Everything You Should Know About Synthetic Drugs
Synthetic drugs have given a rise to literally hundreds of new substances, each one more dangerous and life-threatening than the next. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s 2014 Global Synthetic Drugs Assessment, the amount of synthetic drugs available has increased by 435% in only 5 years — from 80 identified substances in 2008 to 348 in 2013. You have likely heard of these drugs on the news and in the papers, but you may not know exactly what they are or what they do. Here is everything you need to know about them.
- Also Known As: “Bath salts,” “meow meow,” “M1,” “Cloud-9,” “Ivory Wave”
- What They Are: Synthetic cathinones are actually a group of similar substances that derive from the khat plant and comprise methylone, mephedrone, and MDPV. They are commonly called “bath salts,” bearing a close resemblance to the Epsom salts that many use to take a relaxing soak in the bathtub. Yet the truth about “bath salts” is that they induce anything but relaxation.
- What They Do: Synthetic cathinones are amphetamines, and they act like other amphetamines such as Crystal Meth, and Ecstasy. They are said to cause numerous side-effects such increased blood pressure, cardiac stress, kidney failure, liver failure, muscle spasms, dehydration, panic attacks, hallucinations, paranoia, and extremely violent behavior when taken.
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- Also Known As: “Spice” or “K2,” in addition to “Blaze,” “Blueberry,” “Dank,” “Haze,” “Magma,” “Ninja,” “Nitro,” “Ultra,” and “Voodoo,” among many other names.
- What They Are: As its name implies, “synthetic cannabis” comprises a number of compounds (cannabicyclohexanol, HU-210, JWH-018, and JWH-073) that are supposed to produce effects similar to marijuana. However, many scientists believe “synthetic cannabis” to be a misnomer. Toxicologist Lewis Nelson says that its “effects are much more unpredictable” than marijuana, which makes it all the more dangerous.
- What They Do: Synthetic cannabis may get the user high, but it often leads to something much more serious. In 2010 alone, there were more than 11,000 hospitalizations due to synthetic cannabis. Even worse is that abusers and addicts – particularly young ones – are particularly susceptible to using drugs like these. According to a government survey, 11% of high schoolers use synthetic marijuana before graduating high school. This is not without its consequences — 3 out of those 4 hospitalizations in 2010 were adolescents and young adults between the ages of 12 and 19. Synthetic cannabis contains no THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana that drug tests detect. Thus, young addicts and abusers are enticed by the promise of getting high without failing drug tests for treatment, probation, etc. Yet, they often wind up dead or with permanent psychological damage instead of getting the help they need.
- Also Known As: “Bees,” ”Europa,” “Nexus,” “New Nexus”, “Nova,” and “Venus,” among various other names.
- What They Are: Synthetic or substituted phenethylamines include a wide spectrum that ranges from PMMA to 25B-NBOMe and the “2C-” family (2C-E, 2C-I, 2C-P, etc.). All act primarily as psychedelic/hallucinogen substances with amphetamine- (e.g. “speed,” cocaine) and Ecstasy-like properties.
- What They Do: The 3rd most popular synthetic drug after synthetic cathinones and cannabis, substituted phenethylamines are just as dangerous as the others. 2C-P is known to cause hallucinations for as long as 20 hours, making it extremely dangerous to function on. Phenethylamines are also the primary suspects in a number of drug poisoning cases, including the hospitalization of 4 teens in Connecticut in 2013.
What Makes Synthetic Drugs Special?
We all know that drugs are addictive and life threatening. So what makes synthetic ones so special? 2C-P may have hospitalized a handful of teenagers here and there, but isn’t that a fraction of the damage that cocaine and heroin wreak each and every year?
The fact is that all of these aforementioned dangers are only the tip of the iceberg. This is what we know so far about synthetic drugs, but new information is being discovered every day. What’s more is that the supply of these substances is increasing year after year – increasing so fast that researchers can’t keep up and warn the public of their dangers.
Yes, there has always been danger, and there always will be danger when drugs are used and abused. Yet, if there was ever a silver lining, it was this: the police, doctors, and addiction treatment specialists knew what they were dealing with when it came to conventional pills and powders. With so many new and unpredictable substances being created every day, that has changed. How can we treat drug abuse when the drugs themselves remain a mystery until it is too late?