A NEW LOOK AT NARCOTICS
The word narcotic gets thrown around a lot. As with many of our English words, this one is of ancient Greek origin. It comes from a word that meant “to make numb”.
Originally, it was a medical reference to any drug that was psychoactive in nature and used for numbing or paralysis. In the 20th and 21st centuries, it has been most associated with derivatives of opium.
Morphine, heroin (a once trademarked brand name owned by Bayer, by the way), codeine, and thebaine, along with their derived synthetics like oxycodone, hydrocodone, and tramadol et al are narcotics of the highest order and the most consumed and problematic of drugs today.
Legally and socially speaking, the term narcotic is married to the most negative of connotations. Medically, narcotics work by binding to receptors in the brain, which blocks the feeling of pain.
The pervasive presence of United States media and their accompanying classifications brings in to question the categorisation of certain drugs. Though cocaine and amphetamines are both classed as Schedule II drugs, the penalty for possession of cocaine is classed along with narcotics of Schedule I.
Specific to the United States, direct from the Drug Enforcement Agency’s website:
Schedule I drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Some examples of Schedule I drugs are: heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), marijuana (cannabis), 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (ecstasy), methaqualone, and peyote
Schedule II drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with a high potential for abuse, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence.
These drugs are also considered dangerous. Some examples of Schedule II drugs are: Combination products with less than 15 milligrams of hydrocodone per dosage unit (Vicodin), cocaine, methamphetamine, methadone, hydromorphone (Dilaudid), meperidine (Demerol), oxycodone (OxyContin), fentanyl, Dexedrine, Adderall, and Ritalin
Schedule III drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with a moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence. Schedule III drugs abuse potential is less than Schedule I and Schedule II drugs but more than Schedule IV. Some examples of Schedule III drugs are: Products containing less than 90 milligrams of codeine per dosage unit (Tylenol with codeine), ketamine, anabolic steroids, testosterone
Schedule IV drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with a low potential for abuse and low risk of dependence. Some examples of Schedule IV drugs are: Xanax, Soma, Darvon, Darvocet, Valium, Ativan, Talwin, Ambien, Tramadol
Schedule V drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with lower potential for abuse than Schedule IV and consist of preparations containing limited quantities of certain narcotics.
Schedule V drugs are generally used for antidiarrhoeal, antitussive, and analgesic purposes. Some examples of Schedule V drugs are: cough preparations with less than 200 milligrams of codeine or per 100 milliliters (Robitussin AC), Lomotil, Motofen, Lyrica, Parepectolin Less than a century ago, soldiers on the front lines of World War II were hopped up on crystal meth (methamphetamine) and even more recently, Vietnam soldiers were sent speed, steroids, and painkillers in official care packages. No wonder the war on drugs is insurmountably lost.
New drugs are always emerging and their legal status is always contentious.
One thing that binds both the scientific mind and the uncompromising allure of recreational drug users is curiosity. Last year, due to the pandemic, new trends were observed in recreational drug use.
According to The Economist, “weed and prescription sedatives are up, party drugs are down”.
According to Phoenix House, a nonprofit drug and alcohol rehabilitation organisation, “Synthetics are a group of potent manmade substances that are designed to give users particular kinds of “highs.” Known by street names such as “Meow Meow”, “Flakka”, and “Arctic Blast”, they are addictive, dangerous drugs, generally made in unregulated foreign factories. The US government bans the sale of many specific synthetic drugs. However, to evade the law, makers regularly alter the drugs’ complex formulations. The results are untested mixtures of chemicals that interact in users’ brains in highly unpredictable and sometimes deadly ways. Users have no way of knowing what is in a dose and what its effects will be.”
Drug addiction is a terrible cost to the sufferer and those affected by their downfall. However, the danger of the synthetic drug world might be deeply rooted in the legal system. As each new drug gets outlawed, the lawless circumvent the system by dangerously altering their products at the vast expense of the user.
Prohibition costs lives.
The prohibition of alcohol was a massive failure that cost many lives.
In 1917, Time Magazine reported on the solution that the United States government’s anti-alcohol push arrived at. According to a revisiting of the article, “a new formula for denaturing industrialgrade alcohol was introduced, doubling how poisonous the product became.”
Many died from this act, including 33 people in three days in Manhattan.
Equally or worse was the prohibition of cannabis, which for thousands of years has proved to be more useful than possibly imaginable. There will always be new drugs on the horizon and the answer might be a new look at narcotics and the way society undertakes each new advance.