A dirty drug works on more than one system in the body rather than targeting one specific part. For example, a dirty drug may be able to produce changes in your mood and changes to your pain level.

Sometimes, a drug is developed to produce a specific outcome and target a particular part or molecule in the body, which helps reduce the potential side effects of the drug. Other times, drugs are wide-ranging in their targets. They aren’t selective about what receptors they bind with or proteins they influence. Dirty drugs are sometimes called “promiscuous” or “nonselective.”

These qualities don’t mean that dirty drugs are “bad” or ineffective. On the contrary, some researchers believe that the more wide-ranging or polypharmacological the drug’s targets are, the more they could help treat certain diseases.

Dirty drugs also make many off-label uses of medications possible. When a medication is prescribed for off-label use, it is used to treat something other than what was initially approved.

Other Meanings of Dirty Drug

While we’ve discussed the pharmacological definition of a dirty drug, the term is also used to describe street drugs of poor quality. In this context, “poor quality” refers to drugs combined with other, more dangerous, illegal substances.