Despite law enforcement's best efforts and intentions, it appears unlikely that humans will stop using drugs anytime soon -- no matter how long or hard the drug war is waged.
However, all that energy and resources haven't been expended for nothing.
There has been a shift in recent years. Use of marijuana, heroin, cocaine, and other plant-based drugs is down, according to a new United Nations report released this week. But the use of fake drugs -- that is, synthetic cannabis and methamphetamine -- is on the rise everywhere, on every continent and among young people.
Yes: fake weed is back, and with it a surge in meth use just for good measure. That's the drug war at work, y'all.
Why are fake drugs exploding in popularity? The simplest explanation is usually the best one, and the UN keeps it simple: concocting new chemical cocktails is an easy way to stay ahead of law enforcement, keep people high, and keep making money.
The UN has a few acronyms that may not make sense to the average American weekend drug user. They are ATS, for amphetamine-type stimulant (like meth) and NPS, for new psychoactive substance (like "synthetic cathinones," which is fake ecstasy).
Fun facts, but all you need to know is this: seizures of ATS, including meth, have increased 80 percent over the last two years, and there were 97 "new" synthetic drugs identified in 2013 alone. There are 348 total varieties of NPS around the world, according to the UN -- and none of them are under international control.
Among these new synthetic drugs are dozens of new strains of fake weed, the plant materials sprayed with a chemical mix in order to create a buzz for the user. There are now 110 different kinds of synthetic cannabinoids out there, some of which can give the user a stroke (as opposed to making you want to stroke your cat like real weed does).
Synthetic cannabinoids are possibly the worst outcome of the global war on weed. Here you have a naturally occurring plant with demonstrated medical benefits that, since it's hard to find, is being replaced by unscrupulous entrepreneurs with a chemistry set. They are about as healthy as bath salts, and just as fun.
Spice is illegal in the United States and in California. But since it's hard to ban a plant -- as the war on marijuana has shown -- and even harder to ban any kind of organic material that's then sprayed with a random mix of chemicals, the problem persists, and seems to center among youth.
Among North American teens, fake weed is the second-most used drug after cannabis, the UN found. About the only nice thing you can say about it is that at least it isn't meth -- but looking at the worldwide numbers, it's clear both are readily handy.
One last tibdit that's interesting to certain international travelers: khat is starting to trickle in to North America. A plant that's been chewed in social settings in the Horn of Africa and Arabia for an eternity, khat is a stimulant that raises the spirits and quells the appetite. It's bad for your teeth and can be addictive -- but again, at least it's not fake weed.