If possible take a sample of what you were using with you to the hospital. Also make sure they know what quantity and what method you used to ingest the substance.

Before you use any drugs, always think of the consequences to yourself, your family and friends and society. Why should society pay for your emergency treatments in hospital?

Why do people use drugs?


There are many reasons for people to use drugs. Some of the main reasons are prescription, experimentation, self-medication, recreation, family history/genetics, or mental health disorders.

Drug Classifications


All psychoactive drugs fall into three classes: Hallucinogens, Stimulants, or Depressants. Some drugs fall into only one class, while others fall into a combination of classes. There is a debated fourth class of drugs called Anti-Psychotics.

Entheogen is a fairly modern term, referring to a psychoactive substance used for religious purposes. Substances that fall under this category: cannabis, tobacco, psilocybin mushrooms, salvia divinorum, ayahuasca, and many others.