Every species has been using drugs since
before their own written history. The
first drugs were chemical compounds
found in plants or fungi. Herbalism is the
practice of extracting these compounds
into forms suitable to give to patients.
As technology advanced, people gained
better understandings of the
purification of active compounds and what they did. New synthetic drugs, which are often based on compounds extracted from nature, are modified to enhance desired effects and reduce undesired ones.

There are three general categories of drug, based on availability: legal and unregulated, legal but regulated, and illegal.

There are five recognized methods for delivery of drugs in general: oral, injection, contact, aerosol, and implant. These delivery methods are explained below.

Oral (Pill)
The simplest method of taking drugs is to swallow them. The most common form for oral medication is in pill form, although liquid form is not uncommon. This is suitable for some analgesics, antibiotics, hormone-based drugs such as contraceptives, recreational drugs, and many poisons. Other drugs are neutralized by the stomach or not absorbed into the bloodstream. Depending on robustness, nano may be able to overcome these problems and navigate to the tissues where they can operate. Oral drugs have the advantage that unskilled patients can self-administer them. They are also easy to give to others, either with consent or surreptitiously. Knockout drugs in particular are a common item to slip into an enemy’s food or drink.

Many drugs are most effective if injected. Injections can be intravenous (into a vein), intramuscular (into muscle tissue), or subcutaneous (into subskin fat deposits). Intravenous injections rapidly spread the drug throughout the body, giving a short onset time before it becomes effective; most drugs are suitable for this method. Intramuscular and subcutaneous injections result in slower assimilation of the drug over a longer time, and are used for vaccines and regulatory drugs such as insulin that must be taken periodically.

Some drugs can be absorbed into the skin. This works for corticosteroids and other anti-inflammatory drugs. The compound dimethyl sulfoxide is often used as a carrier for topical drugs, as it penetrates deeply and rapidly into biological tissue, taking other compounds with it. Topical drugs are easy to apply, resulting in localized effect or slow diffusion much like subcutaneous injections. Contact drugs can also be used for nefarious purposes, by applying a cream or ointment to a surface that a victim is likely to touch. In many cases the target of this action may be aware of an oily feel to the surface. Whether the victim interprets this observation correctly depends on his experience with contact drugs and his paranoia level.

Drugs may be delivered via inhaler or (in some cases) even as a gas. They’re generally double cost if they have be inhaled, or 10 times cost if they are aerosol contact agents that can penetrate the skin. Inhaled agents may be smoked as a cigarette or pipe, often taking at least 10 seconds to take effect, or delivered via an inhaler with immediate effect. A one-dose inhaler is $1 (not counting the drug), with neglible weight.

This is essentially a variation on the injection method. Some patients need a drug to be delivered at regular intervals, while others require it on demand, controlled by automatic body chemistry monitoring. And some people would like a convenient drug delivery system that could be triggered at will, for performance enhancing or recreational drugs. These requirements can be met by an implant. A standard drug implant system is a reservoir of the drug and a release mechanism. Most rely on the natural rate of osmosis across a barrier to deliver a steady dose. More sophisticated designs may be triggered either by an internal timer, a biochemical monitor, other computer implant, or external stimulation by physical pressure or electromagnetic signal. Depending on the drug, the implant can deliver it intravenously or intramuscularly. The disadvantage of such an implant is that the supply of drug can run out. When this occurs, typically another operation will be required to replace it. A more sophisticated implant may be refillable with a targeted hypodermic injection into the drug reservoir.


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