2 minute read

Drugs and Narcotics

Drug Laws, Drug Policy And Law Enforcement, Crack Cocaine, Race, And The War On Drugs

Drugs are articles that are intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease in humans or animals, and any articles other than food, water, or oxygen that are intended to affect the mental or body function of humans or animals. Narcotics are any drugs that dull the senses and commonly become addictive after prolonged use.

In the scientific community, drugs are defined as substances that can affect a human's or animal's biological and neurological states. They may be organic, such as the chemical tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which occurs naturally in marijuana; or synthetic, such as amphetamines or sedatives, which are manufactured in laboratories. Drugs can be swallowed, inhaled through the nostrils, injected with a needle, applied to the skin, taken as a suppository, or smoked. Scientists categorize drugs according to their effects. Among their categories are analgesics, which kill pain, and psychoactive drugs, which alter the mind or behavior. Some psychoactive substances produce psychological highs or lows according to whether they are stimulants or depressants, respectively. Others, called hallucinogens, produce psychedelic states of consciousness; lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and mescaline are examples of such drugs. Marijuana is placed in its own category.

U.S. law categorizes these substances differently. Commonly, federal and state statutes distinguish drugs from narcotics. Drugs are substances designed for use in and on the body for the diagnosis, cure, treatment, or prevention of disease. These substances are regulated by the FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION (FDA). Drugs have been defined to include such things as herb tonics, cold salves, laxatives, weight-reduction aids, vitamins, and even blood. Narcotics are defined by statute as substances that either stimulate or dull an individual's senses, and that ordinarily become habit-forming (i.e., addictive) when used over time. The regulation of narcotics falls into two areas. Legal narcotics are regulated by the FDA and are generally available only with a physician's prescription. The production, possession, and sale of illegal narcotics—commonly called controlled substances—are banned by statute.

The U.S. government has expended billions of dollars in a fight to reduce drug use in the United States, citing startling numbers about the number of individuals who use drugs. According to a survey in 2000 by the JUSTICE DEPARTMENT, more than half of the adults in the United States between the ages of 18 and 34 have used illicit drugs during their lifetime. Moreover, 28 percent of children between the ages of 12 and 17 have used illicit drugs. Although much of the attention has focused upon use of such drugs as marijuana and cocaine, new "club" or "designer" drugs have become popular among some younger individuals. About six million children and young adults over the age of 12 have reported using the designer drug methylene-nmethylamphetamine (MDMA), also known as "ecstasy," which has sparked a national debate about improved drug education in grade schools and high schools in the United States.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationFree Legal Encyclopedia: Doom to Embargo