synthetic drug Abuse

Understanding Synthetic Drugs

Synthetic Drugs Leading Cause of Overdose in 2017

The term “Synthetic,” as used in the National Drug Control Strategy (NDCS) Annual Report and the National Synthetic Drugs Action Plan, refers to drugs whose origins are not primarily organic, but rather are produced via chemical synthesis.

Online you can find retailers selling “safe” and often “legal” ways to get high, or produce mind-altering effects from a number of synthetic or man-made materials. Convenience stores and gas stations are selling these substances under the guises of “plant food,” “herbal incense,” “potpourri,” “jewelry cleaner,” and “research chemicals.” These substances are often labeled “not for human consumption” in order to avoid regulation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These drugs may have untested and unpredictable side-effects and can be extremely dangerous, resulting in overdose deaths. 

Synthetic drugs or “designer drugs”

The term “designer drug” in the context of drug abuse refers to substances chemically similar to and/or that mimic the drug-like effects of controlled substances. The term is often used synonymously with “club drugs,” “party drugs,” and “synthetic drugs.”  Designer drugs affect the central nervous system (CNS) and can display stimulant, depressant and/or hallucinogenic properties. (source National Institute on Drug Abuse)

Synthetic Drug Abuse

Know The Facts About  Synthetic Drugs

28,400 Deaths

1 in 10 Teens

87% of ER Doctors

NIDA reported that in 2017, 28,466 people overdosed from synthetic narcotics other than methadone. 

According to Monitoring the Future Survey, 2012, in 2012, 11% of American high school seniors used synthetic marijuana in the past year.

According to polls completed by the American College of Emergency Physicians, 87% of responding emergency physicians reported seeing violent acts from individuals on synthetic drugs.

The unfortunate thing about this world is that good habits are so much easier to give up than bad ones”.

 – W. Somerset Maugham


Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50-100 times stronger than morphine. Pharmaceutical fentanyl is a synthetic opioid pain reliever, approved for treating severe pain, typically for advanced cancer pain.  It is prescribed in the form of transdermal patches or lozenges and can be diverted for misuse and abuse in the United States. Fentanyl can be added to heroin to increase its potency, or be disguised as highly potent heroin. 

Synthetic Marijuana

Synthetic cannabinoids are human-made mind-altering chemicals that are either sprayed on dried, shredded plant material so they can be smoked or sold as liquids to be vaporized and inhaled in e-cigarettes and other devices. K2 and Spice are synthetic marijuana compounds, also known as cannabinoids. But there are more. In fact, there are approximately 90 different synthetic marijuana chemical compounds. Easy access and the belief that synthetic cannabinoid products are “natural” and therefore harmless, have likely contributed to their use among young people.

Synthetic LSD

Synthetic LSD, also known as N-Bomb or Smiles, is a phenethylamine (PEA) intended to mimic the effects of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD). It can cause hallucinations and paranoia, much like LSD. 

Synthetic Stimulants

Synthetic stimulants (which contain synthetic cathinones) aim to stimulate the effects of cocaine and hallucinogenic drugs. Two common examples are bath salts and ecstasy (also known as MDMA or Molly). These psychoactive drugs can produce many adverse effects, including addiction, paranoia, rapid heartbeat, panic attacks, hallucinations, and even death.

Synthetic PCP

Methoxamine (often shortened to MXE) is a synthetic compound and dissociative drug that mimics the effects of phencyclidine (PCP). It can cause delusions, psychosis, and a feeling of detachment from reality.

(source National Institute on Drug Abuse)

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