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Hard and soft drugs
Hard and soft drugs are loose categories of psychoactive drugs. This distinction is used in both official and casual discourse. The term hard drug generally refers to drugs illegal for nonmedical use that lead to profound and severe addiction, as opposed to soft drugs that has weaker or no physical withdrawal symptoms. Some so-called soft drugs are however strongly habit-forming of other reasons than physical withdrawal symptoms; the dividing up between hard and soft drugs is therefore only accepted in the legislation in certain countries.[specify] The manager of UNODC for ex. do not accept cannabis as a soft drug.  Classification of alcohol and nicotine as hard drugs is also commonly rejected in most countries.
A large part of the distinction a subjective, socially conceived notion of the consequences of usage for each. Depending on context, a particular drug can be categorized in many different ways for various reasons.
Examples of hard drugs include heroin, morphine, cocaine, amphetamines, alcohol, and nicotine (tobacco). Drugs in this group are generally described as being physically addictive, easier to overdose on, and/or posing serious health and social risks, including death. Most, if not all, of these drugs are stimulants or depressants. Curiously, some of these drugs (alcohol and tobacco) can be freely purchased by adults; some can be purchased only with a doctor's prescription, and two (heroin and cocaine) are generally illegal, although cocaine is sometimes used legally as a local anesthetic and heroin is legally used as an analgesic in some countries: for example, the United Kingdom. A few analgesics even stronger than heroin—notably, fentanyl—are widely used in the U.S., but are usually administered directly by doctors.
In between "hard drugs" and "soft drugs"
Not all drugs fit under the "hard drug" or "soft drug" label. Examples of these include MDMA, Ketamine, and caffeine. MDMA shares some features with soft drugs in that it doesn't produce physical addiction. Some studies however say that it might be psychologically addictive, though such a claim is very controversial in the medical community. It is also easier to overdose on than many soft drugs, though not as much as many hard drugs.
Caffeine, although legal and unregulated in nearly all jurisdictions, does have a mild addiction potential (both physical and psychological) that can lead to caffeinism. Its overdose potential is also higher than that of soft drugs, though nowhere near hard drugs. If used often, caffeine can also give rise to bodily stress, ulcers, and irregular heartbeat, which can sometimes lead to death, though more deaths occur from overdose. Despite this, caffeine is still safer than most hard drugs. Caffeine is the most widely used psychoactive drug in the world.
Examples of soft drugs include cannabis, mescaline, psilocybin, and LSD. MDMA and caffeine are sometimes included as soft drugs, see above. The term soft drug is most usually applied to cannabis (marijuana or hashish).
The distinction between soft drugs and hard drugs is important in the drug policy of the Netherlands, where cannabis production, retailing and use come under official tolerance, subject to certain conditions. Other drugs such as psilocybin mushrooms and LSD are also considered soft drugs by many because there is no evidence of physical addiction, and a toxic overdose on these substances requires in some cases, hundreds of times a normal dose. However, it is possible for one to take more than one is psychologically capable of handling which leads to dangerous situations and negative experiences.
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Hard_and_soft_drugs". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|