Using legal substances as a way to get high is popular among many people. The appeal of legal drugs is that they seem safer than illegal narcotics, like heroin and cocaine, they are easily accessible and often cheap, and you can’t get put into jail for using them. Because they’re legal, a lot of people think they’re safe. However, it’s important to take a look at the consequences of using legal substances. Combined with a general knowledge of the history of legal drugs, it becomes clear that not being against the law does not mean that these substances are safe.
Popular Legal Substances and Their Consequences
Legal substances like spice (or K2), kratom, kava, and “designer drugs” synthesized to mimic the effects of hallucinogens are popular among people who want to experience a high without all the consequences of narcotics like heroin. However, these legal substances can be dangerous, and the fact that they are not against the law can disguise their danger. Some people believe that if something is legal, it isn’t dangerous. But the fact that alcohol and cigarettes are both legal drugs and are sold nationwide provides evidence against this idea. Combined, alcohol and cigarettes cause the deaths of over half a million people each year (88,000 people die per year from alcohol-related causes and 480,000 die from smoking, according to the CDC.)
Clearly, just because something is legal does not mean that it is safe. This applies to legal substances that are used to get high, like kava, spice, and salvia. The following are just some examples of the consequences and risks of these drugs:
- Kava can cause severe, even fatal, liver damage even with short-term use
- Kratom is addictive and can cause physical and mental withdrawal symptoms
- Spice (or K2) can cause psychotic episodes and seizures and can also be addictive
- Salvia can trigger panic attacks, psychosis, and schizophrenic episodes
- “Designer drugs”, or synthesized chemicals that mimic the effect of illegal drugs (sometimes called “bath salts”) can trigger psychosis and violent or suicidal behavior
Beyond the potential for dependence and addiction, many legal substances can cause potentially fatal physical effects, serious injury, or the need for hospitalization.
The History of Legal Substances
The argument that legal substances are safe to use is clearly false based on the evidence of the consequences caused by these drugs. We can also see from the history of drug laws in the United States that just because a substance is legal does not mean it is safe. If we take a look at which drugs used to be legal and even prescribed for patients, we can clearly see that legal does not mean safe. For example, the following drugs used to be legal substances and were widely used and even sold over the counter:
- Heroin– Heroin was first created in 1874 and was available over the counter in many medicines and products. The company Bayer (the makers of Aspirin) used to sell heroin over the counter to treat morphine addiction and coughs. Eventually, the sale of the drug was regulated but was still viewed as a non-addictive treatment for many conditions until the early 20th century. Ultimately, when the danger of heroin became clear, it was made illegal.
- Cocaine– Like heroin, cocaine was legal for medical and recreational use, over the counter, until the early 20th century. Coca leaves (which cocaine is derived from) were even used in early recipes of Coca Cola. Cocaine was used for toothaches, morphine addiction, to motivate and energize soldiers, and for a range of minor to major ailments before it was restricted in 1914 and eventually made illegal.
- Methamphetamine- First used as a drug to help soldiers stay awake during WWII, methamphetamine made its way into the mainstream market in the 1950s. The drug was used for weight loss, to fight depression, and to increase energy levels (especially by students and people who worked long hours) before the government made it illegal in the 1970s.
Clearly, the dangers of heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and other formerly legal substances are well known today. But in the past, all of these drugs were believed to be safe and beneficial, and many were even used to treat children for minor illnesses. This is further evidence that just because a substance is legal does not mean that it is safe, non-addictive, and okay to use.
If you have found that you are struggling with a dependence on drugs, even legal substances, getting help professionally is the best way to take your life back from addiction. For information on treatment, call Wellness Retreat Recovery today at 888-821-0238.