Drugs manufactured in a lab are known as synthetic drugs. Sometimes they may be called designer drugs or club drugs. They have been made to mimic the effects of other drugs, like cocaine or marijuana, derived from plants. Synthetic drugs can be much more potent than other drugs, and they may contain unknown chemicals that can be dangerous or even deadly. The bulk of these drugs come from outside the United States.
Some synthetic drugs offer medicinal uses, but more have been created for non-medical and illegal reasons. These types of illicit drugs provide psychedelic and psychoactive effects for users. The feelings of euphoria they provide encourage people to abuse them.
Synthetic drugs get divided into two categories based on their chemical compositions — cannabinoids and stimulants. Synthetic cannabinoids copy the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, THC. Sold initially under the name Spice, synthetic forms of marijuana first appeared in Europe in 2004 and in the U.S. in 2008.
Synthetic stimulants mimic the effects of such drugs as cocaine, LSD, and methamphetamine. Bath salts, the most common synthetic stimulants, were first synthesized in France in the late 1920s. The abuse of bath salts began in the former Soviet Union during the 1930s and 1940s, and they first gained popularity in America in the 1990s. U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has estimated more than 200-plus synthetic stimulants and 90-plus synthetic cannabinoid compounds are available. Examples of these include:
Many synthetic cannabinoids are often sold as natural products or even as herbal incense in convenience stores or tobacco shops. The manufacturers regularly adjust the chemical compositions of their drugs to evade new laws labeling them as illegal.
Common brand names for this type of synthetic drug include Spice, K2, Kronic, Skunk, Blaze, Red X Dawn, Genie, and Zohai. Synthetic forms of marijuana produce both short- and long-term effects on a person’s mind and body. In the short term, these can include:
Over time, users may experience various dangerous and life-threatening side effects. Acute kidney injury has been linked to synthetic cannabinoids, as well as problems with memory, confusion, and paralysis. It is possible to become addicted to synthetic marijuana and experience withdrawal symptoms. These can include cravings, nightmares, heavy sweating, nausea, tremors, headaches, extreme tiredness, insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting, and more.
Synthetic stimulants are manufactured as powders. They are sold in small plastic bags or foil packages labeled “not safe for human consumption.” These drugs may be snorted, injected, swallowed, or smoked. The most common type of synthetic stimulant is bath salts, which is sold under dozens of different brand names, such as:
Bath salts mimic the psychoactive effect of drugs like LSD or cocaine. They are legally sold at gas stations, head shops, convenience stores, or truck stops. The short-term effects associated with these drugs include:
Bath salts also cause a range of physical effects, including:
Over a longer period, bath salts may lead to kidney damage and failure, liver damage, a breakdown of skeletal muscle tissue, brain swelling, and death.
According to WebMD, about 12% of teens and young adults have tried Molly, a form of MDMA or ecstasy. Molly can be snorted or consumed as a capsule, tablet or liquid. Many young people mistakenly believe that Molly is not dangerous, but it has been linked to overdoses and deaths, as well as issues like severe muscle tension, seizures, dangerous overheating, memory loss, depression, and anxiety.
MDMA first became popular in clubs and at all-night dance parties or raves. Other club or party drugs include GHB (Gamma-hydroxybutyrate), also known as G and Liquid Ecstasy, Ketamine, also known as Special K and K, Rohypnol, also known as Roofies, Methamphetamine, also known as Speed, Ice, and Meth. Molly produces the following feelings because it is chemically similar to both stimulants and hallucinogens:
The name Molly is slang for “molecular” because of the so-called “pure” crystalline powder form of MDMA, which is typically sold in capsule form.
Because this drug promotes feelings of closeness and trust, it can encourage unsafe sexual behavior, thereby increasing a person’s risk of contracting or transmitting a sexually transmitted disease. Other side effects of MDMA or Molly include:
Synthetic opioids are most often behind opioid-involved overdose deaths today. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 82% of these deaths are caused by a form of synthetic opioid. The most common and dangerous synthetic opioid is fentanyl. This drug is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.
