Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Thursday, August 17, 2006


I added a new link to the sidebar, under "resources." The Harm Reduction Coalition is a good place to start if you are concerned about addictive or drug abusing behavior in yourself or someone you know.

Oh yeah, there are drugs, and there are drugs.

drug: A chemical entity taken into or applied to the body with the approval of a physician for the purpose of treating or preventing disease. (Most can be purchased only with a legal license provided by a licensed physician, called a "prescription."); or, such an entity approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to be marketed for the prevention or treatment of disease, but sold directly to the public.

Drug: A chemical entity taken into the body although it is illegal to do so. For most of the history of drugs, the user's motivation was presumed to be a desire for alteration of conscious experience produced by the drug, or avoidance of experiences that occurred in its absence. Such desired experiences could include euphoria, analgesia, disinhibition, hyperarousal, sedation, psychological or spiritual insight, hallucinations, dreams, etc. Avoided experiences included physically distressing symptoms, agitation, craving, etc. However, the definition has recently been expanded to include chemicals intended to increase muscle mass, strength and endurance for purposes of athletic competition or body building. Also, the definition has been expanded to include over-the-counter drugs which are used for purposes of altering conscious experience, when such drugs are approved for other purposes, e.g. cough syrup; and legal entities used for this purpose but not marketed for it, e.g., whipped cream propellant.
Note that the same chemical entitiy can be either a drug or a drug, depending on the circumstances. A prescription medication taken without a prescription, or with a prescription obtained illegally, is a drug. Note also that entities which it is not illegal to consume, but which are not prescribed by physicians or legally marketed for the prevention or treatment of disease, but which are marketed for the purpose of altering consciousness, cannot be drugs, or drugs. Hence alcohol, coffee and tobacco, for example, are not drugs, although they are used for purposes for which drugs are typically used.

There is a complicated cultural and historical dance that determines what entities become drugs, what entities become drugs, and what entities are neither; and how the legal regime responds to these categories. Partners in this dance include financial and political interests, conventional morality, challenges to conventional morality, racism and racial/ethnic politics, cultural institutions, local custom, international relations, historic accident, and a little bit of science and reason. As we continue the discussion of drugs, which has long been a main focus here, we will also discuss drugs.

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