Synthetic drugs are drugs that are made using man-made chemicals instead of natural ingredients. The most heavily abused of these are the “designer drugs” which come in all sorts of mixes and catchy names. They are the most heavily abused because they are replicas (synthetic versions) of drugs that have been classified as illegal but have been altered in the slightest to avoid being considered illegal as well. By doing this, it allows dealers and users to buy and sell the drug without breaking any laws. As fast as law enforcement can catch up with new fads and trends, creators can alter their versions again to steer clear of any lawbreaking.
They also use their packaging to avoid detection by putting abstract labels on them such as:
- Bath Salts
- Herbal Incense
- Smoking Blend
- Plant Food
- Ring Cleaner
- Not for human consumption
One of the most significant dangers to using synthetic drugs is, due to the unlimited number of chemicals that can and are being developed, users of designer drugs would be hard pressed to know what the drugs they partake in actually contain. The smallest changes to any one of the chemicals can and often does result in a completely different drug then was originally intended and can have remarkably various side effects. This means users are almost guaranteed to expect an unpredictable reaction to the substances they try.
Synthetic Drugs – A Real Buzzkill
Joy. Euphoria. Relaxation. Care-free attitude. Increased mental energy. Increased sensory awareness.
All of these things sound enjoyable and downright awesome when you read them as they are listed – and all of these are what individuals who try synthetic drugs are hoping to achieve. Unfortunately, in the quest to find the perfect high, many users don’t stop to look at the statistics or fine print on the drugs they are getting using. The harsh reality of these drugs is that they are extremely dangerous and that a joyous high is an exception, not the norm.
Instead of a care-free and lightweight feeling, you are more likely to experience:
- Altered perceptions
- Extreme anxiety
- Depressive episodes
- Suicidal thoughts
Instead of increased mental energy or heightened sensory awareness, you are more likely to experience:
- Sudden and intense hyperactivity
- Sudden and severe lethargy
- Sudden, unprovoked and extreme angry outbursts
- Physical aggression
On top of the psychological and behavioral symptoms, you will likely have, you may also experience:
- Heart Palpitations
- Chest pain
- Muscle Spasms
- Reduced or highly elevated blood pressure
- Panic attacks
- Catatonic sleepiness
- Heart attack
- Overdose (possibly leading to death)
If that’s not enough to deter you from trying such dangerous substances, there is the effect on your personal life to consider as well. You will likely experience:
- Family conflicts
- Destruction of interpersonal relationships
- Inability to be successful at work or school
- Irreversible cognitive impairment
Synthetic drugs have been around for quite some time. However, according to a 2016 study done by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, over the course of a three year period (2013-2016), the number of synthetic opioid-related deaths spiked drastically. Synthetic drug deaths ranked higher than any other substance in the study including Heroin (15,446), Cocaine (10,619), Methamphetamine (7,663) and Methadone (3,314). Even natural and semi-synthetic opioids were in the top three, coming out at around 14,427 deaths in 2016. The numbers for fully synthetic drugs came out at a staggering 20,145 deaths in 2016. This was an incredible spike over the 2013 figures which had synthetic drug overdose deaths at under 3,000.
The loss of life that stems from drug overdose is heartbreaking at best. More than 64,000 Americans died in 2016 from drug overdose alone, which was nearly double what the losses were a decade earlier. In a desperate attempt to work around the restrictions placed on recreational drug use by the government, those in search of high are getting more and more desperate to find a way around the system. This means synthetic drugs are becoming more dangerous than ever. You don’t have to go far to hear stories of users who have had a brush with death or know someone who has due to the unpredictability of the substances they’ve experimented with.
There are many different street names for these substances, but before we go into a more detailed synthetic drug list, we’re going to break it down into two main categories. The drugs are put into a group based on their chemical composition and are further broken down by name from there.
The first category is Cannabinoids: These are made up of chemicals that mimic the effect of THC, the primary ingredient in Marijuana. The most popular cannabinoid wears two hats but goes by more than a few names. Originally designed to try to replicate the effects of marijuana, but unfortunately, because of the chemicals used it has a tendency to over 100 times more potent than the THC produced in marijuana. This can create vastly different effects when compared with the real thing with the similarities between the two being: the area of the brain affected and that both are smoked. As discussed earlier in this article, the ingredients that create the chemical makeup are continually changing to avoid being labeled as illegal substances, so the users rarely know what it is that they are inhaling.
Spice (also known as K2) – Commonly referred to as the “Zombie drug.” Spice has been known to cause users to stagger around looking lost and muttering to themselves or others before they can’t go any further and finally pass out. It is sold in attractive packaging after being sprayed on to the leaves of plants in hundreds and thousands of variations. People are drawn to it, even knowing how dangerous it can be because it is strong and inexpensive to purchase. Spice can cause strong hallucinations, extreme anxiety, and paranoia.
Spice / K2 is known by several other names as well:
- K2 Drug
- K3 Drug
- Black Mamba
- Yucatan Fire
- Bombay Blue
- Solar Flare
- Fake Weed
The second type of synthetic substances are Stimulants: Most of these are made up of chemical mixtures that mimic the effects of cocaine or methamphetamine. Two of the most commonly found stimulants are Bath Salts and Ecstasy (MDMA). They are marketed with a wide variety of names depending on who is selling them and various slang terms.
Bath Salts – Bath salts are often referred to by their brand name rather than having multiple street names. They are designed to be ingested, snorted, smoked, inhaled or injected and produce a stimulant when used. This particular stimulant has been linked to an alarming spike in ER visits since its inception. Snorting or ingesting “bath salts” can cause some very severe health issues, including but not limited to: chest pain, high blood pressure, agitation, hallucinations, paranoia, and delusions. These symptoms often go hand-in-hand with cravings that are intense, and strong withdrawal symptoms when users stop using the drug.
Synthetic stimulants such as this one can easily disrupt both the dopamine and serotonin production in the user’s body, which affects the brain and the way it manages motivation, mood, and perception.
Some common brand names for “bath salts” are:
- Cloud Nine
- Cosmic Blast
- Ivory Wave
- Lunar Wave
- Vanilla Sky
- White Lightning
- Plant Foods
Ecstasy (MDMA) – Ecstasy targets three brain chemicals:
- Dopamine – increased euphoria and energy
- Norepinephrine – increases heart rate and blood pressure (particularly risky for people with pre-existing heart conditions)
- Serotonin – affects mood, appetite, sleep and other primary functions. It can also affect hormones and trigger feelings of emotional closeness or empathy in users.
High doses of Ecstasy can also affect the body’s ability to regulate temperature, which can lead to high-temperature spikes. These increased temperatures can result in liver, kidney or heart failure, and have also been known to cause death. Due to MDMA’s ability to promote trust or emotional closeness, it can also trigger hormones that affect sexual arousal. As users are less cautious about taking safety measures or being selective about their partners, they are at a higher risk of contracting or transmitting venereal diseases.
Initially this drug was particularly popular in the nightclub scene, and goes by many names:
- Disco Biscuit
- Lover’s Speed
- Hug Drug
- Happy Pill
- Dancing Shoes
- Scooby Snacks
If you have ever considered trying one of these drugs – or others like them – it is essential to keep in mind some authentic facts about these substances:
- They are deadly.
- You will not be in control of your actions.
- You cannot know for sure what is in them.
- People mistakenly think and will tell you they are safe.
- You CAN overdose on them.
- They are NOT like the real thing.
- They are addictive.
- You can still be arrested for using them.
Most hospitals don’t know how to deal with a severe reaction or an overdose of synthetic drugs, as they won’t know what is in the drug that is affecting you any more than you will.