Why Are Some Drugs Illegal?

Why Are Some Drugs Illegal?While the great debate over drug legalization may never end, it is useful to ask the question: why are some drugs illegal and others allowed? What is it that makes one drug acceptable to use, but another unacceptable? Why is alcohol legal, when other similar drugs like marijuana have a bad reputation due to their illegal status? If prescription drugs are prescribed by a medical professional, why are they so heavily regulated?

A drug is defined as a medicine or other substance that causes a physiological effect when ingested or otherwise introduced to the body. To understand why some drugs are deemed legal and others illegal, one must recognize that there are countless drugs, with differing benefits, effects, dangers and risks.

Who Regulates Drugs in the U.S?

The Food and Drug Administration or FDA is in charge of drug regulation in the United States. This agency is led by the Commissioner of Food and Drugs and is appointed by the president. The FDA is responsible for protecting and promoting public health through the regulation and supervision of all drugs, from dietary supplements to tobacco products, prescription medications to illicit substances.

The FDA decides which substances provide enough therapeutic or medicinal benefit to be considered legal as well as which substances are too toxic, hazardous or dangerous to be considered “safe” and legal. Obviously, the intent of this regulation is to protect society from the more harmful substances, but greed, deception, corruption and the task of having to provide black-and-white rules for a very grey issue (e.g. blessing a substance like alcohol but banning similar drugs like marijuana) can create a serious mess of FDA drug regulation.

How Does the FDA Determine Which Drugs Are Illegal?

There are plenty of legal drugs that pose just as much risk and danger as illicit ones. In fact, more than 106,000 American lives are taken each year from drugs that are properly prescribed and administered, and only 10-20,000 American deaths per year result from illicit drugs, according to the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The FDA employs a drug schedule that determines the level of a controlled substance. Drugs like heroin and methamphetamine have little to no medical benefit and create a serious danger to the user and are considered illegal. Other legal drugs may possess some medical benefit but have high addictive potential and therefore, while legal, are heavily regulated. The different levels on the drug schedule are determined by how detrimental a particular substance has been to a mass population.

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