Sources of drugs
Definition of illicit drugs
The deep Web and its contribution toward illicit drug use and drug abuse
The prescription predicament
The counterfeit situation
Problems caused by illicit drug use
The Origins of Drugs
We hear so much about drugs – their adverse effects, how much they cost, all the various and bizarre names they have – that sometimes, the most basic questions get lost in the shuffle. What are the origins of drugs? Where do they come from? Who is responsible for the many layers of production and distribution of a highly illegal, hazardous and highly productive industry? While the scourge of drugs may never entirely go away, the more we know about where drugs come from and how they get here may help minimize the damage they can cause today.
Where Do Drugs Come From?
Drugs can originate from two of the below sources:
Living things: These sources include plants, i.e. trees, shrubs, vegetables, etc. and microorganisms.
Long before chemical compositions were manufactured in laboratories, people used plants for medicine. In ancient times, the bark of trees and leaves were boiled, and their residual given as a medicine for different diseases such as fever and cold. Medicinal herbs have been used as medicine by ancient man wat before civilization’s era. Plants synthesize hundreds of chemical compounds with considerable economic importance, such as defence against insects, pests and herbivorous mammals. Numerous phytochemicals with potential attributes have also been discovered. However, since a single plant contains widely diverse phytochemicals, the effects of using a whole plant as medicine are uncertain.
Some drugs derived from plants include cocaine, caffeine, aspirin, digitalis, morphine, codeine, etc. CHEMICAL COMPOSITIONS/ SYNTHETIC DRUGS:
These are devised purely in laboratories.
Synthetic drugs are chemical compounds produced in a laboratory. They can be produced commercially by drug manufacturers for valid medical purposes and are diverted from legal channels or produced illegally in illegal laboratories for illicit markets. Synthetic drugs could be addictive and pose a serious threat to every day’s health. When abused, Synthetic drugs aim to mimic or even enhance the effects of natural illicit drugs, such as marijuana. Street drugs carry the added risk of being mixed with other substances to deliver a more robust and unique product, leading to a higher stunning effect leading to a rise in sensational drug abuses in our society today.
From the jungles of Colombia – where, despite the best-combined efforts of the Colombian and United States government, the drug has become a tourist attraction cocaine makes its way to the U.S. over (and sometimes under) the Mexican border in everything from toys to tennis shoes. To circumvent federal law enforcement on the American side of the border, Mexican drug smugglers (operating under cartel bosses’ orders) resort to transporting their cocaine via boat and human smuggling.
Nonetheless, as long as there is demand, there is supply; for the drug consumers and suppliers, the reward seems to be worth the entire risk. The number of people whose deaths were caused by drug misuse increases as illicit drugs continues to flood the market. Drug-related deaths have been on the rise. There are more deaths, illness, and disabilities from substance use than from any other drug use form. Today, one in four deaths is attributable to alcohol, tobacco, and illicit or prescription drug use. Crime associated with drug trafficking is very often violent, with direct links to the criminal use of firearms and gang attacks, and traffickers were frequently exploiting young and vulnerable people who are desperate for money and a form of temporary relief from depression or pain. Drug gangs are highly involved with child trafficking and prostitution, posing a high threat to the society and community in which they run their illicit businesses.
Most forms of illegal drugs originate overseas and are trafficked using various routes, including:
• Container shipping where illicit drugs are hidden
• Light aircraft
• Vehicles crossing country borders
• Airline passengers/airline luggage
• Packages to be delivered
WHAT ARE ILLICIT DRUGS?
Illicit drugs refer to highly addictive and illegal substances that stimulate (e.g., cocaine, amphetamines) or inhibit (e.g., heroin) the central nervous system…While the decision to use one of these drugs for the first time is usually a voluntary one, an unexpected addiction can occur, making the decision to quit later significantly harder and leading to drug abuse.
Examples of illicit drugs used widely include;
marijuana/hashish, cocaine (including crack cocaine), heroin, hallucinogens, inhalants, and prescription-type psychoactive drugs, double-action aspirins and other pain relief drugs all obtained without the prescription of a qualified doctor.
