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Sengers Wijnand J. - 1 aprile 1989
by Wijnand J.Sengers

(First preliminary English edition - April 1989 - 76 pages - Special number of the EMNDP-Newsletter, ISSN 1011-1336

(This document is subdivided in 10 texts within Agora'. To retreive the texts please digit the key-word "drug policy").

1.1 What are 'drugs'?

What is meant by drugs in this review are all psychotropic/psychoactive substances listed in the U.N. conventions of 1961 (amended 1972) and of 1971 see 3.2. From a national legislative viewpoint this means that these are illegal drugs. Thus "drugs" are the illegal drugs.

This is quite clear. Not clear is what is meant by psychotropic and/or psychoactive. There are many possibilities (mindexpanding or mindnarrowing; narcotic, sedative; tranquillizing; agitating; moodchanging e.g. euphoric or dysphoric, upness and downness; lowering or increasing activity; hallucinogenic). Not all drugs given in the above definition lead to dependence (physical or psychological) and not all drugs need a steadily higher dosage to experience the same effect.

Alcohol and tobacco are not classified as drugs. This is not because they do not have a psychotropic effect or because they are harmless, but only because they are not listed in the U.N. Conventions.

Most doping substances enhancing the performance in sports, and spices and solvents are also not classified as drugs in the given U.N.schedules.

Likewise poisonous or toxic substances found in industrial products and wastes, that can come into contact with workers or consumers and can lead sometimes to lethal consequenties, are not classified as drugs.

1.2 Reactions to drugs and drug use in society

Bakalar Grinspoon. Drug Control in a Free Society. 1984

Ed Leuw. Een criminologische visie op deviant druggebruik ('a criminological vision on deviant drug use'). In: Goos en van der Wal (see 5)

S.Scheerer. Geschiedenis van het druggebruik ('History of Drug Use'). In: Breuker, G.F. (see 5)

Henner Hess. Rauchen. (Reihe Campus, 1987)

1.3 Arguments for penal prohibition of drugs.

Trafficking in narcotics and drug abuse constitute an obstacle to the physical and moral wellbeing of peoples and of youth in particular (Declaration on the Control of Drug Trafficking and Drug Abuse, U.N. General Assembly, resolution 39/142 of 14 December 1984)

Health dangers for drugusers

recently in USA: national security.

FRG Betäubungsmittelgesetz, 1977: "...dient das Gesetz dem Ziel, der Rauschgiftwelle in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland ein Halt zu gebieten und damit grosze Gefahren von dem einzelnen und der Allgemeinheit ab zu wenden. Es geht darum, den einzelnen Menschen, insbesondere den

jungen Menschen vor schweren und nicht selten irreparablen Schäden an der Gesundheit und damit vor einer Zerstörung seiner Persönlichkeit, seiner Freiheit und seiner Existenz zu bewahren. Er geht darum die Familie vor der Erschütterung zu schützen, die ihr durch ein der Rauschgiftsucht verfallenes Mitglied droht. (...) Es geht schlieschlich darum , die Funtionsfähigkeit der Gesellschaft nicht gefährden zu lassen. (BundestagsDrucksache, VI,1977, S.5)

1.4 Review of illicit substances.

Generally speaking these substances are:

Opiates and synthetic opiates (opioids); including all the substitution products such as methadone, Polamidon, Valoron.

Cocain products (e.g. crack)

Cannabis products (weed, marihuana, haschisch)



psychotropic substances

The substances mentioned in the four schedules of the U.N. Amended Convention on Narcotic Drugs (1961,1972)

An amended list, established by the U.N. Commission on Narcotic Drugs, Febr.'82 (Sales Nr E.77.XI.3, July 1982)

see schedules given in the national Narcotics Laws: 3.3

To give an idea of how many different illicit drugs there are, the High Times Encyclopaedia of Recreational Drugs mentions 5000 illicit substances!

1.5 Toxicity and dependence liability of the most frequently used drugs

A. Literature

. Dupont, R.L., Goldstein, A., O'Donnel,J. Handbook on Drug Abuse. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington D.C., 1979.

. Goodman Gilman. The Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics. N.Y., Toronto, London, 1985.

. Goth, A. Medical Pharmacology; Principles and Concepts. Mosby Company, St.Louis, Toronto, 1984.

. Harding, 1982

. Isbell,H. 1958

. Katzung, B.C. Basic Clinical Pharmacology. Lange Medical Publications, Los Altos, Calif. 1984

. Levine, R.R. Pharmacology Drug Actions and Reactions. Little, Brown and Company, Boston/Toronto, 1983

. Light Torrance, 1929/30

. Christiane Schmerl. Drogenabhängigkeit kritische Analyse psychologischer und soziologischer Erklärungsansätze. Opladen, 1984.

