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drug dependencya chronic physical and psychological compulsion or craving to take a drug, in which the person concerned must continue to take the drug in order to avoid unpleasant physical and psychological effects resulting from withdrawal from the drug. Compare DRUG TAKING FOR PLEASURE.
Many drugs can be associated with drug addiction and dependency, including sedatives (e.g. barbiturates), the opiates (e.g. heroin) and alcohol (see ALCOHOLISM). Drugs which do not lead to dependency include cannabis, the hallucinogens (e.g. lysergic acid – LSD), and stimulants such as cocaine and amphetamines. While so-called ‘hard drugs’ such as heroin attract the main attention of governments and researchers, addiction to alcohol is far more widespread. The indiscriminate medicinal use of barbiturates in the 1960s has also been responsible for much drug dependency. More recently, benzodiazepines (notably Valium) replaced barbiturates as a new source of medically induced drug dependency The control of addictive drugs has been a major concern of Western governments and the United Nations, but with mixed success. While government control of dangerous drugs reflects public concern, what needs explanation is why some non-addictive drugs, such as cannabis, are illegal, whilst other, more addictive drugs, such as tobacco and alcohol, are legal. Various explanations are offered for this phenomenon, including: the difficulty of controlling long-established drugs, and the occurrence of MORAL PANICS and mass media DEVIANCE AMPLIFICATION, and hence heightened controls and policing in relation to newly introduced drugs, particularly when these are associated with other forms of social DEVIANCE, and/or with lower status and ethnic minority groups.