Drugs: From Creation to Illegalization

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Most drugs that are illegal today were initially created with good intentions and meant to be used for a medical purpose. Only later on were these drugs recognized as having adverse effects on the human body and banned.

Today, the U.S. government categorizes illegal drugs into schedules, or classes, on a scale of I-V, based on their potential for abuse. This system is organized under the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970, a federal law that requires the pharmaceutical industry to maintain physical security and strict record-keeping for certain types of drugs. In addition the Controlled Substance Act was enacted as Title II of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act. This latter act regulates the manufacturing, importation, possession, use and distribution of certain substances.

Schedule I: Drugs with a high potential for abuse with no accredited medical use and lack of accepted safety.

Cannabis (Marijuana)
Marijuana is one of the old- est drugs in American history with records showing that it was grown by Jamestown settlers during the 1600s. Before the Civil War, it was used as a major source of revenue for the U.S., and plantations growing marijuana flourished during the 1800s. It was used for medicinal purposes from 1850-1937 and could be purchased over-the- counter in pharmacies. After the rise in the cost of alcohol during the 1920s, cannabis became an attractive alternative until a 1930s study emerged linking marijuana use by lower- class communities to crime and violence. It resurfaced during the 1960s, becoming a popular drug of choice among Beatniks. This brought about stricter penalties for marijuana offenses under the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970. In 1966, the state of California made marijuana legal for medical use for people with serious illnesses.

Lysergic acid diethylamide/ LSD (Acid)
During the 1950s, the U.S. military and the CIA researched use of LSD as a “truth drug” to make prisoners talk. This led the psychiatric community’s interest in LSD and it has been used for possible therapeutic capabilities for depressed, psychotic and epileptic patients. LSD also saw a rise in popularity during the 1960s which led to its illegalization under the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970.

Heroin
Opiates have been used for cen- turies as an “old wives tale” for curing “female problems.” The opiate-based drug morphine was created in 1803 and was widely used during the Civil War as an injection for pain relief. Inhalant opiates were introduced in the U.S. in the 1850s and 1860s by Chinese laborers who smoked opium. Later in 1895, the drug heroin was created three years later it was marketed as a potential solution to morphine addiction. It was promoted by the St. James So- ciety which mailed free samples of heroin to morphine addicts as part of a campaign against morphine addiction. Heroin disappeared for some time after that, resurfacing during the 1950s on the Harlem jazz scene and in the Beatnik subculture.

During the Vietnam War, heroin abuse among soldiers was ram- pant with an estimated 10 to 15 percent of deployed soldiers addicted to heroin. The 1980s and 1990s led to improvements of purity in street heroin result- ing in an increase of users who smoked and snorted heroin. The drug is only referred to as heroin when being discussed in its illegal form.

MDMA (Ecstasy)
MDMA is criminalized in most countries, but studies show that it may be useful in psy- chotherapy by facilitating self-examination with reduced fear. It was made illegal in the U.S. in 1985. Studies have been conducted and one piece of research was found in a summarized report by David E. Nichols, George Greer and Alexander Shulgin. The authors reported that patients with various, mild psychiatric disorders felt their conditions had improved; they also experienced other benefits including improved intimate relationships with their significant other. One patient with severe pain from terminal cancer experienced lasting pain relief and improved quality of life. The Multidisciplinary Asso- ciation for Psychedelic Studies is evaluating the efficacy of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for treating patients with post-traumatic stress disorder or anxiety related to cancer. These studies are still ongoing.

Schedule II: Substances in Schedules II through V decrease in their potential for abuse.

Methamphetamine
Methamphetamines were used during the 1920s to stimulate the central nervous system, raise blood pressure and enlarge nasal passages. The drug was widely distributed to soldiers during World War II to combat fatigue, improve their endurance and mood; after the war it was prescribed to the soldiers to combat depression. Abuse of methamphetamines began during the 1930s when an over-the-counter inhalant was marketed under the name Benzedrine. This drug was commonly used by truck drivers wanting to stay alert on long commutes; athletes looking to improve their performance in endurance-related sports; and students desiring improved performance in their studies.. Methamphetamines gained popularity in the form of an in- jection during the 1960s. In the 1990s, this drug became widely popular in its smokable form, crystal meth. Methamphet- amines are still used to treat patients with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and exogenous obesity, or obesity caused by factors outside of the patient’s control; the drug has been used as an effective treatment for narcolepsy. In addition, methamphetamines have beenprescribed by San Franciscan drug clinics to treat heroin addicts. The drug required two other laws be passed to curb its usage. After being included in the Controlled Substance Act,(a law was? Was this one or two laws?) laws were passed in the U.S. in 1983 prohibiting the pos- session of precursors and equip- ment for methamphetamine production. Then in 1986, the U.S. government passed the Federal Controlled Substance Analogue Enforcement Act in an attempt to curb use of designer drugs.

Cocaine and/or Crack-Cocaine
In 1886, “Coca-Cola” was produced containing syrup derived from coca leaves. The same year the Surgeon-General of the U.S. Army endorsed the medicinal use of cocaine. Some medicinal uses of cocaine include the use of cocaine as an anesthetic and analgesic. The effects of cocaine include increased alertness, feelings of well-being and euphoria, increased energy and motor activity, feeling of competence and sexuality. It has also been used to increase athletic performance in sports with sustained attention and endurance. Negative effects of cocaine include anxiety, paranoia and restlessness. A cheaper form of cocaine appeared around 1985 in the form of “rocks” to be smoked instead of snorted; this was referred to as crack.

Phencyclidine (PCP)
PCP was synthesized in 1926 and tested after World War II as a surgical anesthetic, but due to adverse side effects that include hallucinations, mania, delirium and disorientation, the drug was shelved until the 1950s. In 1953, PCP was patented by Parke-Davis and was used on humans for a few more years. After the use on humans stopped, the drug was renamed Sernylan and marketed as a veterinary anesthetic in 1967. The drug was discontinued after another year. During the same year, PCP emerged as a recreational drug and proved to be a problem for the U.S. government for a number of years. Since the 1970s the use of PCP has drastically declined.

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