The Deep Web And Its Contribution Towards Illicit Drug Use And Drug Abuse:
The Web is still home to a thriving trade in illicit drugs.
Buying drugs on the Deep Web – the massive unindexed part of the Internet that regular web browsers can’t access – might be the future of how controlled substances are imported and traded. Users and buyers have found a way to use the Web as a trade Centre for illicit drugs helping the consumers get any drugs they want at ease, making drugs prevalent due to easy availability. The New York Times explains that the Internet we know, literally trillions of web pages, is only the tip of the iceberg. Beneath the surface is a vast wilderness of people buying and selling everything from military-grade weapons to assassination services, from child pornography to, in the words of The Guardian, “cannabis, dissociatives, ecstasy, opioids, prescription [drugs], psychedelics, stimulants” and precursors (a chemical compound that participates in a chemical reaction to produce another chemical compound – in other words, not even a drug, but raw materials which may be natural or synthetic used as a tool to make a drug).
The Web has fundamentally changed ways of doing business, including illegal markets’ operations
and activities. There are now around 50 online marketplaces on the ‘dark web’ that illicit trade drugs, novel psychoactive substances (NPS), prescription drugs and
other – often illegal – goods and services. These markets are accessible with a standard Internet connection, making illicit drugs rise drastically.
In October 2013, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and various European law enforcement agencies shut down “Silk Road,” the largest platform for selling illegal drugs on the Deep Web. A month later, “Silk Road 2.0” was brought online, and it was itself taken down by the FBI. Nonetheless, The Daily Dot reports that six months after the FBI’s initial success, there are more drugs sold on the Deep Web than there were before the Silk Road bust meaning more online drug vendors are thriving and reaching high customer satisfaction. In the same way that hard drug cartel members become increasingly ingenious in their attempts to evade Customs & Border Protection and the Coast Guard, the minds behind the Deep Web have used “increasingly advanced technology” to make the Deep Web even deeper and continue their “movement” of the unregulated distribution of drugs to anyone looking to buy without fear of been arrested by the drug law enforcement agents. Illegal drug transactions on the dark Web has increased, with revenues doubling. This is a niche market compared to the traditional offline market, estimated at been more lucrative than the local drug market.
The Prescription Predicament
Many of the drugs sold on the Deep Web are prescription drugs, which can be seen as a response to the overwhelming need of millions of people who use such drugs recreationally or who don’t want to wait for their next prescription to alleviate their chronic pain. There have been increasing reports of misuse of a range of prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs for recreational purposes, leading to increased drug abuse a significant drug-health-challenge. The use of psychoactive pharmaceuticals is new, widespread phenomena involving the non-medical use of prescription and over-the-counter drugs, which are recreationally used to achieve psychoactive effects either on their own or in combination with other substances to provide the user with a temporal relief for his or her pain without a doctors prescription.
According to CNN, most prescription drugs – 40 per cent, sold in the United States are developed overseas. According to South Florida Hospital News, China and India lead the rest of the world to produce active pharmaceutical ingredients (API). The Pharma Letter reports that 30 per cent ($4 billion) of India’s prescription medication exports are to the United States, that India is home to the largest number of FDA-approved drug manufacturing plants in the world (150), and that over 800 applications for generic drug approval in the United States originate from the top 10 Indian pharmaceutical companies.
Duly, the Food & Drug Administration is responsible for regulating foreign manufacturers (going so far as to ban the importation of products (natural and synthetic)which may pose a health threat once the abuse rate is high and also regulating manufacturing practises, as well as the drug companies that import, which is then released to pharmacies for purchase. Individual states can opt to follow FDA regulations, devise their compliance policies, or employ both methods in other to thrive within drug-law-regulations.
FDA regulation extends far beyond Asia – the administration has sent warning letters regarding violations to drug companies in Spain, Germany, Australia, Canada (which is one of the biggest drug suppliers to the United States by volume of generic drugs), Austria, the Netherlands, and Ireland. The FDA has also reprimanded 114 US manufacturers from 2008 to 2013 for everything from “marketing-related offences” to “faulty manufacturing claims.”
