Hi! I want to create some fictional (perhaps even fantasy-esque) drugs, but I don't even know where to start. Any help would be greatly appreciated!
Firstly, the drugs need to do something good that “hooks” people. No one’s going to keep taking a drug that sends them to the twelfth plane of torment or one that makes them totally colorblind. You can sort most drug effects into four categories:
- Happy (MDMA, heroin). The user experiences extreme euphoria and contentment. This may be accompanied by feelings of kinship with those around them and diminished anxiety. Users may achieve a transcendental state. It may also reduce inhibitions.
- High (cocaine, alcohol). Users experience a burst of energy, confidence, and feelings of sexual prowess. Inhibitions are reduced. Users sometimes become more aggressive.
- Mellow (marijuana). User feels calm and relaxed. Everything feels “taken care of”. Again, may induce transcendental state. The user will also experience mild euphoria and anxiety will diminish.
- Trippy (LSD, shrooms). Significant alteration of sensory perception. People may see halos around objects or believe solid surfaces are wobbling. Shrooms reportedly increase one’s sensitivity to sound. Time loses meaning. Users lose sense of self.
Theoretically, you could make fantasy drugs for any desirable human emotion, like the feeling of being full, orgasm, confidence, love, and satisfaction.
Secondly, where does the drug come from?
- Natural. Like shrooms, opium, or cannabis, it must be grown and harvested. Who farms it? Is it illegal to farm? What kind of plant is it? Where does it grow best?
- Manufactured. Like MDMA and LSD, it’s made in a lab. Who makes it? What ingredients is it made of? Does an organization control its manufacture?
- Magic. The drug is actually a spell and someone has to cast it on you.
Related is how the drug gets from the lab/farm to you. Who controls the trade? How far away is it? All of this will affect the price.
Thirdly, how do you take it?
- Inhaling. Includes methods like smoking, where the drug is rolled into a thin cylinder and placed between the lips; you inhale to feel the effects. Also included are practices like huffing, where you inhale noxious chemicals from a container.
- Drinking. Self-explanatory. You can also anally imbibe drinks to hasten the effects.
- Injecting. Put it in a needle and stick it in a blood vessel. The drug goes right into the blood stream.
- Swallowing. The drug comes in a pill, like ecstasy. You swallow it and digesting it will give you the full effects. You could also eat it, like most psychedelic mushrooms.
- Absorbing. The body has several areas where blood vessels lie close to the surface of the skin. Applying the drug to the area will allow it to diffuse into the bloodstream. These areas are: the nose (snorting), the mouth (chewing/dipping tobacco), and the rectum (anally imbibing alcohol).
Fourthly, what are the side effects? There will be side effects unless your magic or technology is advanced to the point at which you can reverse severe neurological damage.
- Mild. Reddened eyes, headache, dehydration, dry mouth, nausea, sweating, hunger, loss of appetite
- Moderate. Memory loss, insomnia, diarrhea, vertigo, suggestibility, vomiting, hearing loss
- Severe. Necrosis, muscle rigidity, convulsions, bad trips, physical disfigurement (eg “meth mouth”), psychosis, HPPD
- Chronic. Depression, suicidal thoughts, anxiety, dependence on the drug, irritability, fatigue, rage
- Way down the road. Cancer, emphysema, COPD, heart problems, lung problems, liver problems, kidney problems, Parkinson’s, stroke, high blood pressure
If your drug is fantastical, then it has more variety as to the side effects. For example, it turns green-eyed people into rabbits, slowly turns one’s stomach to stone, causes users to go back in time, and has a 2% chance of exploding your head.
Fifthly, how does the culture view it?
- Illegal. No one can use it for any reason. In which case, the drugs will be controlled by an illegal group like a gang or cartel. There will be harsh laws against its manufacture and spread. People who don’t take the drug will look down on people who do.
- Illegal with exceptions. It’s been shown to aid things like concentration or alleviate the symptoms of that disease. People who can use this drug must obtain it from special makers and carry permission with them at all times.
- Legal with exceptions. Like alcohol and tobacco in the US, you can buy it and use it in most areas. However, you can’t buy it if you’re under a certain age, can’t use it in buildings, and you can get in trouble if you use it at the wrong time (drinking and driving).
- Legal. Everyone can use it. There are no restricts on when, where, how, or who.
- Spiritual. The drug is used as part if a religious experience. Only those undergoing such an experience can take it. The drug is a gateway to another world, frees the conscience, or some other esoteric thing.
Finally, how does that affect society? You should consider,
- How much it costs. Illegality and the amount of time/money it takes to manufacture will affect pricing. It may also vary by the time of year. For example, if it’s natural, then maybe the drug is cheapest immediately after the harvesting season and really expensive during the winter, when it’s impossible to grow. You also need to factor in how people will get the money to buy the drug, such as stealing or prostitution.
- Support groups. People will get hooked. How can they get off? Family and friends will certainly try their best, as most drugs do not improve your working or home life. Are they the only methods of support or are there rehab organizations as well?
- Laws and their enforcement. (Don’t look at this is if your drug is totally legal or legal with exceptions.) There will be laws against its use. How are they enforced? Do the laws go after distributers as well as consumers? How are the consumers treated in court - as criminals or as victims?
- Who takes it. In our world, most illegal drug users are lower-income. It’s “shocking” when someone of the middle or upper class is addicted to drugs. The lower-class reputation has led to other classes looking down on drug users as poor, filthy, and needy; and on the lower-class as drug-addicted degenerates. If the upper class took it, then perhaps taking the drug would be the cool thing to do and being high/stoned/buzzed would be a status symbol. Only peasants have lucid thoughts; true nobles don’t know what they’re doing 90% of the time.
- Media. The US government banned smoking ads featuring Camel Cigarettes’ mascot, Joe the Camel, in 1997 because he appealed to children and people don’t like their kids lighting up. You don’t see too many cigarette ads in the US anymore. On the other hand, the media glorifies alcohol. Drinking makes you a man. Drinking makes you sexy. Many can’t wait (or don’t wait) to turn 21 and engage in this manly, sexy world of alcohol. So please, please remember that how the drug is presented will affect who consumes it.