|disclaimer: this discussion largely focuses on the American drug scene and the American government's reaction to it. It is still pertinent to the international scene.
Drugs can be divided into two categories. Those that are legal and those that are illegal, and the difference that largely divides them is not the potential for a painful posterior and incarceration, but the danger of ingesting the substance itself. Consider the following side-effects of an officially sanctioned drug:
A rash can be a sign of a serious medical condition. See your doctor immediately if you develop a rash while taking this drug. Also, you should not take this drug at the same time as or within 2 weeks if stopping a type of antidepressant medication known as an MAO inhibitor. Don't take MAO inhibitors for at least 5 weeks after stopping this drug.
Some people experience mild side effects like nausea, difficulty sleeping, drowsiness, anxiety, nervousness, weakness, loss of appetite, tremors, dry mouth, sweating, decreased sex drive, impotence, or yawning. These tend to go away within a few weeks of starting treatment and, in most cases, aren't serious enough to cause people to stop taking this drug'.5
My point in giving this information is not to enlighten the pill-munching population of the dangers of legal drugs, but rather to highlight the most important difference between legal and illegal drugs. That difference is an artillery that you can use to form the most powerful weapon that god ever graced man with: knowledge.
Prozac assuredly has its plethora of benefits and dangers but at least they are delineated to you because the law requires Lily to do so. Illegal drugs are no different for their combination of positives and negatives but they become infinitely more deadly because scientific testing is very limited, and if the government were to disseminate accurate literature about an 'illegal' drug it might too easily be construed as an endorsement. The Netherlands has made large strides in providing information and support for such 'illegal' drugs without officially condoning their use. Such countries have a largely divergent history from the United States. How might the drug library be judged if we could truly compare the benefits and adversities of each substance?
Now, dear reader, in a move that is sure to confound and infuriate you, I must admit that this has all been preamble. Disinformation has been a policy in The War on Drugs ever since such naturally occuring substances arrived with different waves of immigration. Opium was associated with the Yellow Peril, marijuana with the waves of migrant workers that entered the United States from the south. The Bureau of Disinformation moved quickly, and today we are left with cult classics that help us laugh at a government that should otherwise be scaring us shitless.
To finally get to the point, those people that try to make educated decisions about the use of 'illegal' drugs are left at a disadvantage. They can wade through a number of urban legends, or take the advice of a government that is trying to stamp out said substance at any price.8 Let us take for example the rather insidious rumor that many ecstasy tablets sold on the streets contain heroin. Let's examine the logic and research for such an assumption. That being; the street-drug ecstasy sold in pill form may often be adulterated with heroin.
Of all the pill analyses that I have seen, I don't think anyone has ever discovered heroin in the tablets. It's a pretty expensive adulterant, and it wouldn't be cost effective to the pill manufacturer. Also, the effects of MDMA would completely override the effects of heroin and you wouldn't feel it, so no (heroin isn't used as an additive in ecstasy).
Julie Holland, M.D2
The most common adulterants in such pills are aspirin, caffeine and other over-the-counters. Contrary to lore, fake e virtually never contains heroin. But the most insidious adulterant is DXM (dextromethorphan), a cheap cough suppressant that causes hallucinations in the 130-mg dose usually found in fake e (13 times the amount in a dose of Robitussin). Because DXM inhibits sweating, it
easily causes heatstroke. Another dangerous adulterant is PMA (paramethoxyamphetamine), an illegal drug that in May killed two Chicago-area teenagers who took it thinking they were dropping e. PMA is a vastly more potent hallucinogenic and hyperthermic drug than MDMA.
John Cloud and Romesh Ratnesar3
The tablets and capsules sold as ecstasy might contain any number of adulterants. A quick look at the pill-testing results of DanceSafe, a harm reduction organization that analyzes such pills in a forensic laboratory, shows a cookbook's worth of ingredients that the drug is often cut with or downright replaced by: caffeine, DXM ( dextromethorphan, an ingredient in cough suppressants ), the psychedelic PCP, Valium and ketamine ( an anesthetic ). Ingestion of DXM, for example, has led to
hospitalizion of ravers in cities like Oakland, California, and London.
These prices are comparable to those of MDMA in the same areas. Heroin is retailing between $100-$200 per gram.6 In Richmond, California a street dose (1/8 gram or an "egg") of heroin sells for $25.7 Let us assume that a user does that 1/8 gram in one setting, traditionally spiking it into the vein. First off, this is an extremely high dose that only a seasoned user would attempt. Second, one of the reasons that heroin is injected is because you can get a comparable high for lower-grade purity. Higher grades of purity can be purchased for increased prices, and because of this, 'snorting' the drug has become a trend in the club-scene.
Put this into perspective. Ingesting something through the acidic inferno that is your digestive system is the least effective way to obtain the full strength of any substance. It comes down to pure economics. Why would a dealer (a businessman) use an extremely expensive product to adulterate a cheaper product, even though that addition would in no way increase the quality of the cheaper product? It's akin to selling someone tupperware that's been comprised of melted-down silicon chips.
Through using that vast information and wading through the even greater pool of disinformation that circulates around us all the time, a clear picture can be formed. Street drugs are more dangerous simply for the fact that they are illegal and un-researched than for the fact that they are drugs. Do the research and use as much information and logical filter as you can to strengthen the knowledge that you are armed with. Science and government will not help you. Remember always that there is an unknown no matter how thorough you are. To quote some Greek sandal-wearing apologist, "I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing."
Obviously the conclusion here is not that drugs are safe. If anything, the conclusion is that illegal drugs are unknown. Because of that they are in fact very dangerous. You never know what you're gonna get, and not in a moronic-grin-inducing I wish I was semi-retarded Forest Gump kinda way. Drugs are not bad. Drugs are unknown because you are being lied to. Your parents are lying. The media is lying. The government is lying. Your dealer is lying. Truly, the safest thing is to avoid them altogether. But to be more realistic, arm yourself and be ever so cautious. There aren't too many people to help you out there so make sure you tread wary and fully armed. Drugs are best ingested with something else; a grain of salt.
The cost to put a single drug dealer in jail is about $450,000, composed of the following8:
The cost for arrest and conviction is about $150,000.
The cost for an additional prison bed is about $50,000 to $150,000, depending upon the jurisdiction.
It costs about $30,000 per year to house a prisoner. With an average sentence of 5 years, that adds up to another $150,000.