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Drug abuse is becoming more and more serious in my (made-up) country. A researcher team is now working on a new drug called Biological VR which has the following properties:

  1. The drug is a psychoactive one, meaning that it changes brain functions. (Definition from Wikipedia)

  2. The drug gives subjective changes to the intaker’s subjectivity, just like the illegal psychoactive drugs. The changes may be specified by the researchers, so a particular variant causing, e.g. the feeling of flying, the feeling of having sex, can be manufactured.

  3. The side-effects of such a drug is substantially less serious. Therefore, while intakers may get headache, increased urination etc, they are not going to do something very harmful or dangerous. If you need a bottom line, something like the side effects of alcohol overdose should be appropriate. As a result, intaking and selling the drug should be legal around the world.

  4. Addiction should not be serious, quitting is easy, and withdrawal symptoms can be easily tolerated. So intakers do not have to rely on constant intakes of the drug in order to live normally. Again, if you need a cutoff, caffeine will be an appropriate one.

  5. The effects of the drug are non-lasting. In other words, the effects should not last longer than, say, 24 hours.

The researcher team wants to produce such kind of drug and sells it under an affordable price in order to deal with problems related to drug abuse. What are the potential difficulties for the researchers to do so?

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    $\begingroup$ I am not so sure that alcohol and caffeine are how you depict them in your question, knowing both alcohol and caffeine addicted persons. $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch Aug 22 '18 at 7:11
  • $\begingroup$ For alcohol and caffeine, I just want to say that the level of side-effects and addiction should be within an acceptable level so that the drug can be made legal. $\endgroup$ – tonychow0929 Aug 22 '18 at 7:14
  • $\begingroup$ Alcohol withdrawal is lethal, caffeine withdrawal merely painful. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Aug 22 '18 at 7:18
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    $\begingroup$ There are actually quite a lot of real-world drugs which match your description. Many drugs do not actually cause physical withdrawal symptoms. They just cause psychological dependence with those people susceptible to it. And you can not have a drug which is both enjoyable and does not cause psychological dependence. $\endgroup$ – Philipp Aug 22 '18 at 8:18
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    $\begingroup$ You are basically describing magic mushrooms $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Aug 22 '18 at 8:20
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Addiction should not be serious, quitting is easy, and withdrawal symptoms can be easily tolerated.

That's the problem with drugs, quitting is never easy.

Drugs generally work by stimulating the reward system in our brain.
Take the drug -> reward system gets stimulated -> body is flooded with happy hormones -> you feel happy.

Problem 1 that arises from drugs is that over time, the reward system produces less happy hormones after being stimulated by the same amount of drugs. You don't feel as good as you did the first time, so you take more drugs to achieve the same level of happy hormones.

Problem 2 is that drugs overstimulate the reward system. There are very few experiences that can produce the same strong reward as a drug. As soon as you get used to the chemical induced high, you will miss it because nothing but another drug comes even close.

In general, all addictions work like that, even those without chemicals involved (like internet, gaming, sex or porn addiction). The stimulus causes a strong reward reaction that addicted people cannot find anywhere else in their everyday life. Even without the slightest withdrawal symptoms, people can never quit easily.


In the end, if you want to create and legalize a new drug, you have to fight:

  • The people who are against any form of drug and even want to prohibit current legal drugs like tobacco and alcohol
  • A vast number of health organizations who'll want scientific proof of your claims about how harmless your drug is. Many will want long term studies, thereby stalling the market launch.
  • The people and organizations who produce and sell currently legal drugs, because you will take a portion of their market share away from them.
  • The people and organizations who produce and sell illegal drugs. This is where it gets dangerous. If your scientists want to offer an widely accepted alternative to illegal drugs, they will very quickly find themselves followed by mafiosi, spies, assassins, snipers and all kinds of gangsters that see them as a thread to their regular income.
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  • $\begingroup$ I think this answer is ill-informed. Many drugs are considered non-addictive. Coffee is more dangerous in that regard than some pretty hard stuff. You can become "addicted" to anything, but well, you wouldn't answer "no" if the op asked if airflight or milk could be non-addictive. $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Aug 22 '18 at 8:29
  • $\begingroup$ @Raditz_35 "Many drugs are considered non-addictive. Coffee is more dangerous in that regard than some pretty hard stuff." Can you give an example of "hard drugs" being non-addictive and considered less dangeous than caffeine? I think you refer to drugs not causing physical withdrawal symptoms. But that doesn't make them less addictive to the brain. $\endgroup$ – Elmy Aug 22 '18 at 8:37
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    $\begingroup$ @Raditz_35 - YElm is correct. Everything meeting the conditions of creating a "good feeling" in any sense can become addicting, even if there are no direct physical withdrawal effects. It's less about the drugs, and more about human biology/psychology - thus there is also variance on individual basis. Even mere, non-specific food can be addictive to some (gluttony). Obviously it also depends on the drug to which degree it is addictive - and the things we consider somewhat more addictive than usual is what we categorize as "addictive" (vs "non-addictive"). $\endgroup$ – Battle Aug 22 '18 at 8:49
  • $\begingroup$ LSD is a classic example. @Battle: That's also exactly what I wrote. Anything can be addictive, but that doesn't mean it's really a concern for everything $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Aug 22 '18 at 9:03
  • $\begingroup$ @Raditz_35 I'm afraid the comments are the wrong place to discuss whether or not LSD is non-addictive, so I encourage you to write your own answer taking LSD as an example. It seems to be somewhat like the OP's imaginary drug but lost the battle to become a legal substitute to illegal drugs. $\endgroup$ – Elmy Aug 22 '18 at 9:20

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