What Are Drugs?

Podcast of the Day

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of drugs. Throughout history people have taken them to alter their perceptions and change their moods. The attractions lie in the promise of instant pleasure and the possibility of heightened perceptions. Nietzsche said that no art could exist without intoxication and believed that a dream-like state was an essential precondition to superior vision and understanding. But artists and writers from De Quincey to Coleridge to Huxley have found drugs to be both a creative and a destructive force in their lives and work. Coleridge said in his poem about opium: Fantastic Passions! Maddening Brawl! And shame and terror over all! The world of drugs is a topsy-turvy world of ambivalence and paradox: a world of clarity and confusion; stimulation and stupefaction; medicine and poison; vitality and death. Can drugs really stimulate creativity? What is the impact of drugs on the body? And what role have narcotics and stimulants played in the history of medicine?

Listen to the In Our Time episode on Drugs

Video of the Day

Short Article of the Day

When the US President Richard Nixon announced his ‘war on drugs’ in 1971, there was no need to define the enemy. He meant, as everybody knew, the type of stuff you couldn’t buy in a drugstore. Drugs were trafficked exclusively on ‘the street’, within a subculture that was immediately identifiable (and never going to vote for Nixon anyway). His declaration of war was for the benefit of the majority of voters who saw these drugs, and the people who used them, as a threat to their way of life. If any further clarification was needed, the drugs Nixon had in his sights were the kind that were illegal.

Today, such certainties seem quaint and distant. This May, the UN office on drugs and crime announced that at least 348 ‘legal highs’ are being traded on the global market, a number that dwarfs the total of illegal drugs...

Continue reading Mike Jay's article: We can't wage war on drugs. We don't know what they are

Further Reading

Psychoactive drugs are chemical substances that affect the function of the central nervous system, altering perception, mood or consciousness. They include alcohol, a depressant (and a stimulant in small quantities), and the stimulants nicotine and caffeine. These three are the most widely consumed psychoactive drugs worldwide and are also considered recreational drugs since they are used for pleasure rather than medicinal purposes. Other recreational drugs include hallucinogens, opiates and amphetamines and some of these are also used in spiritual or religious settings. Some drugs can cause addiction and all drugs can have side effects...

Continue reading the Wikipedia article on Drugs

Bonus Webcomic

Drugs - SMBC

Related Topics

If you’re interested in drugs, check out some of the following related topics for more resources:

Addiction | Enhancement | Neuroscience | Psychology

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