In this day and age, we all know a lot of things about drugs, particularly the illegal kind. We’re already aware of how dangerous they can be when abused, both in the short term and in the long term. Then again, for all the things we know about drugs, there are still a lot of things about them that many of us are probably still in the dark about. Here are 10 facts about drugs you probably didn’t know.
1. Alcohol is the most commonly used drug
Of all the substances that people abuse, alcohol remains at the top. What many people don’t realise is that alcohol—a legal substance—is one of the most addictive and destructive drugs out there. In Australia alone, up to 15 Australians die each day due to alcohol-related illnesses.
2. Prescription drugs kill more people than illegal drugs
You’d think that cocaine, heroin, and crystal meth, with all the horror stories attached to them, are the deadliest substances in existence. The truth is, however, prescription drugs trump them all in terms of body count. In 2012, prescription drug overdose has caused more than 16,000 deaths in the United States alone. Even though you need a prescription for these drugs, the fact that they are easier to get a hold of than heroin remains.
3. Heroin used to be legal—and was marketed as a cough suppressant
In 1898, pharmaceutical giant Bayer marketed heroin—that most addictive of substances—as a “non-addictive” substitute for morphine and a cough suppressant. You can’t blame them really, because at that point in history, pneumonia and tuberculosis claimed a lot of lives, with people dying of something as routine as cough and colds. The world desperately needed a remedy that would suppress coughing, and heroin perfectly fit the bill. Its sedative and painkilling effects also provided great relief for TB and pneumonia sufferers. Naturally, heroin became quite the popular remedy—until people started getting addicted to it. When it became apparent that heroin is not the non-addictive remedy it was purported to be, the drug rapidly fell out of favour and was eventually outlawed everywhere.
4. Coca leaves are actually used as herbal medicine
Long before they were used to create that highly dangerous drug cocaine, coca leaves were—and still are—used as herbal cures. Coca leaves contain alkaloids that serve medicinal purposes. Aside from helping suppress hunger, thirst, pain, and fatigue when chewed, coca leaves also ease altitude sickness.
5. Animals (probably) do drugs too
Was there ever a time when a pet of yours looked longingly as you raise a bottle of beer to your lips? Some pet owners actually give them a sip, and it’s obvious the dog or cat actually liked it by the way they hungrily lapped on the beverage. Sure, it’s just speculation on our part that animals like ingesting certain substances too, but there are reports of animals in the wild that actually exhibit a liking for the good stuff. Wallabies in Australia, for example, seem to have quite a taste for opium poppies, if a report of a Tasmanian government official during a Parliamentary hearing is to be believed. The official told Parliament that wallabies enter poppy fields and get high, and later crash.
6. New and more dangerous flesh-eating drugs exist
Crystal meth is noted for causing horrific scarring in users, but these scars come after a long period of using the drug. There’s a street drug from Russia that puts the flesh-eating properties of crystal meth to shame. Called ‘krokodil’, this lethal mix of pills, petrol, cooking oil, and lighter fluid literally cause the skin of its users to rot in record time. Eventually, users will be left with skin that quite resembles that of a crocodile, which is probably where the drug got its name. It is a commonly used drug in the poorest communities of Russia, where an estimated three million people have gotten hooked on the drug.
7. Cannabis is used as tax money
With all the hoopla surrounding the gradual legalisation of cannabis in many parts of the United States, many people seem to forget that cannabis wasn’t always illegal. It was, in fact, legal tender enough to be used to pay taxes from 1631 all the way up until the early 1800s. The British are to blame for this, as the English navy heavily depended on cannabis hemp fibres that are used to produce ropes and sails for its ships. To show how important cannabis was to their economy, the British decreed that all farmers grow cannabis, and even illustrious names such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson obeyed that law.
8. Some spices can give people a high
For many years now, much has been said about the high that the innocent-seeming nutmeg provides. There have been countless reports of the nutmeg causing a certain type of high and in some cases, hallucinations. Using nutmeg as a substitute for alcohol and other drugs was prevalent in the 1960s and the 1970s, but it is said that the practice of using nutmeg as a recreational drug dates back to the time of the Crusades.
9. Crystal meth was originally invented in Japan
The critically acclaimed and widely popular American TV drama series Breaking Bad may have popularised crystal meth everywhere, but the drug that was a focal point of the show is hardly an American creation. Crystal meth was originally invented in Japan. First synthesised in 1893 by Japanese chemist Nagai Nagayoshi, the drug reached its current state or form when pharmacologist Akira Ogata reduced its ephedrine content in 1919. It is called shabu in Japan and in other Asian countries.
10. Growing number of older drug users
The drug problem is often labelled as an issue facing our youth, but there is growing evidence that there is a rise in drug use among people in their fifties and sixties, in the United States at least. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the increase can be attributed to aging members of the Flower Power generation, who were deep into drug use during the 1960s and 70s as part of the swelling counterculture movement.
There is still so much to know about Illicit drugs, which are a bane to society and to the workplace as well. If you’re an employer and you still haven’t had time to create drug and alcohol testing policies, waste no more time and do it. Such policies, after all, are in the best interest of everyone.