From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
A drug is a substance which may have medicinal, intoxicating, performance enhancing or other effects when taken or put into a human body or the body of another animal and is not considered a food or exclusively a food.
What is considered a drug rather than a food varies between cultures, and distinctions between drugs and foods and between kinds of drug are enshrined in laws which vary between jurisdictions and aim to restrict or prevent drug use. Even within a jurisdiction, however, the status of a substance may be uncertain or contested with respect to both whether it is a drug and how it should be classified if at all. There is no single, precise definition, as there are different meanings in drug control law, government regulations, medicine, and colloquial usage.
Recreational drugs are chemical substances that affect the central nervous system, such as opioids or hallucinogens. They may be used for perceived beneficial effects on perception, consciousness, personality, and behavior. Some drugs can cause addiction and/or habituation.
Many natural substances, such as beers, wines, and psychoactive mushrooms, blur the line between food and recreational drugs, as when ingested they affect the functioning of both mind and body and some substances normally considered drugs such as DMT (Dimethyltryptamine) are actually produced by the human body in trace amounts.
Drug is thought to originate from Old French "drogue", possibly deriving later into "droge-vate" from Middle Dutch meaning "dry barrels", referring to medicinal plants preserved in them.
Recreational drug use
Recreational drugs use is the use of psychoactive substances to have fun, for the experience, or to enhance an already positive experience. National laws prohibit the use of many different recreational drugs and medicinal drugs that have the potential for recreational use are heavily regulated. Many other recreational drugs on the other hand are legal, widely culturally accepted, and at the most have an age restriction on using and/or purchasing them. These include alcohol, tobacco, betel nut, and caffeine products in the west, and in other localised areas of the world drugs such as Khat are common. Because of the legal status of many drugs, recreational drug use is controversial, with many governments not recognising spiritual or other perceived uses for drugs and classing them under illegal recreational use.
The trade of drugs has existed for as long as the drugs themselves have existed. However, the trade of drugs was fully legal until the introduction of drug prohibition. The history of the illegal drug trade is thus closely tied to the history of drug prohibition.
In the First Opium War, Great Britain attempted to force China to allow British merchants to trade in opium with the general population of China. Although illegal by imperial decree, smoking opium was common in the 19th century and was believed to cure many health problems.
A medication or medicine is a drug taken to cure and/or ameliorate any symptoms of an illness or medical condition, or may be used as preventive medicine that has future benefits but does not treat any existing or pre-existing diseases or symptoms.
Dispensing of medication is often regulated by governments into three categories—over-the-counter (OTC) medications, which are available in pharmacies and supermarkets without special restrictions, behind-the-counter (BTC), which are dispensed by a pharmacist without needing a doctor's prescription, and prescription only medicines (POM), which must be prescribed by a licensed medical professional, usually a physician.
Medications are typically produced by pharmaceutical companies and are often patented to give the developer exclusive rights to produce them. Those that are not patented (or with expired patents) are called generic drugs since they can be produced by other companies without restrictions or licenses from the patent holder.
Spiritual and religious use
The spiritual and religious use of drugs has been occurring since the dawn of our species. Drugs that are considered to have spiritual or religious use are called entheogens. Some religions are based completely on the use of certain drugs. Entheogens are mostly hallucinogens, being either psychedelics or deliriants, but some are also stimulants and sedatives.
Nootropics, also commonly referred to as "smart drugs", are drugs that are claimed to improve human cognitive abilities. Nootropics are used to improve memory, concentration, thought, mood, learning, and many other things. Some nootropics are now beginning to be used to treat certain diseases such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, Parkinson's disease, and Alzheimer's disease. They are also commonly used to regain brain function lost during aging. Similarly, drugs such as steroids improve human physical capabilities and are sometimes used (legally or not) for this purpose, often by professional athletes.
- Writing on Drugs (1999), Sadie Plant
- Drug injection
- Inverse benefit law
- Lifestyle drug
- List of drugs
- List of psychedelic plants