Substances fall into four categories:
- Chemicals: These are pharmacologically-active small chemical compounds (toxins, pharmaceuticals, chemical drugs) that have been produced by chemical synthesis, nanotech fabrication, or enzymatic biosynthesis in (transgenic) organisms. They include naturally-occurring drugs from known species of (exo-)flora and fauna, endotoxins produced by biological organisms, enhancements of endogenic substances (designer drugs), and de novo developments designed for a specific medical or recreational application. Chemical drugs affect only biological morphs and pods.
- Biologicals: These include peptides, hormones, and biologically-based substances like biotoxins, bacteria, and viral organisms—drugs devised or based on naturally-occurring endogenic biological substances. This category also includes infectious biological organisms that can produce drug-like effects, like virii and bacteria. Biologicals affect biomorphs and pods but not synthetic morphs or infomorphs.
- Nanodrugs: These are temporary nanobot colonies programmed to create a certain effect. While nanobots are generally able to target or infect all morph types except infomorphs, exactly which morphs are affected usually depends on the pre-programmed effect (i.e., whether it targets a biological or mechanical mechanism).
- Electronic: Electronic drugs include software and technology that affect the brain directly, such as manipulative XP programs or retro-tech like transcranial magnetic stimulation or cranial electrotherapy. It also includes narcoalgorithms—programs that reproduce drug-like effects for AIs, infomorphs, and egos residing in cyberbrains.
There are number of vectors by which a substance may be applied to a morph.
- Dermal (D): This drug or toxin is absorbed via the skin (or exterior hull with some nanotoxins) as either a gas, liquid, or solid (e.g., paste). Slap patches and slap bands are commonly used, loaded with the chemical DMSO, which transfers the drug through the skin.
- Inhalation (INH): This is a gas that is breathed into the lungs or snorted nasally. Used for inhalers, aerosols, powders, and gas grenades/seekers.
- Injected (INJ): This liquid is applied via either an intramuscular or intravenous injection. Used for needles and piercing weapons.
- Oral (O): This is a liquid or solid that is absorbed through the stomach or oral cavity (eating or drinking). Used with pills and liquids.
If a character is exposed to a drug via its method of application—for example, they pop a pill, slap on a dermal patch, are soaked with a splash grenade, breathe in gas, or get stabbed with a coated weapon—then they are subject to the drug’s effects. The onset time determines how long these effects take to kick in, and the duration determines how long they last.
While there is no resistance test to ignore a drug or toxin’s effects once exposed, in some cases (especially toxins) a test might be called for to determine the severity of the effects.
Unless otherwise noted or specifically overridden, Medichines will protect a character from drug/toxin effects (but not nanodrugs/nanotoxins). Enhancements like Toxin Filters may also impede a drug’s effect or provide complete resistance. If an antidote is taken in advance or before the effects kick in, the drug will not work.
Addiction and Substance Abuse
Some drugs are addictive, either physically (affecting the morph) or mentally (affecting the ego)—and sometimes both. Every time a character uses the drug (or after an appropriate amount of use, as determined by the gamemaster), they must make a WIL x 3 Test to avoid addiction. Each drug has an Addiction Modifier that will modify this test.
Failure indicates that the character has become addicted—they immediately acquire the Addiction negative trait (p. 148). Addiction is measured in three levels: Minor, Moderate, and Major. The severity determines how often an addicted character needs the drug and what the negative effects of not using the drug are.
An addicted character must continue to make WIL x 3 Tests as they use the drug, as determined by the gamemaster. Failure indicates the character’s addiction severity increases.
The negative effects from not using a drug end whenever the character does the drug again. Durability and Lucidity penalties are not damage, but temporary decreases to the character’s maximum values; the character immediately regains the lost Durability or Lucidity when they do the drug again.
Addiction is of indefinite duration. To clean up, the character must stay off the drug for 1 week for each level of addiction. Resisting this craving is difficult, and should at least require another WIL x 3 Test, modified by the drug’s Addiction modifier. Players and gamemasters are encouraged to roleplay an attempt to kick a habit. Each week the character is off the drug, the addiction drops by one level. When it reaches 0, the character is clean ... though there is always danger of a relapse.
Physical addictions do not carry over to a new morph if the character resleeves, but mental addictions do. If the character uploads and resleeves, the mental addictions persist, and the morph the character leaves behind remains physically addicted.
This means that poor or unlucky characters may occasionally find themselves resleeved into a morph that has a physical addiction. In this case, the character is subject to the physical addictiveness of the drug but not the mental addiction, although if they break down and indulge in the drug, they may themself become physically addicted.
Characters who resleeve as infomorphs can remain mentally addicted to a substance despite no longer having a body. The market is always happy to provide, though; a wide variety of narcoalgorithms mirroring the effects of most of the drugs described below are available for infomorphs and AIs. For the infomorphported narcoalgorithm version of any physicallyonly addictive drug described below, consider the Addictiveness to be effectively physical. The character remains addicted as long as they are an infomorph, but they do not remain addicted if they sleeve into a physical morph.