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Safe Drug

A cheap, harmless, feel-good social drug, developed by a huge drugs multinational
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Drugs and many products which people ingest in order to change their mood have a variety of problems. They may be illegal, expensive, dangerous either with short or long-term usage, and may render the user incapable of coherent thought or operating a car for some hours. Significant savings in the areas of law enforcement, public healthcare and social services could be made if a social drug were developed which had an effect which combined features from those of alcohol and marijuana, was easy to use, had an effective antidote (for when you want to drive home), no long-term effects (i.e. no chemical addiction - obviously psychological addiction would be harder to avoid), and could be mass-produced cheaply. The development costs of such a drug would be huge - billions of dollars, but there would be a huge potential market too.
hippo, Jun 19 2000

iontophoresis http://www.chemsoc..../1999/berressem.htm
I'd suggest a few constraints. The drug should be a patch, thanks cosma, for safety and compliance concerns. It could temporarily tattoo the user for toxicology monitoring. A drug should not be a naturally occurriln neuroactive substance, though. It should be totally synthetic instead, a simple molecular type that would not metabolize further. More metabolites mean greater risk of more serious side effects. Our drug should serve its master as well, ie, it should simultaneously restore one or more physical systems to a peak functioning (be used as an enzyme in DNA repair, or as an NO type smooth muscle modulator, for examples) and provide beneficial side effects, read this as 'feels good'. [reensure, Jun 19 2000]

Soma http://www.huxley.net/
Aldous Huxley describes something similar (and the social effects thereof) in his novel <i>Brave New World</i>. In 1932. (Also tactile movies -- "feelies" -- cf. the most excellent eponymous band.) [rmutt, Jun 19 2000, last modified Oct 21 2004]

Biopsychiatry.com http://www.biopsychiatry.com/
Updates on the Quest For Soma. [Monkfish, Jun 19 2000, last modified Oct 21 2004]

[link]






       Naturally-occurring endorphins might work. Presumably they wouldn't trigger any of the molecular mechanisms of addiction (blocking receptor sites, e.g.) which synthetic opiates do. You might even be able to administer them as patches, which'd be much better than needles for obvious reasons. (I doubt any of them survive digestion.) And there are even, I think, naturally-occuring antagonists, for when you want to sober up.   

       On the other hand, this is so obvious that if it worked there'd be an endorphin store on every corner already, so there must be a Flaw someplace.
cosma, Jun 19 2000
  

       "There'd be an endorphin store on every corner already..."   

       It's called "Starbucks".
egnor, Jun 20 2000
  

       Actually, it's called pop music.
jutta, Jun 20 2000
  

       Call me cynical, but I doubt that the availability of such a drug would diminish consumption of other drugs in any way. You can get a buzz by hyperventilating or by spinning around fast. These are "natural highs" that are relatively safe, universally available, and free. Most people get bored with them sometime during early childhood. Go figure.
baf, Jun 20 2000
  

       But Baf, hyperventilating and spinning around fast don't have any marketing effort behind them. This thing would be pushed by real pros. And I refuse to believe I'm the only one who still enjoys spinning around really fast and then staggering about drunkenly.
Skinny Rob, Jun 20 2000
  

       Well, I gave up the being-whirled-about business when I started to become a martyr to motion-sickness, in my early teens. [Horrid experiences at amusement parks, on airplanes, etc. forcibly suppressed.] I'd _much_ prefer a patch, thank you.   

       Given that we want a drug, I'd still push for something which occurs naturally in the human nervous system, because in that case we _know_ there are already mechanisms for dealing with the metabolites, though they may not be adequate to the doses we'd want to give. (Hoping that something is both neuroactive and stimulates DNA repair seems like a bit much to ask.)
cosma, Jun 20 2000
  

       The mechanisms used by recreational drugs - there are several - are lots more complicated than just triggering the release of normal neurotransmitters. You can get started on the gory details with R. M. Julien's _A Primer of Drug Action_, now in its 8th edition. (It's a good book, actually...)
cosma, Jun 21 2000
  

       Some people use TENS (electrical stimulation) to the scalp as a drug substitute. These people experiment with various electrode locations, signal frequencies and waveforms to get a variety of interesting effects. I've never tried it, but know some people who have. Those of us who don't use them refer to the devices as "brain fryers", although I haven't actually heard any reports of damage induced by them. Some of the users claim that they induce *better* states than drugs do.
brouhaha, Jun 21 2000
  

       that spinning around thing sound's quite like my autistic patient's, you might consider having your self checked for aspurger's syndrome
larry, Jun 26 2000
  

       What happens if you're allergic to one of the substances inside the pill, like some people are allergic to penicillin? Would they be running around amok killing everyone?
Lizzie9208, Nov 28 2000
  

       There are already safe drugs around. GHB, believe it or not, is a naturally occuring substance in the brain. It has been studied for over 35 years, and instead of being toxic, it is actually known to stimulate the release of growth hormone from the pituitary gland. Body builders used to used it to increase muscle mass. Almost a perfect substitute for alcohol, with no hangover. Problem is, you can mix it with any other depressants, as it greatly amplifies the effect, and people have died from these combinations. This lead to the panic which we now have over it, and it's current illegality. If such a drug were developed, even with all things described, with complete safety, it would be scheduled before you could say marijuana twice. Thus is the paranoia, ignorance, and "puritanism" of the American drug laws.
xthexjackalx, Jul 20 2001
  

       WIBNI.
snarfyguy, Nov 02 2001
  

       Larry, you don't fill me with confidence in your ability as a doctor/nurse/whatever-you-are if you can't even spell Asperger's.
Rugrat, Feb 24 2002
  

       A fine idea. Although I'm not quite sure what form this drug might take - would it merely provide the user with a temporary "escape" from reality? (Like the soma in "Brave New World"). I don't think that'd be a very healthy thing really. (Television currently being the soma of our times, where you can hide from the drudgery & general stnkiness of the world for a few hours instead of doing something useful to make it better)   

       The chance of any (new - excl. alcohol) recreational drug being made available legally seems unlikely in the near future. The only pre-requisite for prohibiting a drug is that people enjoy taking it for non-medicinal reasons. Safety/health risks etc are largely irrelevant in making this decision, as can be seen from various governments strangely desperate hunt for side effects in the unusually benevolent substance marijuana.
baobab, Mar 22 2004
  
      
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