The future of drugs reflects our changing life patterns. Technology blurs the boundaries of our life and creates new, instant, expectations that elevate stress levels, creating increasing coping mechanisms. Our varied developmental histories shape our coping preferences but today’s drug-user is not what we expect. In just two generations social attitudes have softened to the legalisation of marijuana while risk-taking behaviour has increased. The number one cause of accidental death in the US is by drug overdose and nearly a third of all vehicle fatalities are alcohol-related[i] The future of drug taking involves feeling better with fewer risks.
The changing nature of drugs
Currently all recreational drugs have side effects and alcohol can be deadly. In the future drugs will be less addictive and safer. New psychoactive substances, mephedrone and 2CB are here to stay and old school drugs are enjoying a renaissance as ecstasy and cocaine have become more pure. There will remain a market for clones but enforcement drives on head shops will see growth challenged in these areas.[ii] Risk is still involved unless you look to more personalised drugs. Personalisation is afforded by way of technology. Who needs drug dealers when 3D printers will get you high and cutting out the middle-man? Offering immediacy and specification the printer could also keep you (just) outside of or ahead of the law or, with a prescription, allow wider and cheaper deployment.[iii] The advance of genome testing helps users avoid certain illicit drugs’ risky side-effects – Great Britain certainly thinks by 2030 every child will be DNA sequenced at birth to prevent allergic reactions to medication.[iv] Digital drugs by way of binaural beats also offer accessible personalisation without breaking the law.[v]
The advance of gene-editing offers better quality drugs as marijuana growers progress out of basements to open fields. Phylos Bioscience, a start-up studying the cannabis genome, thinks growers will use high-tech breeding to produce less-potent pot—cutting the THC content from 30 percent to 4 percent to offer wider product variety and even stimulate such responses as hunger, creativity or a sense of calm.
Dihydromyricetin, or DHM, could be offered to reduce or reverse the effects of alcohol. A compound the Chinese have used for hundreds of years, and research on rats suggests that it can mitigate some of alcohol’s effects on behavior and may help protect a fetus.[vi] Researchers are also working to make painkillers less addictive[vii], vaccines against addiction[viii], a pill to erase memories for PTSD suffers, enhance memory or erase the need for sleep.[ix]
The future of trading is online
The success of online drug trading portals such as Silk Road, Silk Road 2.0, Sheep Market Place and Black Market Reloaded for caught enforcers off-guard. Law enforcement works to close down sites & users flock to others – service and quality mean online drug trading is going nowhere. In Project Onymous, the world’s police (FBI, Europol and Britain’s National Crime Agency) closed down Silk Road and 427 other sites in November 2015 and it took only two weeks for Silk Road 2.0 to be trading again.[x] For, what Onymous did was to make easier and safer to buy drugs because most of the sites it closed down were clone sites made by criminals to rip Bitcoins off drug users. Tor, the PGP message- encryption system, and Bitcoin—remains un-cracked. Online drug trading in the dark web is highly resilient.
The deep web is currently the future of trading good quality drugs and all signs indicate the early adopters have tested the model and broader and cheaper technical service offerings have made this accessible by the mainstream.[xi]
Apps have helped too. London’s ChemSex community hooks up with drugs by using apps such as Grindr, offering instant, location-based drug booty calls. One of the most common profile on Grindr has become “GMTV,” which implies that the person is using, has to share, or has to sell, G (GBL) M (mephedrone), T (Tina, a.k.a. crystal meth), or V (Viagra).[xii] This is the modern way of scoring drugs.
The future of regulation
As more US states legalise drugs our social culture and what we deem acceptable changes. Chemsex communities alter, how we interact online changes and degenerative disease may see us migrate to US states that are more progressive in their legislation – within ten years, more than half of Americans are likely to be living in a state where it is legal to buy marijuana.[xiii] US and Native American treaties also see American Indians using their land to grow and sell cannabis from the reservation, unimpeded by city, county or state regulations as sovereign nations. As work, food and money are hard to come by on Native American land growing could also serve as a blueprint for other tribes that have yet to figure out how to gain from their sovereign status.[xiv]
Within a few years it is very likely that several countries in the Americas will follow suit: Jamaica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Colombia, and Canada after the elections. National and EU legislation will likely inhibit cannabis legalisation in Europe but pressure for change is building up from below. Numerous local initiatives are being prepared: 50 mayors in the Netherlands are asking for regulated supplies to the coffee shops; in Frankfurt, Berlin, Geneva, and Copenhagen regulation proposals are on the table. These changes could also have a domino effect on countries in Africa and Asia, with Morocco, Cambodia, or India (which campaigned to keep cannabis legal in the 1950s) being the most likely to legalise marijuana. Britain is also slow to recover from the effects of the GFC – another ten years of austerity implies more drug use as people cope with poverty, social exclusion and diminishing services. This could see the de facto, de-penalisation of drug offences based on resource availability.
A pill for everything
The future of drugs is set against a new backdrop of expectations, social views, technical advancements and the increasing medicalising of behaviour. [xv] Unmet mental health needs and increasing social & professional competitiveness will see further developments in personalised drug development to the attitude of there is a pill for everything. The nature of supply and demand continues to mean law officials will remain behind the times and economic conditions may force legalisation of illicit drugs where necessary.