Why Are Some Drugs Illegal?

Why Are Some Drugs Illegal?Government legislation regarding drugs is designed to protect the user from substances of abuse. In 1906, the Pure Food and Drug Act was one of the first consumer protection moves to label alcohol, marijuana, morphine, and opium as dangerous substances. The act paved the way for the modern Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and further restrictions over the years. Today, the legality of certain drugs is often nuanced by circumstance. For example, heroin is illegal under all circumstances, but opioid medications are legal if taken as prescribed by a doctor and illegal if used recreationally. Likewise, federal law continues to prohibit marijuana while certain states allow for medicinal and even recreational use, which has created a legal quandary that is currently in flux. While many gray areas exist, the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) provides the overarching framework for the legality of most drugs.

Controlled Substances and Addiction

The CSA, which became law in 1970, developed classification schedules for drugs based on several principles, including the following:

  • The potential for abuse when taking the drug
  • Risk levels for psychological or physical dependence
  • Safety issues even when taken under medical supervision
  • The extent of accepted medical use in the US

Five main drug classifications currently exist, and they include the following:

  • Schedule I, which includes heroin, LSD, marijuana, mescaline, and ecstasy, is the most restrictive class due to abuse potential without accepted medical benefits.
  • Schedule II represents drugs like oxycodone, amphetamines, and cocaine that are heavily restricted but may be used for certain medical purposes.
  • Schedule III drugs have accepted medical use and less abuse potential and include anabolic steroids, buprenorphine, and hydrocodone.
  • Schedule IV includes benzodiazepines and other sedative hypnotics that involve risks that are generally less common and less serious.
  • Schedule V is the least restrictive class and includes cough suppressants with codeine and certain antidiarrheal and anticonvulsant medications.

Alcohol is one of the leading substances of abuse, but the failure of the 1920 to 1933 prohibition proved that US citizens want limited restrictions on use.

Drugs and Regulation

Street drugs like smack, crank, and crack are clearly illegal. Conversely, prescription drugs can be legal in certain medical scenarios, but this does not mean they are safe. Similarities exist between illicit and prescription drugs, including the following:

  • Most prescription pain medication is derived from the same opiate alkaloids as heroin.
  • Adderall is similar in chemical structure and many effects to crystal methamphetamine.
  • Pharmaceutical and illicit drugs accounted for equal involvement (1.2 million occurrences each) in 2011 medical emergencies.

Legitimate pharmaceutical users often share their drugs with friends and family members. While this is illegal, it is also difficult to stop. Strict regulation is one of the primary tools to curb illicit acquisition and use. Another problem area is household inhalants like hair spray, lighter fluid, and glue. These products are illegal to inhale but not to have, and most homes have several.

Drug Addiction Rehabilitation

As needed, treatment centers provide medically supervised detoxification, which involves tapered dosage reductions for certain drugs, followed by several potential therapies, including the following:

  • Integrated therapies for concurrent mental health disorders like depression and anxiety
  • Counseling to address unresolved trauma, family conflict, and other personal issues
  • Behavioral therapies to combat drug-use triggers and treat maladaptive reasoning
  • Group meetings to discuss therapies, experiences, setbacks, and progress

Personalized treatment plans are developed for each patient and may involve several other therapies and life tools.

Start a Recovery

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