Synthetic Drugs BLOG

The widespread use of illicit drugs continues to plague the world. Apart from the more commonly abused drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and prescription medication, synthetic drugs have also become popularly used for recreational purposes. In this article, we will look into the dangers associated with the use of synthetic drugs.

The creation of synthetic drugs has ultimately increased the risk of drug users succumbing to more serious health problems, Authorities are continuously finding better ways to spot illegal manufacturing, distribution, and trade of these drugs. In short, synthetic drug abuse has emerged as a major health concern in the country.

What are synthetic drugs?

Synthetic drugs are substances created using man-made chemicals instead of natural components. Most of them are made up of a mixture of chemicals, making the potential risks much higher.

Synthetic drugs may also come in the form of designer drugs. This is a synthetic version of an illegal drug that has been slightly altered to avoid having it classified as illegal. It is an experimented combination of chemicals done to create a new drug that can be sold “legally” either online or in physical stores, allowing dealers to create a profit without breaking the law.

Some law enforcers are able to intercept this kind of drug trade. When these seized drugs are proven to be harmful, drug manufacturers can simply develop altered versions to steer clear of the law.

Some of these drugs are labeled as herbal smoking blends, some are disguised as “not for human consumption”, and others appear like food supplements. Most of these synthetic drugs are also known with various street names to prevent the authorities from recognizing them easily. Once a street name has become popular and reaches the authorities, a new street name is conceived.

Synthetic Drugs Examples

There is an increasing demand for synthetic drugs, and the components developed are rapidly growing in numbers. What’s worse is that it is highly unlikely to determine the identity and concentration of compounds that the user is taking because synthetic drugs are usually sold without proper label. As a result, different effects may be experienced by the user.

There are also instances wherein users are buying a particular drug, but drug traders mix them with other drug metabolites, which can become extremely dangerous. Drug traders and dealers do this to increase their profit, since the drugs are not in their pure form anymore.

Most Common Synthetic Drugs

A number of synthetic drugs on the market today have become favorites of teens and young adults. These synthetic drugs are sold much cheaper compared to other illicit drugs and can mimic the effects of certain potent drugs.

There has been a rapid growth in the sale and distribution of synthetic drugs over the internet, and it has become extremely popular between the 1990’s and early 2000s. Some variations of synthetic drugs rose quickly during that period. Designer drugs popular during this period are:

  • Anabolic steroids (synthetic variation of testosterone)
  • Ecstasy (stimulant and hallucinogen)
  • Methamphetamine (stimulant)

Several years after, and especially with the increasing popularity of online trading, designer drugs have evolved beyond steroid, opioids, and hallucinogens. These newly developed synthetic drugs have become known to have long-term harmful effects. The dangers of these designer drugs are extremely high since the chemical compositions of these drugs are unpredictable.

Close to a hundred different synthetic cannabinoids are labeled and sold as legal alternatives to marijuana. Years back, when the legal status of marijuana isn’t as widespread as today, drug manufacturers have taken advantage of developing variations to make it look and feel like using marijuana itself. This resulted in a number of individuals becoming hooked from long-term use.

In 2012, more than 50 new synthetic cannabinoids have been identified, compared to only two in 2009. This led to the creation of the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act (SDAPA) to help control the use of these substances. Some of the drugs that were not previously controlled have been classified under Schedule I of the DEA’s Controlled Substance Act of 1970.

The following are the most common designer drugs in recent years:

  • Synthetic marijuana – Known more popularly as K2 Spice, this substance is created by spraying chemicals on herb-like materials. It is designed to mimic the effects of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive ingredient found in natural marijuana. The United States Drug Enforcement Administration placed five chemicals commonly used in developing Spice into Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act in 2011. However, this only pushed drug manufacturers to find new chemicals to create similar effects.
  • 2C family (synthetic hallucinogens)
  • Bath salts – There’s a lot of substance variability, but this product often contains one or more synthetic chemicals related to cathinone. These are designed to produce effects that are similar to stimulant drugs like cocaine, methamphetamine, and cocaine. Abusing this drug can cause heart attacks, kidney and liver failure, panic attacks, paranoia, a breakdown of muscle tissues, and much more severe symptoms.
  • Ecstasy (“Molly”) – This is a synthetic psychoactive drug similar to amphetamines and mescaline. This is usually sold as a powder or pill that can act as either hallucinogen or stimulant. It can cause an elevated heart rate, teeth clenching, heavy sweating, chills, and an abrupt increase in body temperature.
  • Krokodil – This is a less expensive heroin substitute. Like heroin, it is a synthetic morphine derivative.
  • Mephedrone – This compound is commonly found in bath salts.
  • Methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV) – This is another one of the chemicals found in bath salts.
  • Methylone – This is yet another substance commonly found in bath salts.
  • N-BOMe – This is also called “N-Bomb” or “Smiles”. A small dose of N-BOMe can potentially cause a deadly overdose. N-Bomb is often sold as an LSD alternative, or even as LSD, which places the user in such considerable danger.

