To understand a drug, you need to understand its effects, why people use it, and the risk it poses in terms of both health and criminal penalties.
Marijuana is the most popular and easily accessible illegal drug in the U.S. today. The use of marijuana for both medicinal and recreational purposes is not new. Indeed, the use of marijuana has been documented as far back as 12,000 years ago, making it one of the earliest cultivated crops.
Heroin is processed from morphine, a naturally occurring opiate extracted from the seedpod of certain varieties of poppy plants. The opium poppy has been cultivated for more than five thousand years for a variety of medicinal uses.
MDMA (Ecstasy, Molly)
MDMA, often referred to as “ecstasy” or “molly”, is short for 3,4 methylenedioxymethamphetamine, a psychoactive drug derived from safrole oil. MDMA produces effects that resemble both stimulants and psychedelics, as well as its signature effect: a feeling of connectedness.
Cocaine and Crack
Cocaine comes from the leaves of the coca plant that grows in the Andes Mountains in South America. For thousands of years, many indigenous tribes in this region have chewed coca leaves to produce a mild, stimulating feeling, and continue to do so to this day.
Methamphetamine and Other Stimulants
The history of the use of methamphetamine is intertwined with the history of its chemical cousin amphetamine. Their chemical structures are similar, although the effect of methamphetamine on the central nervous system is more pronounced.
LSD, or “acid,” is considered the best known and most researched psychedelic drug. It is active at exceptionally small doses and is taken orally, sometimes as droplets or more commonly on blotter paper and absorbed on the tongue and then swallowed.
Psilocybin is the main ingredient found in several types of psychoactive mushrooms, making it perhaps the best-known naturally-occurring psychedelic drug. It is most commonly found in wild or homegrown mushrooms and sold either fresh or dried.
Synthetic Opioids (Fentanyl)
Synthetic opioids refer to a category of novel psychoactive substances (NPS) that are either known to be opiates or have opiate-like effects. These are not naturally occurring substances, although they have effects related to the naturally occurring drugs from several species of the opium poppy plant.
Synthetic Cannabinoids ("Spice", "K2", etc.)
A synthetic cannabinoid product is a branded package containing herbal matter sprayed or doused with liquid synthetic cannabinoids. “Spice” and “K2” are examples of very early brands of synthetic cannabinoid products.
Synthetic Cathinones ("Bath Salts", "Flakka", etc.)
“Bath salts” is the most common name for substances that fall within a broad category of drugs called synthetic cathinones, which are related to a naturally-occurring stimulant found in the khat plant. Synthetic cathinones were discovered several decades ago through legitimate laboratory research.