In the minds of most Spanish speakers, the term drug is associated with an illegal substance: when we hear of drugs, the first names that come to mind are probably cocaine, heroin, ecstasy or LSD.
However, there are a large number of substances that fall under this type of classification and not all of them are illegal (although this does not mean that they are harmless and that their use or abuse can have serious consequences). What are legal drugs and what types are there? In this article, we will discuss it.
Legal drug: basic concept
The concept of legal drugs is easy to understand, but for this you must first remember what a drug is.
We call all this substance, whether natural or synthetic, with the ability to generate an alteration or modification of the nervous system. So it is all this substance that has a psychoactive effect. This definition does not include the legal consideration of the substance, although in everyday language we often identify drugs illegally.
Thus, substances with authorized psychoactive effects are called legal drugs, their use is not punished by law despite their possible effects. This legal status may refer to its use at the recreational level or to be intended for other uses, which do not include its consumption to alter the psyche, and for which it is considered a permitted thing.
Of course, as we indicated in the introduction, the fact that they are legal does not mean that they do not present a danger, due to their misuse and / or abuse. very dangerous and harmful to health and can lead to serious illness or even death.
Types of legal drugs
There are many legal drugs that can be used for different uses by the general public. Some use them as a recreational element, while in other cases, consumers intend to benefit from the relaxing or arousing effects of the substance in question or to use them to forget or reduce some kind of physical or emotional pain. Among the so-called legal drugs, some of the best known are as follows.
Probably the most widely used and socially accepted drug to the point of being part of a wide variety of cultures. Alcohol or ethanol is a depressant type substanceThis decreases the activation of the nervous system and is consumed by all kinds of people, usually from the teenage years.
Initially, it has a euphoric and relaxing effect, as well as in some people some disinhibition, but later the general tone decreases and symptoms such as blurred vision, hypotonia and muscle weakness or problems with concentration of blood. Attention or inhibition of extreme emotional behaviors appear. Excessive and abusive consumption this can lead to hypoglycemia, dizziness, vomiting, coma, or even death.
It can also very easily generate dependence (especially due to its social acceptance), as well as potentially fatal withdrawal syndromes. It is common for alcoholics to develop cirrhosis, kidney and liver problems, and even cognitive and functional impairment in complications such as those caused by Korsakoff syndrome after Wernicke encephalopathy.
Tobacco is one of the most widely used drugs in the world, and although the laws of many countries prohibit smoking in certain areas, even smoking or marketing nicotine products (especially tobacco) does not. is not prohibited. It is a substance that may seem relaxing to experienced smokers, however it is in fact a psychostimulant the main mechanism of action is acetylcholine.
If long-term smokers find it relaxing, it’s because long-term use ends up blocking this neurotransmitter. It generates a large number of problems, in particular pulmonary (lung cancer and COPD) and cardiorespiratory problems.
We are dealing with a substance that generates dependency (In fact, it’s the main cause of tobacco addiction) and withdrawal syndrome, as people who have tried to quit smoking probably know.
3. The xanthine group: caffeine, theobromine, theophylline
Although not many people think of them as drugs, the truth is that they are substances that cause brain chemistry to alter. has effects on behavior so that if they can be regarded as such. These are substances with a stimulating effect, generally generating an increase in brain activation. Of course, their effects are much weaker than those of other substances, requiring large amounts to become dangerous.
Caffeine is probably the best known as such, with its consumption through coffee being the most common. Although the existence of an addiction is generally not considered as such, it is observed that for some people it is an addictive substance and to which the body generates tolerance, and can lead to a certain withdrawal syndrome. Poisoning is difficult to achieve, but it is possible with mass consumption (from six cups of coffee it begins to be dangerous).
In addition to coffee, you should also keep in mind that can be found in many carbonated drinks which, although perhaps to a lesser extent, also generate a high effect.
When it comes to theobromine and theophylline, not many people may know what we are talking about. However, these are components that are present in tea and chocolate and that they generate increased cortical activation and energy levels.
4. Volatile substances
We are dealing with substances that are legal because their initial use is unrelated to the consumption or administration of the substance as such in the body. The name volatiles is due to the fact that the route of administration is usually inhaled or aspirated. These are substances such as glue, gasoline, anesthetics or ketones, What some people use to notice psychoactive effects, usually depressive type.
