What are illegal substances? Well, in short, they’re drugs. But here’s the thing. All illegal substances are drugs, but not all drugs are illegal substances. One might think that a drug becomes illegal when used outside medical contexts. Unfortunately, this incites further confusion as all medicines are considered drugs, but not all drugs are considered medicine. How does one make sense of this? Today, let’s discuss the difference between legal and illegal substances and their inseparable link to the medical industry and inpatient drug treatment.
What is the Difference Between Legal and Illegal Substances
As previously stated, all medicines are considered, in some form or fashion, to be a drug. Legal drugs can be purchased over the counter or with a prescription from a medical doctor. Many are familiar with these substances: cold medicine, cough drops, allergy medication, or antibiotics: all medicines, all legal substances, all drugs. A large confusion here seems to be the association between drugs and mind-altering substances. Substances such as coke, ecstasy, and meth cannot be obtained legally and are often taken for recreational rather than medical purposes. Legal substances can become illegal if they are illegally sold or abused. In truth, the line between legal and illegal substances can be incredibly blurry. That is why the U.S government created the drug schedules.
Drug schedules are a way of categorizing, identifying, and measuring the benefits and risks of drugs. When analyzing a substance, be it illegal or not, drug schedules take into consideration the following:
- Scientific understanding of the drug
- History of the drug
- Potential for abuse
- History of abuse
- Magnitude of abuse
- Risks posed by the drug to the general public
- Potential to create an addiction
This drug schedule creates the context through which a substance may be considered legal or illegal. While opioids obtained from a doctor are legal, opioids obtained from illicit sellers are not.
Why Use Banned Substances?
There is no shortage of reasons why someone might use banned substances, especially if those substances produce mind-altering effects. Life can be an incredibly challenging journey filled with ups and downs, highs and lows. While it’s nice to maintain a healthy balance between ups and downs, sometimes it can feel as if the pressures of life are inescapable, creating a person who yearns for a reprieve. Banned substances tend to produce just that, a momentary reprieve that, when abused, can have disastrous effects on both the mind and body. Reasons for using banned substances can vary greatly but might include the following:
- Stress – Stress is often cited as a primary reason for using illegal substances. Mind-altering substances can provide feelings of elation and euphoria, making them an easy go-to vice when times get tough.
- Mental illness – Illegal substances are often used as a form of self-medication for those with a mental illness. While their short-term effects can seem positive, especially to the user, the long-term effects are often harmful to individuals’ personal and mental health.
- Injury – Painkillers are often prescribed for serious injuries to improve a patient’s quality of life during the healing process. Although they are legal when prescribed, they are also highly addictive. This increased risk of addiction can push those to obtain their medication illegally once their prescription runs out.
- Social glorification – Media, such as movies, television, and music, glorify illegal substances, highlighting their euphoric effects while downplaying their negative consequences. This can create a false reality in the minds of those trying substances for the first time, resulting in people taking drugs without fully knowing the risks.
- Grief – Grieving is as natural a process as the death caused. It is a part of life that everyone will at some point encounter. Grief can cause feelings of depression and anxiety that will persist if not addressed. In this instance, banned substances can be viewed as an easy way to avoid dealing with this pain head-on.
Again, there is no shortage of reasons why someone might partake in using banned substances. What matters here is the usage context and the dependency risk. Both legal and illegal substances can be highly addictive. That is why one must always be careful when taking substances, regardless of their legality.
Finding Help for Addiction at Promises-Brazos Valley
At Promises-Brazos Valley, we understand the difficulty that comes with addiction and the struggle it can cause. Our staff comprises experienced professionals devoted to their patients and committed to their care. For more information, contact us at 979.426.0086.