However, despite the vigilance and authority of the FDA, it is still possible for a link in the chain to be compromised: The FDA does not have the necessary resources to inspect the process at every foreign – or even domestic – pharmaceutical manufacturing facility, raising questions about the safety of the millions of prescription drugs currently being imported to, and distributed across the globe.
The regulation of drugs and medicine is crucial to the public’s health and safety. Ensuring that a prescription is high quality is achieved by checking the drug’s efficacy, quality, and security. The medicines are prepared, stored, manufactured, and shipped according to health and safety guidelines of professional and experienced chemists and pharmacists, which must be duly followed to avoid illicit drug use using and substandard drug use. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and other health governing authorities prohibit illegal and unethical drugs. Those imported into the country must also undergo multiple tests and checks.
In an interview on The Diane Rehm Show, the South Asia correspondent for The New York Times explained that despite India’s significant contributions to the U.S. pharmaceutical industry, the Indian government has no regulatory presence in its factories, which prompted Dr Margaret Hamburg, the FDA Commissioner, to visit the country in early 2014. Speaking on The Diane Rehm Show, Dr Hamburg called for the FDA “to behave like a global agency with a global mission,” citing the presence of FDA offices in New Delhi and Mumbai, as well as in Latin America, South Africa, and China, to standardize regulation and “achieve the same levels of inspection and enforcement and compliance” across the board hence same energy within and outside the country.
Part of the problem appears to be cultural dissonance between the hands-on approach employed by, and required of, the American FDA and local drug production organizations. Should the manufactured drugs not comply with the conditions and standard operating procedures (SOPs), there would be a possibility of contamination and compromise to the drug’s quality, resulting in situations that may be harmful, dangerous, or even life-threatening to the patients. Drugs, especially those that are sensitive, can readily change structure and components at any stage when not maintained or handled correctly and could be easily abused and used as recreational drugs. Authorities must monitor the safety of their medications by collecting and testing samples. The FDA must be highly involved in drugs production. Hence, strict regulatory plans, legal documentation and implementation must be followed. This ensures that accidents in the medical world are kept to an absolute minimum.
The Counterfeit Situation.
But significant problems can be found much closer to home too. 60 Minutes explains that there may be as many as ten stops from drug manufacturers to the wholesalers. Along the way, the drugs can be improperly stored, improperly transported, or deliberately tampered with to artificially increase profits (in the case of high-demand, expensive medications) at the expense of endpoint drug users. Worryingly, if a drug manufacturer is made aware that their product’s integrity has been compromised, they are not legally required to inform the FDA, wholesalers, or patients. For industrial competition reasons, they may opt to remain quiet on the issue for fear of losing customers and clients to other manufacturers who may have never had a public case of drug counterfeit.
The former commissioner of the FDA explains that while the FDA is responsible for the safe manufacture of a drug, the secure distribution of drugs is up to individual states, not the FDA – and as 60 Minutes reports, the pharmaceutical distribution system in the United States is “largely unregulated and vulnerable.”. Hence, it is also in most countries around the world.
The laborious, bloated, and absurd nature of prescription drug delivery in the United States is why as many as five million Americans purchase their drugs online from foreign countries, much to the FDA’s dismay, who considers these drugs unapproved and illegal. A deputy commissioner at the FDA testified in February 2014 before a House subcommittee that “unapproved foreign drugs” were as dangerous as counterfeit drugs (which the FDA defines as contaminated medicine, a medicine containing incorrect or no active ingredient, or the right component at the wrong dosage).
Problems caused by the use of illicit drugs;
- We have increased crime rates, such as prostitution. Gangs. Etc.
- reduced consciousness
- less productivity
- depressions and deaths
- increase in suicide rates
- loss of pleasure in hobbies and activities
- lack of will
- decreased interest in sex and affection
- emotional distress
- erectile disfunction
Ben Lesser is one of the most sought-after experts in health, fitness and medicine. His articles impress with unique research work as well as field-tested skills. He is a freelance medical writer specializing in creating content to improve public awareness of health topics. We are honored to have Ben writing exclusively for Dualdiagnosis.org.