Originally, fentanyl was prescribed to help cancer patients manage their pain. Abuse of the drug soon occurred. Today, other drugs, such as heroin, often contain fentanyl to increase the drug’s potency. Many users aren’t aware that what they are purchasing has been laced with fentanyl, which is behind many of the resulting overdose deaths. Much of the illegal fentanyl in America is manufactured in Mexico.
Common street names for fentanyl include:
In the short term, fentanyl creates feelings of euphoria. It will also slow a user’s respiration and reduce their blood pressure. Other side effects include:
Manufactured to replicate the effects of heroin, krokodil is pronounced crocodile because it can cause users’ skin to turn green or black and scaly. Users may also develop gangrene and lose body parts as a result. Another side effect of krokodil causes a person’s flesh to rot down to the bone. It may also be sold under the names Russian Magic, Crocodile, Krok, or Croc. It is often referred to as the “drug that eats junkies,” “Russia’s deadly designer drug,” the “flesh eating” or “flesh rotting” drug.
Krokodil is made from mixing codeine with various household cleaners such as paint thinner or gasoline. Its main ingredient is desomorphine, a synthetic derivative of morphine. Users administer the drug as a shot, and it produces a high that is much stronger than what occurs from morphine. The drug is already responsible for an epidemic in Russia, where its use was first reported in Siberia in 2002 before it moved on to European countries and then the U.S.
Beyond Bath Salts and forms of synthetic marijuana, other major types of synthetic drugs include a synthetic version of PCP known as MXE or Methoxamine. These drugs result in delusions, psychoses, and a detached effect. A synthetic form of LSD, sold under the street names N-bomb or Smiles, was developed by a German chemist in 2003. Like LSD, users of synthetic LSD experience hallucinations and paranoia.
Short-term mental and physical effects that can occur from taking N-bomb include:
Over a more extended period of use, N-bomb use may result in persistent and severe anxiety and depression, which may last for months or years. Other potential long-term side effects are visual hallucinations in the form of trailing colors, widely distorted visual images, color flashes, possible kidney failure, and death.
An average N-bomb dose is considered to be about 750 micrograms, which is the equivalent of six grains of regular table salt. The drug comes in liquid, a powder, or on soaked blotter paper. It can be placed under the tongue to be absorbed, injected, smoked in a powder form, inhaled as a vapor, or inserted in the rectum. Because an average dose is so tiny, it is very easy to overdose on N-bomb.
Other street names N-bomb can be sold under are:
No medications have been approved to treat addiction to the different forms of synthetic drugs. The most successful treatment strategies currently are targeted behavioral therapies and counseling.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT, has proven effective in treating various problems, including addiction. It is a type of psychological treatment that works to change a person’s thinking patterns. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), CBT is based on these core principles:
Another form of therapy that can prove beneficial for synthetic drug addiction is motivational enhancement therapy or MET. This counseling approach helps individuals who may be ambivalent about treatment or stopping their drug use. MET works to create rapid and internally motivated change. It aims to inspire change by helping people understand the effects of their drug use and therefore feel more capable of achieving and maintaining their recovery.
MET focuses on five key motivational principles:
MET works quickly, typically in four to six sessions. This form of therapy also encourages individuals to explore coping strategies and encourages their commitment to making a change.
Finally, participation in a 12-step self-help group may help someone overcome and manage their addiction to synthetic drugs.
Synthetic drugs continue to multiply, making effective regulation difficult. The unpredictability of the formulas of these designer or club drugs makes them especially dangerous for young people and adults.
A dual diagnosis treatment center for addicts, Aftermath Addiction Treatment Center was founded by recovering addicts. Providing and utilizing proven clinical and medical approaches and techniques to assist in recovery, we stand apart thanks to our treatment planning, which begins and ends with the most crucial ingredients: love, empathy, and direction.