. Isbell,H. Chrusciel (1970) Dependence liability of 'nonnarcotic drugs'. Bulletin of WHO, 43 (Suppl) 111 pp.

. Drugs and Drug Abuse. Addiction Research Foundation (Toronto Ontario, Canada, 1987). Solvent Abuse: The Facts about Sniffing. Booklet available from ReSolv (see Chap.7)

. C.K.Mody, Miller, McIntyre, Cobb and Goldberg. Neurologic complications of cocaine abuse. Neurology, August 1988, Vol 33, pp 11891193.

B. The most frequently used legal and illegal substances in Europe.

The substances are not divided into the groupings normally used in medicine (e.g. analgetica, hypnotica, sedativa, antidepressiva, anxiolytica, antipsychotica, hallucinogens or psychedelica, narcotica, stimulantia). The reason being the fact, that here, the effect that each of these substances have on the recreational user is of importance. There are at present about 5000 illicit substances in use! (see "The High Times Encyclopaedia of Recreational Drugs"). Only a few of these are at any one time in fashion.

In the next issue (April 1990), there will be a description of what drug users themselves experience and what experts at the W.H.O. have to say about the matter. There will be repeated reference to the pharmacological toxicity; the chances of physical and/or psychological dependence and the drug's tolerance (the fact that the user must increase the dosage to experience the same effect e.g. daily use ).

The biggest problem will repeatedly be that it is, scientifically speaking, incorrect to proceed the issue with the substances themselves. Just as important are the factors that surround usage: the quantity used; the user's mood; the personality of the user; the user's living circumstances; the reasons for use; the user's direct social environment (friends and peargroup, parents and other members of the family e.g. brothers and sisters, colleagues) and society as a whole. As far as the latter is concerned, governmental policy is most central: criminal law and it's application by the police, customs and the judiciary.Central, because government policy indicates the borders of society's tolerance toward the issue. Those unaware of the this fact are more at risk of being caught and prosecuted, than those who are fully aware of it's implications. Once prosecuted, one has a criminal record. This tarnishes the life of the convicted within that society for future years. This is probably why many of those convicted

are choosing a life style that the majority in that society feel unacceptable.

ALCOHOL. Millions of people are addicted to this legal liquor, with a strong influence on the central nervous system (consciousness; motoric functions speech, movements etc) and ill effects (liverfunctions; dementia etc)

AMPHETAMINES. A stimulant. Used by athletes to enhance their performance. The controlling bodies of sporting organisations, whose task is judging sport performances, have banned the use of 'dope'. Amphetamine is also used by students who due to lack of time, have to the cram all the facts in the night before the exam.

BAZUCO. A cocaine product, at present in widespread use in South

America. It is a cheaper and stabler form of crack.

CANNABIS/MARIHUANA. The principle psychoactive component is delta9THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol), which is concentrated in the resin. Cannabis produces a wide array of symptoms, depending on dosage, personality and expectations of the user. Regular and prolonged use may impair psychomotor, cognitive and endocrine functions, reduce immunity and lower resistance to infection.

'Cannabis plant' refers to any plant of the genus Cannabis.

'Cannabis resin' refers to the separate resin, whether crude or purified, obtained from the cannabis plant.

COCAINE. A refined form of the Coca leaves (these leaves have been chowed in the Andes for 5000 years). Is a stimulant of the central nervous system. Gives an energetic experience to those who feel on top, as if one is prepared for everything. For those feeling low, it leaves them irritable. The effect is quickly diminished. There are no withdrawal symptoms, however some individuals have been known to become psychologically dependent. Once weekly usage when one is in a positive mood, can be of no harm. It is not an unusual dangerous drug.

CRACK. This is a cocainebase in cube form, that is smoked through a special pipe. The self made product is called "base" and its use is known as "freebasing". However, crack is more stable and easier to smoke than cocaine, which makes it little more 'dangerous' than cocaine. There are now many problems with its use (abuse?) in the USA.

Crack is known in Holland since 1981.

ECSTASY (='XTC'= Adam = MDMA). The molecule has an 'amphetaminebond' and a 'mescalinebond'. Both effects are stored within it. In 1914 developed by Merck Co. In 1958 synthetized.

The effect is difficult to describe: it begins after about 30 minutes with a warm tingling throughout the body. Something happens, but what it is you are not able to comprehend. There are no hallucinations involved. The ability to distinguish between fantasy and reality is not diminished. There then develops slowly but surely an overwhelming sense of extasy and wellbeing. The effect lasts for 3 to 4 hours.

