Illegal drugs like heroin, cocaine, marihuana and many others are the source of a good deal of controversy and debate. Too often, however, these discussions are plagued by distortions about illegal drugs and illegal drug users. In this course, then, we will attempt to identify and correct some of these distortions by looking at what the social scientific research says about illegal drugs and their effects and about the extent of illegal drug use and abuse in the United States. We will also consider how the illegal status of drugs contributes to many distortions by looking at how illegal drugs were regarded before they were criminalized as compared to how they came to be regarded after their criminalization. Then, because the illegal status of drugs causes many to see their use as escapist, we will examine and critique some of the theories that have been developed to explain the reasons why people use illegal drugs. We will close by assessing the effectiveness of various policies meant to address the illegal drug problem including those that seek to control and reduce the size of illegal drug markets, those that focus on treatment of illegal drug users and those that promote drug decriminalization and state regulation of drug markets as a solution.