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In my story shapeshifting drugs are controlled and only widely used for therapeutic medical purposes only, a recent study showed a young patient with severe depression and poor appetite is suddenly craving for Taco after turning into a sea sponge and another similar report of a grandma suffering from ADHD signs up for bonsai lessons soon after turning into a shoebill.

Lately there has been an increase in the demands for time released shapeshifting drug which can cost up to hundred times of those immediate or fast acting ones, ironically clinical trials have repeatedly shown that the shapeshifting drug is just as effective as those in the control group whom are hooked up to a virtual reality headset.

So it is not the drug but then why many honest doctors still prescribe costly time released shapeshifting drug over those safe and equally potent fast acting ones?

Say a pair of twin Alice and Bob, each took a time released shapeshifting drug and a fast acting shapeshifting drug respectively, Alice would have to walk her twin, now a labrador retriever at a nearby park for no more than 12 hours while waiting for her side effect to kick in. If the side effects of both drugs are exactly the same then why the costly time released shapeshifting drug is more popular than fast acting ones?

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    $\begingroup$ Maybe look at reformatting a little to make the wall of text a bit clearer - the question isn't overly long, just could use some breaks. If I'm reading it correctly, we have drug A (expensive), drug B (cheaper) and VR headset (very cheap) all have identical benefits to the patient in terms of treating depression, ADHD and possibly other issues? Is that a correct restatement of the situation leading to the question of why drug A is popular despite much higher cost? $\endgroup$ Feb 28 at 5:58
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    $\begingroup$ Why doctors prefer to prescribe something specific is probably to prevent abuse or encourage the correct use. Why people want something is story based, or they're just looking to get high. $\endgroup$
    – Mazura
    Feb 28 at 18:01

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The cheap one doesn't last as long.

You want a quick rush of being a falcon for a few hours? You can just go for the cheap one - but you run the risk of it wearing off unexpectedly at an inopportune time, like say, 5000 feet in the air. You want to keep it going longer? Use the slow-acting one. Not only does it last longer, but you can easily feel when it's starting to wear off and get somewhere safe before you end up transforming back without warning (and in this case, plummeting to your death).

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  • $\begingroup$ Easy come, easy go. That makes sense to me! $\endgroup$
    – Ruadhan
    Mar 2 at 9:06
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Maybe the long-length one is less painful to use. I can only assume that you'd feel something while the transformation happens. And if that is spread out over a longer amount of time, it won't be as sudden, and won't be as strange-feeling.

As a side note, it might not be pain, but some other thing. Maybe like it is when you've sat down without moving for way too long, and then move. That vibrating feeling.

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The rush!

This might just be out of scope.

Changing shape goes along with more psychological effects. Though clinically the same in some respects, the rush you get from being in two forms at once as you slowly transform is exhilarating. The fast acting can be scary and uncomfortable. As the effect comes from experience and not directly from the drug it isn't a side effect exactly.

Imagine it as a go-kart drive. Normally it's exciting if you do it for 10-30 minutes. If you then cram that whole experience in 1 to 30 seconds it'll be experienced quite differently.

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Your brain takes time to adjust to a change, days to weeks. The fast-acting one leaves you confused and afraid as your brain can't keep up with the radical changes.

The slow acting one gives you time to adjust to the changes.

Also, rapid changes will be very unpleasant even if your brain somehow adjusts. It takes enormous amounts of energy so you would need to be fed intravenusly to make sure you dont die from starvation. It also makes your hormones go haywire as the hormones of both species intertwine in quick succession rather than slowly build off one hormone while building up the other one. You will likely feel nauseous, famished, thirsty, disoriented and dizzy.

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The treatment isn't just one drug, but a suite of related drugs that have to be carefully tailored to the target user and the intended shapeshifting form to ensure nothing goes wrong. This means that it's typically administered at a clinic rather than used at home.

For the time-release version of the treatment this isn't a problem. The technicians can mix up a cocktail that takes effect a predictable time later. You might go to the clinic in the morning and then have the drugs kick in after a few hours when you're at home or wherever else you intend to enjoy your shapeshifting 'trip'. Maybe it will occur a few minutes earlier or later, but it's close enough to make plans around.

The quick onset version, in contrast, takes effect quickly and unpredictably. It might be almost instantaneous, or it might strike after a few minutes during the car/bus ride home, which would be quite inconvenient for everyone.

So while the drug course itself is more expensive, it's much more convenient and safer, and it's not more expensive than going to a clinic with its own dedicated animal park attached to it.

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Use of shapeshifting drug is regulated in certain locations, and if one is found in possession of the substance, is not admitted.

The drug is hardly concealable before its assumption, so hoping to smuggle one in and then take it's not possible. On the other hand, detecting the drug once assumed is also impossible.

Therefore the slow acting drug allows one to take the drug, enter those locations and then shapeshift, with very few chances of being caught.

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Marketing and FDA.

The slow drug is marketed to doctors. Its the one who has put in the money and effort to be approved for medical use (The fast version is marketed only for recreational use). Its got an easier name to remember. If doctors prescribe the fast version, they would have to jump through all sorts of paperwork hoops. The hospital pharmacy probably doesn't even have the fast drug. (The doctors never prescribe it, so the pharmacists never stock it, so the doctors never prescribe it) They aren't paying. The patient isn't paying. The insurance company is paying. The slow drug has been fully approved. The insurance legally has to pay for it. The fast drug hasn't been approved, so the insurance can refuse to pay for it if they want. (As a general principle, the insurance don't pay for anything if they can avoid it)

This is exactly the sort of thing that happens in real hospitals according to slatestarcodex.

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    $\begingroup$ The really cynical might add "kickbacks from big pharma" in there. $\endgroup$ Mar 1 at 19:54
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Advertising.

The fast acting shapeshifting drug has been around a long time. It goes by its generic name. It is considered sort of déclassé. Poor people with safety net insurance can get it. Yes it works fine but it is so 3 decades ago.

The new sustained release has got a sweet brand name - maybe something like "Flyvanse" or "Tryvanse". Ad campaigns and persuasive drug reps work on the honest docs and persuade them that the new thing is better for their high end fancy patients. And so the new stuff that is the equal of the old stuff but 10x the cost gets prescribed. Capitalism!

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Vanity

Do you want to look muscled for 10 minutes, or for a long time? That nice wavy hair, firm booty, slightly muscled figure that attracks potential mates...

...would be a shame if that wore off. So you need it long term

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