Attention TV writers: There is no such psychoactive controlled substance as "drugs"

There are many such, and each affects its users very differently from the others. So let’s never hear again how a character is doing “drugs” or has a problem with “drugs” or this bag contains “drugs” without further specification, shall we? I mean, what is this shit, springfieldozine?

Right! For us non-Americans, I always have to take from the contents if they mean prescription drugs or the other kind. I always have to make a little mental adjustment when a drug store is mentioned.

I support this rant. For pete’s sake, you wrote a whole script already so just make up a name and some effects. “Your Honor, the suspect was using zenegrifid, known on the street as Black Wings, which is known for making the user violent and delusional.”

Most drug names look like someone just picked 15 random letters out of a hat anyway.

ETA it’s like when someone on a TV show goes into a bar and orders “a beer.” Make up a name, writers! It’s your job!

It’s a perfectly legitimate usage, and there’s absolutely no justification to be bothered by it.

“Drug” is defined by the OED as

First cite is from 1668.

So it shows that the writers have read a dictionary, but you haven’t.

It is part of the language because it’s a useful term, and the person speaking doesn’t necessarily know what drugs the person is using, nor is the particular drug relevant, anyway. It’s reflecting how people actually speak, which is the job of a writer.

“What kind of drugs, Denny!??”

The reason “drugs” is lazy writing is that there’s a difference between pot and heroin.

“Becky’s on drugs! Omigod!”
“Wait, is Becky sneaking out to smoke pot by the bleachers during study hall, or is she turning tricks for crack?”
“Beats me, she’s on drugs!”
“So pot, cocaine, heroin, whatever, it’s all drugs.”

Yea, I find it a weird complaint as well. I don’t live in a TV show, but I hear IRL people use the term “drugs” in the sense the OP is complaining about pretty frequently. Obviously in some settings you want to be more specific, but generally “drugs” seems to work well enough for plenty of people outside the TV world.

But then, reality has crappy writers.

Ooh, the OP hasn’t read a dictionary! The writers I want to read use the language in a more interesting way.

Practically speaking, when talking about drugs, people usually are more specific (unless they are utterly clueless); there are considerable differences between heroin, cocaine, marijuana, prescription drugs, yohimbe, ecstasy, etc. And I didn’t learn that from the OED…

No, I’m not on board with this complaint. There are some situations in which it matters what kind of drugs a character is doing, and plenty where it doesn’t matter or the characters wouldn’t know.

Is it? In my personal experience, no one ever talks about “doing drugs,” or “getting drugs,” or so-and-so being a “drug addict.” They talk about what specific substance they’re using. They “smoke pot,” or “get some 'shrooms,” or “is a meth addict.” Outside of policy and law enforcement debates (and Hollywood) I don’t usually hear people refer to “drugs” without any further elaboration or specificity.

I agree with the OP. Saying they found drugs is like saying the defendant is accused of committing crime.

On the next Law and Order: He’s a criminal, he is doing crime. Let’s arrest him and charge him for crime.

Writers can’t be more specific, lest they be suspected of having first-hand knowledge.

Yeah, nobody would ever suspect a Hollywood screenwriter of doing drugs.

Just to add another data point, I frequently hear people talk like that.

In my experience, it is not uncommon to hear of someone (or someone’s parent/kid/neighbor) having a “drug problem” or being a “drug addict.” Sure, in certain settings those terms might prompt a follow up question, like, 'what kind of drugs?" but the fact remains, I have frequently heard folks refer to “drug addiction/problems,” especially when being intenitonally vague.

Of course there is a bit of a chicken-or-the-egg question – do folks talk like that because they hear it on TV? Certainly the folks who say it ironically do.

Although, I agree that it is silly in the context of a police procedural to think a cop would inventory a “bag of drugs,” I have no problem thinking that a cop would talk about a “drug bust” or a “drug dealer” or that a prosecuter might says someone was holding drugs.

Hey, what are you doing? Nobody talks like that!

On that note: Dear Mr. Police Officer. If the suspect is carrying a pound of cocaine in his car, you did not confiscate “narcotics” from him. Narcotics are drugs which put you to sleep or make you drowsy. Cocaine is not a narcotic. Methamphetamine is not a narcotic. Heroin is a narcotic. But this battle is perhaps lost.

The “drugs” thing doesn’t bother me, but I always notice when a TV show character walks into a bar and says, “I’ll have a beer” (sometimes it’s “I’ll have a draft”). I’ve been a regular at several bars during the 19 years that I’ve been drinking legally, and I have never in my life asked for “a beer”* or “a draft.” If the bartender knows what you drink they’ll either simply hand you one or they’ll confirm your order (“Stella?”) before handing you one. I get that the writers don’t want to/can’t name a particular brand, but it bugs me every time.
*I did once say “beer me” to my favorite bartender, but it was my third or fourth one and I was making a Cheers joke.

It’s a perfectly legitimate usage, and there’s absolutely no justification to be bothered by it.

“Beer” is defined by the Merriam-Webster online dictionary as

Which is clearly the sort of beverage one would expect to find in a bar.

So it shows that the writers have spent time hanging out with RealityChuck and reading the dictionary, but you haven’t.

I’ve seen plenty of counterexamples. “My daughter started doing drugs” or “I started doing drugs and messed up my life.” Here’s ayoutube video that uses the phrase. Here is Doctor Phil using the phrase (I’m not a fan of his, but he does use the phrase). Here’s someone asking about her daughter.

It’s all very well to say “smoke pot” if you know they’re smoking pot, but if you don’t know what drugs someone is using, would you say “smoke pot” or “is a meth addict” or “getting 'shrooms”? “Doing drugs” is used when you don’t know exactly what a person is taking. It’s the generic term to mean “taking some sort of illegal drug.”


I was racking my brain, trying to think of an insult that wouldn’t get me warned, but you nailed it. Bravo.