These are substances with low addictive potential, but subject to abuse that can cause serious damage, especially to the liver, spine, muscles and nervous system. It also facilitates the emergence of aggressive behavior.
5. Psychotropic drugs and other drugs
Psychotropic drugs, and in fact all kinds of drugs, are a substance that can be considered a legal drug (not in vain drugs in English refer to both the concept of drug and drug) by generating an alteration of the system nervousness of the patient (in the case of other drugs not related to psychiatry, change the chemistry of other parts of the body). first the use of these drugs is medicinal, which is why they are legal. However, many become addicted and in some cases are even used well in trying to improve their skills or for recreation.
Probably the most frequently used psychotropic substances in this regard are benzodiazepines, which are mainly used to treat anxiety. In their medical use, in principle, the doses used and the times used are largely controlled, although many healthcare professionals prescribe them excessively and for longer than they should in principle be used. Other anti-anxiety drugs have also been abused because of their high addictive potential, such as the less frequent barbiturates (which caused many overdose deaths, such as that of Marilyn Monroe).
In addition to this, substances such as amphetamines or their derivatives are also used, such as modafinil or Adderall, which although their function and indication has problems such as ADHD or narcolepsy, are sometimes used recreationally. or even by college students due to its stimulant. properties and the supposed empowerment of the ability to focus and stay active. Also in this case, they can cause serious health problems (including liver and coronary problems) and be very addictive, being dangerous if used without medical supervision.
Other drugs that are not used as psychotropic but are addictive and addictive and considered legal drugs are drugs like steroids, morphine or codeine, or anesthetics like phencyclidine. steroids also they are another substance which can be considered a legal drug; they are often abused in areas such as sports and this can have serious repercussions on health. As for morphine, it is an opium derivative used to treat pain.
Codeine is a derivative of it, present in many syrups and drugs. Both are opioids with depressant and relaxing effects and can lead to addiction and abstinence, as well as poisoning. Finally, phencyclidine is an anesthetic currently in veterinary use and whose psychodysleptic effects can lead to alterations in perception, loss of sensitivity, aggressive behavior, or even hallucinations.
All of these drugs are legal in some areas, some of which can be easily obtained (eg anti-anxiety drugs) while others are only legal in very specific areas.
Differences between countries: the case of cannabis
So far, we have talked about substances that are allowed in most of the world, whether for recreational purposes or for other purposes. However, we must not forget that the law is not the same in all regions of the world. The drugs considered legal or not will depend on the legislation of each country. One of the cases in which we see this variability the most is that of cannabis, legal considerations vary considerably from country to country Of the world.
The best known case is that of the Netherlands, which allows the purchase and consumption of cannabis in coffee shops. Also in Washington and Colorado, United States or Uruguay, its recreational use is permitted (although with restrictions). In other countries, including ours, clean consumption is decriminalized as long as it takes place in private places. Public consumption, however, if prohibited and illegal. The same is true for culture, and obviously the same is true for its sale and distribution.
Likewise, other substances have changed their legal consideration in some countries. In the United States for example, the sale of alcohol was illegal during the so-called dry law. Alcohol is also banned in some Muslim countries for religious reasons, although in other countries the law allows it.
False Legal Drugs: “Legal Highs”
Special mention should be made of a type of recreational substance which, although sold as legal, actually takes advantage of the legal loophole that generates little knowledge about them or because they are so recent that he hasn’t given them time to be banned yet.
These are drugs that are called to be regulated, and in many cases banned, and take advantage of the slowness of administrations to establish laws or regulations in this regard to pass themselves off as legal. In fact, they would be in a situation of illegality: the legislation does not yet provide for them. This is due to some kind of escalation or competition: when specific drugs are banned and prosecuted, others are created that take advantage of legal loopholes.
In addition, they take advantage of this illegality to sell more: they claim to be legal, it doesn’t matter. it makes the consumer believe that the danger is minimal. However, in many cases their psychoactive effects are not known and many of them have devastating effects on those who consume them. For example, the well-known cannibalistic drug or Krokodil was once illegal, created in an attempt to replace already persecuted heroin.
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