Virtual Drugs

Virtual drugs
Image from Bernd Helfert

Virtual drugs (known colloquially as 'Drugware', 'Happy Code', 'Highnary', and 'E-gasm') are software constructs that can be uploaded by the user through their direct neural interface implants. Once uploaded, the drugs usually operate either by interfering with the users onboard computational and sensory enhancements or their artificial immune system. This interference is tailored to produce pleasurable feelings of relaxation, disorientation, hallucinations, and occasionally endorphin or adrenalin releases. One such software-construct which was developed in the early days of virtual sensory stimulation is Virtuhol, a simulation of the experience of alcohol intoxication, which can be be followed by a virtual hangover if desired.

In their more advanced or expensive forms, virtual drugs may require the user to add additional interface or bio-sensory packages to their normal bio-cybernetic enhancement systems. This is intended to provide the user with even greater pleasure and experience when under the influence of the drug.

Of course for a virtual entity all drug use, and in fact all natural mood-altering effects normally produced by endocrine secretions (such as the 'adrenaline rush') are produced by virtual simulation of those sensations. Software constructs of this kind are frequently used by cyborgs and vecs to emulate the effects of endocrine secretions, hormones and hedonistic drug use when required.

The use of virtual drugs offers a number of dangers, primarily because in order to access and use them a sophont must disable the protective systems designed specifically to prevent the very effects the virtual drugs offer. It is not uncommon for habitual users of the most powerful drugware to so overtax their biological systems as to result in reduced function or even system failure.

In addition, by disabling their personal software defenses and immune system controllers, the user runs the risk of entry by hostile virusware or even parasitical a-life or AI entities that might attempt to take over the users mind or body. In extreme cases, such entities may present themselves as drugware in their own right, tricking the user into providing ready access to a hostile codeform intent on wiping their mind and taking over their body, or perverting their biosystems in bizarre and often painful ways in pursuit of some alien and ahuman aesthetic that defies modosophont comprehension.

V-drugs have varying levels of acceptance across and beyond the Civilized Galaxy. Many polities allow infrequent or low level use of the drugs and frown only on their excessive use or use of the more extreme forms. Others ban them altogether and in some cases will go so far as to employ transapient or transavant level enforcement systems to prevent their dissemination and spread through the local civilization. Only in the core NoCoZo systems are such drugs entirely unregulated and even there social acceptance pressures and high insurance and medical premiums assessed against known users may act as a sort of 'virtual anti-drug'.

Appears in Topics
Development Notes
Text by Todd Drashner with some additions by Steve Bowers

Initially published on 09 October 2006.