Health Risks in Using Synthetic Drugs

Users may not be aware just how much danger they are facing every time they use these synthetic drugs. Just by the term itself, synthetic means unnatural. And being unnatural would denote unusual effects which may or may not be apparent immediately after using the drug for a few times.

Synthetic drugs may be taken orally, intravenously or snorted. The effects may differ depending on how the drug was taken.

Pills, Snorting, Injection Graphic

An individual may experience the following:

  • Feelings of exhilaration
  • Prolonged periods of wakefulness
  • Decreased appetite
  • Extreme relaxation
  • Amnesia
  • Feelings of detachment

Unwanted effects of using synthetic drugs may include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Panic attacks
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Feelings of paranoia

It may also be apparent that the user may experience physical effects such as blackouts, nausea, seizure, slurred speech, and dramatic changes in blood pressure. It may also lead to coma or even death.

The signs of abuse associated with designer drug use are similar to those found on users with alcohol or street drugs addiction:

  • Changes in behavior: isolation from family; defensive about drug use
  • Unexplained weight loss or gain
  • Changes in hygiene or personal appearance
  • Confused or disoriented behavior
  • Paranoia
  • Problems with sleeping: insomnia, restlessness, nightmares
  • Stealing money from family members
  • Decline in performance at school or work
  • Trouble maintaining relationships
  • Loss of interest in former friends and activities

There may be also signs that of designer drug abuse when you see the following:

  • Discarded glass vials, or small plastic bags, with traces of white powder
  • Pipes, inhalers or syringes
  • Paranoid or delusional behavior
  • Visual disturbances or hallucinations

The level of toxicity and other associated medical consequence may be difficult to determine due to the uncertain sources, chemicals, and contaminants used to manufacture these designer drugs. Some of these drugs are mixed with alcohol or other illicit drugs that may worsen their side effects.

Using designer drugs may make one care less about everything, which may lead to risky behavior. This can increase the chances that an individual will most likely drive while intoxicated, have unsafe sex or suffer an accidental injury.

One of the downfalls in using designer drugs is its inability to be detected through urinalysis and other screening, which makes it more difficult to measure the intoxication levels.

The dangerous side effects of designer drug use are:

  • Fatal respiratory problems
  • Heart failure
  • High blood pressure
  • Hyperthermia (overheating)
  • Mood changes
  • Physical and psychological addiction
  • Psychotic behavior
  • Seizures
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Coma and even death

The Impact of Designer Drug Use in the Workplace

Under the federal law, certain industries must adhere to mandatory drug testing to ensure that each individual employee can perform his task with optimum efficiency and to maintain a safe environment for everyone. Private companies are not obliged to follow the same ruling when it comes to hiring new employees. However, more and more companies are starting to adopt the same anti-drug policy to ensure health and safety at work.

Workplace Drug Testing Graphic

A large percentage among those working in the transportation, construction, and general services industry are using illicit drugs – both prescription drugs and designer drugs. This poses a great risk on the part of the company, clients, co-workers, and the general public.

The risks of substance abuse in the workplace can lead to the following negative effects:

  • Impaired judgment and decision-making
  • Increased rate of absences
  • Loss of productivity
  • More fatalities and injuries
  • Poor team morale and staff relations
  • Termination of employment
  • Unwanted legal complications

By implementing an Anti-Drug Policy Program, both the company and the employees benefit from it. The increase in productivity increases the trust of clients. It also increases the morale of employees and makes them feel safe being in the workplace.

In addition, it allows the company to help employees who might have been found positive from random drug testing by referring them to rehabilitation centers for treatment.

Drug testing in the workplace may be done in several ways, all of which can help provide a positive environment for everyone. To help fight drug abuse, drug testing is a helpful tool in maintaining a healthy lifestyle and a positive perspective on life.

Legislation Against Synthetic Drug Use

To date, 42 states have banned the sale of synthetic drugs. Similarly, the Drug Enforcement Administration has continued working to ban other specific ingredients used to create these drugs. Unfortunately, manufacturers are able to find other chemicals to quickly get around the law.

The synthetic drug epidemic has reached an alarming point wherein its use has spread widely, and kids as young as 13 years old are easily lured to use them. There is a need to curtail – if not completely eliminate – the manufacture and sale of these designer drugs. Otherwise, there would be an outbreak of drug users suffering from severe medical conditions such as heart problems, kidney and liver failures, and psychological disturbance.