What Are Synthetic Drugs?
Synthetic drugs, also referred to as designer drugs, street drugs, or party drugs, are man-made substances that are manufactured to chemically resemble illicit drugs.1 Although all drug abuse is dangerous, synthetic drugs are particularly hazardous, as the manufacturers of these drugs are constantly modifying the chemicals used to make them in an effort to skirt U.S. drug laws.
Law enforcement can only move so fast to keep up with these quickly changing chemicals, so many synthetic drugs are sold legally on the internet or in head shops, falsely marketed as incense, baths salts, or plant food. Although they are often labeled “not for human consumption,” they are intended to be used as drugs.
Synthetic drugs were first reported in the U.S. in December of 2008, and today there are hundreds of designer drugs being sold in the United States.2 Authorities are constantly discovering new ones, such as the rare benzodiazepine synthetic drugs that were just found in central Illinois. Local law enforcement says the drugs, flubromazolam and etizolam, were most likely purchased online and then sold by a local dealer, added to candies and sugar cubes.3
Synthetic drugs continue to be a serious threat to public safety, as they have highly unpredictable effects on human behavior and health. In fact, some of the chemicals used to make these drugs haven’t even been fully identified yet, so it’s impossible to determine how they may affect a person’s mind, body, and overall wellbeing.
7 of the Most Dangerous Synthetic Drugs
Although all designer drugs are dangerous, the following seven synthetic drugs have potentially deadly effects and should be avoided at all costs.
Dubbed “America’s most dangerous opioid,” fentanyl is commonly used by drug dealers to dilute heroin, but it can also be sold on its own as counterfeit Oxycontin or Xanax.4 Although fentanyl has legitimate medical uses, such as treating cancer patients for severe pain, the DEA has warned people about several synthetic variants being manufactured with chemicals imported from China and then sold on the street.5
A powerful synthetic opioid drug, fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and is sold illegally in several forms, including powder, tablets, mixed with heroin, or spiked on blotter paper. People who abuse it are at a very high risk for overdose due to its potency and unpredictable ingredients, especially if they are unaware that a pill or powder contains fentanyl.6 A tiny sprinkle of this synthetic drug can be deadly and a person can overdose simply by touching it or inhaling the powder.7
Drug detox for fentanyl should always be completed under medical supervision, as the physical withdrawal effects can be unpredictable and severe.
- Synthetic Marijuana (K2/Spice)
Synthetic cannabinoids, also known as synthetic marijuana, K2, or Spice, are made of dried and shredded plant materials that are sprayed with chemical substances intended to mimic the effects of marijuana. Although frequently marketed as a “safe and legal alternative” to marijuana, K2/Spice may, in fact, be more dangerous and potent than marijuana due to the unregulated chemicals that are used to make them.8
Synthetic marijuana is frequently sold in colorful foil packages, in liquid form, or in plastic bottles and can be purchased online or in head shops and even some convenience stores. Although many people believe that synthetic marijuana is natural and harmless, users have experienced severe effects such as rapid heart rate, vomiting, violent behavior, seizures, and suicidal thoughts after using it.
There is limited research on the long-term effects of K2/Spice on human health, but the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) confirms that it is addictive. The physical effects of detox for synthetic marijuana will vary from person to person, so detox should be completed at a medically-assisted detox center.
- Gray Death
If the name alone is not enough to convince you that this designer drug is dangerous, the physical effects will. This deadly cocktail of powerful opioids is made of heroin, U4 (Pink), and Fentanyl. Because this synthetic drug is so potent, any small misstep in the manufacturing of it can prove to be lethal for users.9
Gray Death gets its name from its ashy gray appearance, which is similar to concrete. When consumed orally or touched by bare skin, it quickly passes through the tissues of the body and goes straight to the brain without being metabolized.10
Synthetic drugs like Gray Death are extremely dangerous and deadly and if a person wishes to detox from them, he or she should always seek out the assistance of a professional medical team that is trained to recognize and treat the symptoms of drug withdrawal.
- Bath Salts
Bath salts, not to be confused with Epsom salts, are unregulated, mind-altering substances that are chemically related to cathinone, a stimulant that is naturally found in the khat plant. Synthetic cathinones are much more potent and dangerous than the natural substance found in the plant and can produce some seriously toxic effects.11
People under the influence of bath salts have reported experiencing paranoia, hallucinations, panic attacks, extreme agitation, and violent behavior. There have been many alarming news reports linking bath salts to violent behavior such as self-harm and cannibalism.12
Researchers don’t yet have very much information about the effects of bath salts on the human brain, but they do know that these designer drugs are chemically similar to cocaine, MDMA, and amphetamines. Repeated abuse of bath salts can cause strong withdrawal symptoms and uncontrollable urges to use again, so it’s very important that drug detox takes place in a medically-monitored environment.
Ecstasy or Molly used to be very popular in the nightclub and rave scene, but it has since grown to become a popular drug among various groups of people. Law enforcement officials report that much of the Ecstasy they seize that is sold as “pure Molly” actually contains various harmful additives including synthetic cathinones (bath salts).13
Since users don’t always know what they are consuming when they take Ecstasy, this designer drug can be extremely dangerous, especially when taken in combination with other drugs like alcohol or marijuana (which it frequently is).
Drug detox for Ecstasy may be more psychological than physical for some users and can produce unpredictable effects such as hostility, panic attacks, psychosis, or hallucinations and delusions. For this reason, it is safest to withdrawal from Ecstasy at a professional detox center.
U-4770, more commonly known as Pink or U4, is a synthetic opioid pain medication that the DEA has linked to multiple deaths since 2015. This designer drug is primarily manufactured in secret laboratories in China and sold on the internet as a “research chemical” to avoid legal detection.14
Pink is also frequently sold on the streets and combined with other drugs like heroin or fentanyl. Some dealers will even pass it off as heroin or prescription opioid tablets, so users are not always aware that they are consuming Pink.
According to the NIDA, Pink is possibly seven to eight times more potent than morphine, but its potency is often unmeasurable as various batches manufactured in illegal labs may contain varying cocktails of chemical ingredients.15 Since users don’t always know what they are consuming, drug detox for Pink or any other synthetic drug should be completed under medical supervision.
LSD, also known as Acid, is one of the most powerful mood-altering chemicals and one of the most commonly abused. Although some hallucinogens can be naturally found in plants or their extracts, LSD is a man-made synthetic drug.16 It is produced in secret laboratories in the U.S. and then sold on the street in tablet and capsule form.
LSD can trigger some unusual effects, including altered perceptions, hallucinations, and even flashbacks days or months after using the drug. Some users may even feel several strong emotions at once, which can lead to violent and unpredictable behavior.17
Designer drugs such as the seven dangerous substances listed above can cause serious physical and psychological effects. At Briarwood Detox Center, our staff is trained to recognize and effectively treat the symptoms of drug withdrawal so you can have the safest and most comfortable withdrawal experience possible.
If you are addicted to one of the synthetic drugs listed above, there is hope for recovery. Contact Briarwood Detox Center today to learn more about our medically assisted drug and alcohol detox programs.