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Drugs Essay, Research Paper

Peyote taken by American Indians in a ceremony participated in by adherents of the Native American Church is legal and legitimate—even holy. Yet the same substance, taken by college students—even for the same purposes—is suddenly, magically, labeled a dangerous drug, debilitating and damaging to the user and a threat to society—and quite illegal.

Another example: heroin and morphine. These two drugs are not very different pharmacologically and biochemically, except that pure heroin is several times as potent as morphine. (In fact, the morphine administered for therapeutic purposes in hospitals is stronger than the heroin sold on the street, since black market heroin is considerably diluted.) An experienced drug addict would probably not be able to discern the difference between comparable doses of heroin and morphine, and a pharmacologist would have to look very, very closely to distinguish the laboratory effects of the two drugs. In short, by “objective” standards they are very nearly the same drug; they do more or less the same things to the tissues of the body. Nonetheless, heroin is declared to have no medical uses whatsoever. It is considered a menace, a killer. Morphine, on the other hand, is regarded as a boon to mankind. It has the stamp of approval from the medical fraternity; it is a valuable therapeutic tool. And yet the roles and medical functions of the two drugs, and hence their social meanings, could easily be reversed. It is not the characteristics of drugs themselves, their pharmacological actions, that generate such contrasting interpretations; rather it is the meanings that have been more or less arbitrarily assigned to them.

Dr. Hall said that he was “deeply concerned with the fact that kids 18 years old are going to have the vote,” because they are “in favor of legalization of marijuana and even … the harder drugs

Whether humans do in fact become addicted is dependent largely on social and psychological factors.


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