Drug misuse is a common issue all over the world. Understanding the effects of these drugs is an important step towards combating the issues of addiction and dependence. Below is an overview of how the US government classifies drugs, which drugs are illegal to possess, and how the government is combating drug misuse.
More Information about The Most Commonly Abused Drugs
Types of Drugs
The United States government classifies drugs into five distinct categories. These categories separate drugs into groups based on their medical use, their potential for addiction and abuse, and any other potential risks or dangers their use may pose to the general public. Over the years, various drugs have been added or removed from this list, or their scheduling has been changed. The criteria for these categories are detailed below:
Schedule I Drugs
Schedule 1 drugs are substances that currently have no known medical use and have a high instance of addiction or misuse. Heroin, marijuana, LSD, and MDMA are all examples of Schedule I drugs, and prescriptions for these drugs cannot be obtained.
Schedule II Drugs
Schedule II drugs have a known medical use, but are also highly addictive or commonly misused. Opioids like Vicodin, methadone, Dilaudid, OxyContin, fentanyl are considered Schedule II, because they are sometimes used in a medical setting, but are also sold on the street. Stimulants like cocaine, methamphetamine, Adderall, and Ritalin are also considered Schedule II drugs.
Schedule III Drugs
Schedule III drugs have medical uses, but can also be somewhat addictive or pose a risk of dependence. This includes Tylenol with codeine, the anesthetic ketamine, anabolic steroids, and testosterone.
Schedule IV Drugs
Schedule IV drugs are chemicals that have a lower instance of misuse than Schedule III drugs but also pose some dangers, including central nervous system depressants like Xanax, Ambien, and Valium, and some opiate-related pain relievers like Darvocet and Tramadol.
Schedule V Drugs
Schedule V drugs have the lowest potential for abuse out of all of these classifications. Cough medicines with less than 200 milligrams of codeine or per 100 milliliters are good examples of Schedule V drugs.
Drugs that are classified as Schedule I through V by the US government have different rules and regulations regarding possession, buying, and selling, though they are all considered controlled substances. Drugs that are considered Schedule I are always illegal to possess because they don’t have medical use and cannot be prescribed by doctors. Drugs that are listed as Schedule II through V may have some medical usages and many can be prescribed by doctors, which means that if you have the intended prescription, it is legal for you to possess these drugs. However, buying and selling them on the street is still illegal.
The punishment for possessing, buying, or selling controlled substances varies depending on the substance, how much the person is in possession of, and what they were doing with it. The Drug Enforcement Administration of the US government determines what happens to people who are caught with these drugs, though for many people, it can mean jail time, especially for repeat offenders.
In some cases, drug addiction starts at the doctor’s office. Doctors prescribe opioids for pain, and the user may even take them as directed. But they may find that the effects of opioids help them cope with physical and mental pain in their lives, which can, in turn, lead to seeking street opioids like heroin. Heroin is easier and cheaper to obtain than prescription opioids, but both can have harmful effects when abused. In addition, opioids are extremely addictive and cause painful withdrawal symptoms when the user is unable to obtain more drugs.
Tranquilizers and sedatives are also frequently misused. These drugs can be prescribed as a way to combat insomnia or anxiety, but their relaxing effects are highly desired, and users find themselves continuing the medication even after their prescription has expired. Like many drugs, users have to take more and more to achieve the desired effects, leading to dependence, and withdrawal symptoms.
Prescription drug abuse is also common among teenagers and college students who want to get a leg up in their studies. Common prescription drugs like Adderall are used for their stimulant effects and can increase focus, attention, and motivation. People who use these drugs find they can get a lot done (i.e. study for hours on end, write long papers, clean the entire house, etc.). However, these drugs are intended for use by people with ADHD, and people without the condition can experience some alarming side effects like insomnia, loss of appetite, rapid heart rate, or weight loss.
Prescription drug abuse is surprisingly common, too, with more than 18 million Americans admitting to misuse in the span of a year.
Synthetic drugs are drugs that have been created in a lab to try to circumvent drug laws. Synthetic drugs often attempt to mimic the high that illicit drugs bring, but are constantly being altered and developed in before the government can pass legislation to make them illegal. Drugs like K2 and Spice were created as a legal alternative to marijuana, but the effects of these unregulated drugs are unpredictable and dangerous. In fact, they affect the brain much more strongly than actual marijuana and can cause side effects like paranoia, extreme anxiety, rapid heartbeat, confusion, and even violent behavior.
Other synthetic drugs try to mimic the stimulant effects of cocaine. Flakka and bath salts, which usually look like light-colored crystals, can be smoked, snorted, eaten, or vaporized, and the effects come on rapidly. There have been results of violent attacks by people who have taken synthetic stimulants, and some users have even been pushed to suicide. Long-lasting neurological effects are common, and because these drugs are unregulated, little is known about the results of long-term use.
Consuming these synthetic drugs can have some seriously dangerous outcomes, and because of this, they are often labeled “not for human consumption.” Despite this, the use of these drugs has been on the rise, mainly because they’re quite easy to obtain. Synthetic cannabis is sometimes even sold in gas stations, headshops, and adult stores. Law enforcement has had trouble keeping up with these drugs, because the formulas change so rapidly, and many of them are produced and sold by overseas vendors. Many of these drugs aren’t listed as controlled substances because they have yet to be identified and classified.
War on Drugs
The United States government declared a war on drugs in the 1970s, launched by President Richard Nixon, and has since used global intervention to reduce the illegal drug trade within the country. Since this war on drugs started, most drug use, excluding marijuana, has declined, though we are far from declaring victory. Thousands of people are still in jail due to drug-related crimes, and thousands more die from opioid overdoses every year.
In order to better fight a war on drug use and drug addiction, it’s important to realize that, though illicit drugs are illegal to buy, sell, and possess, addiction is not a crime. Instead, we need to recognize drug addiction as a medical condition that needs treatment rather than punishment. People who abuse drugs or experience drug dependency often have underlying mental or physical health conditions that cause them to seek out drugs.
Though it has been proven by doctors that addiction is a medical condition, there is still much stigma attached to drug problems that needs to be overcome in order to curb illicit drug use for good. It’s necessary to look out for drug use symptoms in friends and family members, find help and support for those struggling with addiction. Some people believe that decriminalizing some of all illicit drugs may be a good first step towards eliminating drug misuse, but it isn’t always that simple. Fighting a war on drugs takes a joint effort between doctors, law enforcement, the government, and American citizens to be truly successful.
How Long do Drugs Stay in Your System?
Different drugs stay in different parts of your body for different amounts of time. Common methods of drug tresting include testing saliva, urine, blood, and hair. How long the drug stays in your system is dependent on a variety of factors, like how often you use the drug, your body mass, your metabolism, your weight, if you’re using other drugs or medications, your physical activity level, etc. Many of the most common drugs like heroin, cocaine, and Xanax will pass from your urine blood, and saliva after a few days, while marijuana, methadone, and Vallium can remain in these substances for more than a week.
The evidence of drug use remains in your hair for months, however, which makes hair testing the most accurate way to determine if someone has used an illicit substance. And though the drug may pass from your system in a short time, drug abuse can have lasting physical and psychological issues.