What’s the Difference in Hard and Soft Drugs?

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What’s the Difference in Hard and Soft Drugs?

Have you heard the terms hard and soft drugs? When individuals use these terms, they are referring to an arbitrary categorization that has no clear definition or criteria and also has no scientific basis. The hardness or softness of drugs is purely based on public perception. An example being that hard drugs should be avoided like the plague, even if you are already doing soft drugs or as they are often referred to as “gateway drugs.”

Also, how do we categorize prescription medications?  These drugs are chemically similar to heroin.  They are also some of the most addictive drugs available today.  We typically think of hard drugs as those that are injected.  But, drug abusers have found ways to dissolve prescription drugs so they can be injected.  So, should we consider these drugs hard or soft?

The World’s Hardest Drugs

Hard drugs are thought to be those that produce the worst drug addictions, are more potent and more toxic, physically and mentally, than the perceived “soft drug” variety. Soft drugs are thought to be those drugs which are less harmful to the body and mind.

Some of the world’s hardest drugs are thought to include those which are highly addictive, are injectable, and do the most damage.

Here are some of the world’s most perceived “hard drugs:”

  • Heroin
  • Cocaine
  • Crystal Methamphetamine
  • Morphine
  • Codeine
  • Opiates in general
  • Amphetamines
  • PCP
  • Ketamine
  • Ecstasy
  • Hallucinogens, such as LSD and Psilocybin Mushrooms

The above list is far from complete but does give you an idea of what the population and law enforcement alike, consider to be the most dangerous drugs in the world. Hard drugs lead to severe drug addictions, break down, and cause damage to your body’s organs and natural functions, and can ruin life as you know it.

Perceived Soft Drugs

Soft drugs are thought to be those which produce little to no significant mental or physical dependence and are usually illicit. Some soft drugs include marijuana, caffeine, nicotine, DMT, and alcohol. Many experts argue that soft drugs still come with many dangers and when it comes to alcohol and nicotine, often cause more deaths than many other “hard drugs.”

Here lies the problem in categorizing hard and soft drugs. Many would consider alcohol to be a “hard drug,” where others because of its legality, consider it to be in the “soft drug” category. Alcohol is extremely harmful to nearly every organ in your body, can cause brain seizures in extreme cases, and where alcoholism exists, can kill you if you try to stop without professional help. Does this sound like a soft drug to you? Its legal status and common use has dramatically softened its image, but when you get down to very real effects and dangers of alcohol, can it really be considered a soft drug?

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Categorizing Hard and Soft Drugs

When it comes down to categorizing hard drugs and soft drugs, it’s unclear and no real explanations are given. When these terms are applied to drugs they have no real validity or pharmacological backing. But whether it be hard drugs, soft drugs, legal or illicit, drug addiction is a widespread epidemic that is ravaging our country.

Alcohol, nicotine, and illicit drug abuse are extremely costly to our country, demanding more than $740 billion annually in expenses related to crime, health care, and lost work productivity. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, in 2014, 21.5 million Americans battled substance abuse disorders. Also, nearly 80% of those who struggled with substance abuse disorders in 2014, struggled with alcohol abuse disorder.

Also according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, in 2013 only 10.9 percent of people who needed specialized, professional treatment for substance abuse or dependency concerns actually received it.

A Forever Recovery Can Help You Overcome Addiction

Don’t be a statistic, get the help you or your loved one needs. Help is a phone call away. To learn more about how to overcome addiction and kick the habit of hard and soft drugs, contact A Forever Recovery today.  We offer an evidence-based treatment approach that includes counseling, skills training, nutrition, and education.  Our goal is to help you heal mentally, physically, and spiritually for lifelong recovery.  Our team of skilled and compassionate counselors and staff are available 24/7 to assist our patients when needed.  Also, we offer program options that allow patients to create a personalized treatment plan.


  • en.wikipedia.org – Gateway Drug Theory
  • verywellmind.com – The Differences Between Hard and Soft Drugs

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