Discussion of the drug issue is sometimes filled with emotion, inaccuracies and wishful thinking. In many cases, what is represented as a “drug fact” is really fiction, and it’s hard to notice the difference. Some people downplay the dangers of drugs, their effects on society and their effects on our bodies and brains. Others claim that restrictive government drug policies have harmed our country. Still others tell us that drugs should be plentiful and legal.
Not so long ago, big tobacco companies sold Americans a bill of goods, telling us through advertising and official statements that cigarettes were not harmful—that in fact, they were healthy for us. They denied that certain groups were being targeted for cigarette sales—young people, women, minorities, people in other countries. It’s clear now that they simply lied. Millions of Americans are paying the price for these lies-with their lives.
While the illegal drug market is not controlled by a handful of corporate CEOs with large advertising budgets, we are still bombarded with messages telling us that [FICTION] drugs aren’t really that bad, and that [FICTION] marijuana is really medicine, and that [FICTION] everyone does drugs.
The drug market is controlled by greedy individuals and organizations who believe they can make a living off your choices. Their advertising is word-of-mouth, glamorization of drugs through our culture, and dissemination of bad information.
Much of the bad information relates to the legalization of marijuana. Legalization proponents claim that our country is moving towards legalizing all drugs within the foreseeable future. They want you to believe that such a move will take the profit out of drugs, and that legalizing drugs will ultimately benefit society. They also say that marijuana is medicine, and that sick people are being denied relief as a result of Government policy to keep marijuana illegal. Some will tell young people that marijuana is harmless —after all, it’s a plant, a natural substance. You will also hear that people can use marijuana without any consequences to their health or their lives.
Think about these claims before you buy into them. Ask some questions:
- Do we need more drug problems than we currently have? Don’t alcohol, tobacco and prescription drug use cause enough harm already? Wouldn’t legalizing drugs —like marijuana, heroin, cocaine or methamphetamine—make things much worse?
- Do I want to jeopardize my future by getting involved with drugs? Don’t I want to get into a good college, get and keep my driver’s license, play sports, get a good job?
- Do I know all I need to know about how trying drugs —even once —has affected kids my age? And how do I know what drug use can do to me?
A word about prohibition: lots of you hear the argument that alcohol prohibition failed—so why are drugs still illegal? Prohibition did work. Alcohol consumption was reduced by almost 60% and incidents of liver cirrhosis and deaths from this disease dropped dramatically (Scientific American, 1996, by David Musto). Today, alcohol consumption is over three times greater than during the Prohibition years. Alcohol use is legal, except for kids under 21, and it causes major problems, especially in drunk driving accidents.
It’s up to you to get the facts. To know the difference between fact and fiction. To think twice.
There is a lot of information on the use of drugs in popular culture, on the Internet, and in daily conversation with friends and peers. Some of the information is accurate, but much of it is not.
Find out as much as you can. Learn the facts about illegal drugs, like marijuana is not medicine! Understand the facts about the legal consequences of drugs, facts about prescription drugs, and facts about over-the-counter drugs (like Dextromethorphan).
For each drug in the navigation of this section, you can find out about the effects on your body and your brain, the legal status of the drug, and any known street or slang names.
Do You Know These Drug Facts?
You cannot predict the effect that a drug can have on you—especially if it is the first time you try it, and even if it is a small amount or dose. Everyone’s brain and body chemistry are different. Everyone’s tolerance for drugs is different. It’s like playing Russian Roulette.
Using drugs can lead to addiction, impairment and even death. Learn the sad stories of these lost talents.
Addiction and dependency can be addressed through drug treatment, which is a long and hard process. It is far better not to start, not to experiment, not to tempt fate.
Don’t buy drugs over the Internet—don’t be fooled by claims that the drugs offered on-line are safe. Many of those who sell drugs to teenagers on the Internet are simply e-dealers.
Facts About The Legal Consequences Of Drugs
There are legal consequences for growing, manufacturing and dealing drugs, or providing them to willing or unwilling users.
In many states, possessing drugs for personal use, or with the intent to distribute is against the law.
Drug tests pick up evidence of drug use and there can be severe consequences for using these drugs.
Facts About Prescription Drugs
We are a pill-taking society. Many of us believe there’s a pill for anything and everything that ails us, improving our appearance, performance and mood. But don’t be fooled: legal prescription drugs are not something to fool around with.
Facts About Over-The-Counter Drugs:
- Even when a doctor recommends an OTC medication, follow the directions carefully as those directions have been developed for your health and safety.
- Some over-the-counter medications like cough syrup with Dextromethorphan (DXM) are commonly abused. They are not to be fooled around with.
Facts About How Drugs Are Categorized:
What is a “Controlled Substance?”
In order to protect the public, Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act which established a system to “schedule” drugs. There are five schedules which the DEA and the FDA use to categorize drugs. Drugs that have the greatest potential for harm and addiction are placed in higher schedules.
In scheduling a drug, the government takes a number of factors into account: the potential for abuse, the scientific evidence of its effects on the body and brain, the drug’s risk to the public, and whether a substance or drug can be transformed into another drug with high abuse potential.
Drugs that have high potential for abuse, and which do not have any acceptable medical use are placed in Schedule I. Within Schedules II-V are drugs that have medical uses but can still be dangerous. The lower the schedule, the less addictive and dangerous a drug is. A doctor’s prescription is needed for all controlled substances, and the higher the schedule, the more difficult it is to obtain refills.
However, it’s important to remember that even substance which are not “controlled” such as over-the-counter medications and inhalants can be abused. And it’s important to note that DEA and the FDA are continually re-evaluating a drug’s schedule. If a drug which was once thought “safe” is creating significant public health problems, the government has a process to quickly respond and tighten controls. Congress can also re-schedule a drug through legislation and has done so in several cases.
Learn more about the Controlled Substances Act.