Facts About Synthetic Drugs

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Synthetic drugs are scary, plain and simple. What these drugs share is that they are synthetically made from a variety of chemical compounds by a handful of illegal chemists. When you consider how dangerous traditional substances are that come from more natural sources – marijuana, cocaine, alcohol – you know that ones made from synthetic chemical compounds have even more risk. That’s because the user has no idea of what’s in the drug and how these compounds will react with each other.

If you’re not familiar with synthetic drugs, it’s time to get familiar. Street chemists are very precise in what they do, and they look for chemicals that are technically legal and add these to the drugs. This way, the drugs can be subtly sold in convenience stores, head shops and tobacco shops. By the time that law enforcement cracks down on the chemical agents being used and classify them as illegal drugs, street chemists are on to something else. It’s a cat and mouse game where nobody wins.

Here’s your guide to synthetic drugs.


What it is: Spice or K2 is a mix of herbs that are supposed to provide experiences similar to marijuana. The dried, shredded plant material may look like marijuana, but it’s really dried spices that are mixed with chemicals that have mind altering effects on the brain. Spice mixtures are sold in small foil packets, and they have “not for human consumption” written on them.

How it affects the brain: Users report that Spice makes them feel relaxed and cause changes in perception. Other users have more profound effects like paranoia, anxiety or hallucinations.

Health effects: K2 Spice can cause severe symptoms like a fast heart rate, vomiting, agitation, confusion and hallucinations. It can also cause a spike in blood pressure and cause less blood flow to the heart. Spice can cause addiction and withdrawal.

Bath Salts

What is is: Don’t be fooled by the name. Bath salts are a family of drugs that contain a dangerous combination of chemicals, many of which are related to cathinone that is found in the khat plant. Like Spice, bath salts are sold in small foil packs with “not for human consumption” written on them as well. They may also be falsely marketed as phone cleaner, jewelry cleaner or plant food.

How it affects the brain: Bath salts are loaded with chemical compounds which are similar to amphetamines and MDMA, so the brain feels a rush of dopamine. Users feel elated, joyful and full of energy. Heart rate and blood pressure are also increased.

Health effects: Bath salts have been linked to emergency room visits and Poison Control Center calls. They produce effects like rapid heartbeats, chest pains and high blood pressure. They can also cause panic attacks, paranoia and hallucinations. Bath salts are highly addictive and can cause death.


What it is: Although users believe that Molly is pure MDMA and therefore safe, this is just not true. MDMA is often cut with other synthetic drugs, sometimes bath salts. This makes the drug go further and creates intensified reactions, and it’s done with almost all synthetic drugs. Molly is no exception.

How it affects the brain: Molly causes a surge in serotonin and makes users feel energetic and elated. It depletes serotonin however, so the user often has mild depressive symptoms when the drug wears off, a term that has been coined “Suicide Tuesday.”

Health effects: In its purest form, Molly can cause dehydration since people tend to move, dance and sweat a lot while on the drug. On the flip side, a person can drink too much water and over-hydrate themselves. The depletion of serotonin in the brain causes sleep problems, anxiety, depression and cravings. The drug can also create panic, anxiety, heart palpitations and chest pains.


What it is: Salvia is an herb that is found in Mexico and South America. It’s a difficult drug to get around because it’s not prohibited by Federal law; although many states have passed laws to regulate its use. While it’s not suitable for recreational use, some believe it doesn’t pose a real threat to the public.

How it affects the brain: Users experience hallucinogenic effects and lose contact with reality when using salvia. The effects are very short, usually lasting one or two minutes, although it can take about 30 minutes for all symptoms to wear away.

Health effects: Salvia has not been studied extensively, so it’s difficult to say what the long-term effects are. Short term effects include a change in perception, emotional mood swings and feelings of detachment. Driving is very dangerous when taking salvia, and the drug can raise the risk of using Spice or other synthetic drugs in the future.

If you or someone you love is struggling with synthetic drug use, don’t overlook the risk. Contact The River Source at 1-888-687-7332 for advice and support. We are experienced in treating synthetic drug addictions and can help stop the cycle of abuse.