HASHISH (hasheesh, hash, hasj) = Marihuana/marijuana

. According to Prof. Ambros Uchtenhagen (declaration for the "Obergericht" Zürich in 1980) even after prolonged usage, hash has no longterm damaging sideeffects (providing the dosage is not excessive and frequent). There are no withdrawal symptoms. By the majority of users psyhological dependence does not result after usage. Contrary to popular belief, hash is not a starting platform (Einstiegsdroge) to other drugs, only 1% of hash users go on to use hard drugs.

.Hash on the black market is seldom refined.

.Researchers are meanly reserved in their statements about the possible teratogenic properties of the cannabiods.

.It does not cause mutations in the genetic material of the user.

.Ernest L. Abel. Marijuana: The First 12.000 Years. Plenum Press, 1980.

HEROIN. A semisynthesized opium, thus in medical terms it is a pain killer. Its use results in pleasant calming feeling, subdues hungerpangs, the ability to sense cold and in high dosages, also subdues respiritory activity. Daily usage results in withdrawal symptoms within some weeks. Even with high tolerance levels and longterm use, there is no irreversible physical damage. As long as the user remains within his/her tolerance level, heroin is not toxic. Illegal heroin is meanly "dilute" ("cut up" or mixed) when bought by the user. Substances use to "dilute" the heroin can be toxic.

LSD (LyserginezuurDiäthylamide). The strongest hallucinogen. Thus with a very specific effect. A mere 0,001 to 0,003 mg per kg/body weight, gives a strong effect. It is 7500 times as strong as Mescaline (the alcaloid of the Peyotlcactus). Humphry Osmond spoke of the 'psychedelic' effects. Manufacturer: Sandoz. Discovered by Albert Hofmann, a Swiss biochemist. It is impossible to be addicted to LSD.

Centuries old forerunners: ergot, deadly night shade, belladonna, bilz herb, mandragora and thornapple.

MDNA = Ecstasy

METHADONE. A synthetic opiate. It's effect lasts longer than heroin.

. Kreek, M.J. Health consequences associated with the use of methadone. in: Dupont e.a. Handbook on Drug Abuse (see 1.5.A)

PCP = Phencyclidine. Used in a few cities in the USA. Neraly not known in Europe. It may trigger psychotic reactions, bizarre and violent behaviour and permanent brain damage (?).

SPEED = amphetamine

SOLVENTS. Liquids that can be inhalated (sniffing). So volative substances (gas fuels mainly butane; solvents in glues mainly toluene; aerosols). About two people each week die from volatile substances (ab)use in the United Kingdom. See Chap.7 (ReSolv).

TOBACCO. Is a high risk legal drug with serious somatic effects (heartdiseases, cancer), but does not alter behavior; many millions of people are addicted to this drug.

WEED = the dried leaves of the cannabis plant. See: Cannabis

'XTC'= Ecstasy

1.5 Research Institutes

1.5.1 Nongovernmental institutes

Addiction Research Foundation (ARF), 33 Russell Street, Toronto Ontario M5S 2S1 (Canada)

Institute of the Study of Drug Dependence (ISDD), London Max Planck Institute (München, FRG)

Nederlands instituut voor alcohol en drugs (NIDA), NLUtrecht

1.5.2 Government related institutes

National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), Rockville, USA

Wetenschappelijk onderzoek en documentatiecentrum (WODC) of the Ministry of Justice. Postbox 20301, 2500 EH 's Gravenhage, The Netherlands.

1.5.3 Universities:


University of Montreal: prof Marie Andrée Bertrand

University of Barnaby: prof Bruce K. Alexander

Federal Republic of Germany

University of Bremen (prof S. Quensel)

University of Hamburg (prof S. Scheerer)

GoetheUniversity in Frankfurt am Main (prof H.Hess)

Great Britain

University of Liverpool (Dr Stevenson, economist; Russell Newcombe)

University of London (prof Gr. Edwards)

Holland (The Netherlands)

Erasmus university Rotterdam stichting Volksbond: Instituut voor verslavingsonderzoek (Addiction Research Institute), prof Charles Kaplan Ph.D., postbox 1738, 3000 DR Rotterdam

PompeInstitute (Juridical Faculty, University of Utrecht)

van Hamel Institute, University of Amsterdam (prof R.Ruter)


University of Naples: prof Amato Lamberti

University of Trento: prof Ernesto Ugo Savona


University of Oslo: prof Niels Christie, criminologist


University of Malaga: prof Josè Luis DiezRipolles


University of Zürich: prof A.Uchtenhage, psychiatrist

University of Basel: prof


American University (Washington D.C.): prof Arnold Trebach

Harvard University: prof Lester Grinspoon; prof Thomas Szasz

Argomenti correlati:
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