Synthetic Drugs: A Rapidly Emerging Threat

Some of the most popular drugs have remained consistent throughout the years: heroin, cocaine, and marijuana, to name a few. Yet there are some drugs that emerge over time and replicate the effects of drugs like cocaine and heroin. Today, these illegal substances are called synthetic drugs. They are an emerging threat that has been generating more awareness and concern. Still, synthetic drugs quietly lurk in the shadows, especially in the wake of a heroin epidemic. It’s important that parents, friends, and family understand the dangers of synthetic drug use and what to do if addiction is suspected.

What are Synthetic Drugs?

Synthetic drugs are substances that are chemically laced with various chemicals and ingredients to mimic the effects of drugs like marijuana, cocaine, and methamphetamine. The drugs are often divided into two groups based on their chemical structure: cannabinoids and cathinones. Examples of cannabinoids include K2 or Spice and synthetic marijuana. Examples of cathinones include bath salts or synthetic cocaine and meth.

Why are Synthetic Drugs So Dangerous?

All drugs are toxic, but synthetic drugs have unique properties to them that make them especially alarming. First, synthetic drugs contain a variety of chemical compositions, so people never know just what they are getting. You can purchase a packet of bath salts one day and experience the high you want, but the next time you ingest them, they can cause severe side effects or even death.

Not only do you not know what blend of chemicals you’re getting in synthetic drugs, but also you don’t know the level of potency. Some synthetic drugs have been found to be 500 times stronger than THC, leaving users to experience serious side effects. Bottom line: When it comes to synthetic substances, you never know just what you are getting.

Why is the War on Synthetic Drugs Hard to Fight?

Synthetic drugs are an emerging threat because the chemicals used in their composition are often legal. Over the past few years, law enforcement has cracked down on synthetic drugs and has passed regulations making some of these chemicals illegal. Yet the manufacturers of these drugs – illegal street chemists – simply sidestep these regulations and choose other chemicals to put in their place.

These new chemicals are not known to law enforcement, at least at first. They are also not known to users, so anyone who takes synthetic drugs are gambling with their life. If they have a bad reaction to the drug and call Poison Control, people do not know how to help them because they don’t what is causing the reaction. By the time that these chemicals are discovered by authorities, manufacturers move on to something else, and the cycle continues.

Additionally, because synthetic drugs often don’t have illegal chemicals in them, they are more easily sold in public places. These types of substances have been known to be sold at gas stations, convenience stores, and tobacco shops. They are sold in small packages with a label that says “Not for Human Consumption.” However, the design, wording and marketing hint at the fact that the contents are meant to be smoked, inhaled or ingested.

For instance, bath salts are sold in foil packets or bags in a powder form. Some of the most common names include Ivory Wave, Blow, Red Dove, Vanilla Sky, Blue Silk, and Bliss. Synthetic marijuana is often sold as incense and referred to as K2, Spice, Mojo or G-Four. The ingredients are not printed on the label, so each batch of these drugs can be completely different.

What are the Risks of Using Synthetic Drugs?

Synthetic drugs are dangerous – period. Users report that they cause anxiety, nausea, paranoia, discomfort, confusion and emotional instability. Negative side effects include hallucinations, seizures, insomnia, self-mutilation, chest pain, and violent behavior. Long-term effects may include kidney failure, liver failure, self-mutilation, mental illness or death. The drugs work directly on the brain, so they affect learning, memory, motivation, reasoning and emotional stability the most.

What Can be Done if Synthetic Drug Abuse is Suspected?

The River Source is very versed in treating synthetic drug addiction, and we have worked with many cases over the past several years. We understand the unique dangers that come with this type of drug abuse, and how the frequent exposure to various chemicals can lead to mental illness and instability. Fortunately, our life coaches, counselors, and behavioral health technicians work together with doctors and nurses to create an effective treatment plan for those addicted to synthetic drugs.

Addiction to synthetic substances can be overcome, and it may mean the difference between life and death for its abuser. To learn more about our treatment programs, contact The River Source at 866-294-9331.

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