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Several groups of chemicals have been implicated as causes of disease.

Chemicals of Abuse

Ethyl alcohol, tobacco, and psychotropic drugs such as narcotics, cocaine, amphetamines, sedatives, marijuana, and so forth are common drugs of abuse. Drug abuse is an age-old problem (Table 12-1). The list of drugs of abuse grows as so-called designer drugs are developed in an attempt to increase the range of psychotropic effects provided by other licit and illicit drugs.

Table 12–1. Drug Abuse in Religion and Ritual.

Therapeutic Drugs

Prescribed drugs may also cause injury through adverse side effects or drug interactions, overdosage, improper use, etc.

Industrial & Agricultural Chemicals

Metals, insecticides, herbicides, and many chemicals produced as by-products of industrial processes and disposed of at toxic waste sites constitute a major public health hazard. Toxic waste has contaminated groundwater supplies and fauna in some areas. Various toxic chemicals are also present as constituents of common household products such as insecticides, cleaners, and detergents.

Voluntary Abuse

Addicts voluntarily use habituating substances because of physiologic or psychologic dependence. Psychotropic drugs are also used sporadically by nonaddicts as a means of either escaping reality or experiencing unusual sensory phenomena.

Suicide or Homicide

Drugs may be taken or surreptitiously administered with suicidal or homicidal intent. The types of drugs used for these purposes vary with locale as well as with time—eg, arsenic was commonly used for murder and suicide in Roman times, whereas insecticides, cyanide, carbon monoxide, sedatives, and acet-aminophen are more commonly used today.

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