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February 2019: synthetic drug Addiction

Synthetic Drug Addiction

Synthetic drugs are drugs that are manufactured from man-made chemicals instead of natural ingredients. Synthetic drug abuse in the United States has been increasing. Many of these manufactured drugs (also known as designer drugs) are dangerous and in some cases have never been tested on humans. While some of these drugs are legal in certain states, that doesn’t mean that they’re safe. 

These drugs have largely sprang up to legally traffic in altered versions of illegal drugs. Manufacturers get around the laws by altering the drug in such a way that it’s not classified as an illegal substance and labeling these drugs as “not for human consumption” which avoids drug and health laws. There’s been an ongoing struggle back and forth between legislatures looking to curb the use of these drugs, and the manufacturers changing their formulas enough to avoid existing laws. 

Between 2009 and 2014, the DEA identified between 200 and 300 new designers drugs from eight different structural classes, the vast majority of which are manufactured in China. The most common of these drugs are synthetic cannabis (spice & K2) and synthetic cathinones (bath salts). 

Spice & K2 

Spice and K2 are the more popular versions of synthetic cannabinoids, which get its name for using chemicals similar to those found in marijuana. Like other designer drugs, they are marketed by manufactures as “not for human consumption” as a way to try to circumnavigate drug and health laws. Synthetic cannabinoids affect the same brain receptors as THC, the mind altering ingredient in marijuana. It’s difficult to predict the exact effect spice or K2 may have on the body as it’s unregulated and the chemical composition may change. 

Some of the reported psychotic effects may include: extreme anxiety, paranoia, and hallucinations. Additional effects may include: violent behavior, elevated heart rate, and suicidal thoughts. 

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Fentanyl – A Synthetic Opiate

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is incredibly powerful and dangerous. While similar to morphine, it is 50 to 100 times more powerful. A schedule II prescription drug, Fentanyl is classified as having a high potential for abuse, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence.

It is prescribed medically to treat severe pain, or to patients with chronic pain conditions that have become physically tolerant to other opioid medications because of its intense effects. The strength of this opioid is also what makes it so dangerous. While Fentanyl abuse is dangerous for anyone, it is especially dangerous and can be fatal to anyone abusing it who doesn’t have a tolerance to opiates. 

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports annual overdose rates by drug class. The single largest category of overdoses in 2017 was synthetic narcotics excluding methadone (mainly Fentanyl). This was 67% more than the second largest category and almost triple the Fentanyl from 2015.

Symptoms of Fentanyl overdose may include: confusion, suppressed heart rate, low blood sugar, blue colored fingertips and lips can occur from a lack of blood circulation, unconsciousness or death. The symptoms of overdose are similar to other opiates, but given the strength of Fentanyl in comparison overdose is more frequent. 

Fentanyl is extremely dangerous. If you or someone you love is struggling with pain, with Fentanyl addiction, it’s important to get help. Contact us today to learn more about treatment options that are available. 

Quick Facts on Teen Synthetic Drug Use

In 2018, a reported 3.5% of 12th graders had used K2 or Spice in the past year. (NIDA)

In 2018, a reported 6% of 12th graders had used narcotics other than heroin in their lifetime. (NIDA)

While the use of bath salts decreased in 2018 for 10th and 12th graders, use by 8th graders in the past year increased from 0.5% to 0.9%. (NIDA)

A reported 4.1% of 12th graders had used MDMA in their lifetime in 2018 data. (NIDA)

A staggering 47.8% of 12th graders had reported in 2018 that they had used illicit drugs in their lifetime. (NIDA)

Frequently Asked Questions

What are designer drugs?

Designer drugs, also known as synthetic drugs, is a term to describe manufactured drugs that are designed to circumvent laws around illegal drugs. Given that they are not natural, but manufactured, they designer drugs are often referred to as synthetic drugs. 

Between 2009 and 2014, the DEA identified between 200 and 300 new designers drugs from eight different structural classes, the vast majority of which are manufactured in China. The most common of these drugs are synthetic cannabis (spice & K2) and synthetic cathinones (bath salts). 

What is spice?

Spice and K2 are the more popular versions of synthetic cannabinoids, which get its name for using chemicals similar to those found in marijuana. Synthetic cannabinoids affect the same brain receptors as THC, the mind altering ingredient in marijuana. It’s difficult to predict the exact effect spice or K2 may have on the body as it’s unregulated and the chemical composition may change.

What are bath salts?

Bath Salts is the name given to synthetic cathinones, a manufactured drug similar to amphetamines such as meth and MDMA. They are usually found as white or brown crystals, but shouldn’t be confused with Epson salts (actual bath salts that people add to their bath to relax). Manufacturers get around health laws by branding the drug not for human consumption, although when abused, they are generally snorted, injected, or swallowed. 

What is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is incredibly powerful and dangerous. While similar to morphine, it is 50 to 100 times more powerful. A schedule II prescription drug, Fentanyl is classified as having a high potential for abuse, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence.

Bath Salts

Bath Salts is the name given to synthetic cathinones, a manufactured drug similar to amphetamines such as meth and MDMA. They are usually found as white or brown crystals, but shouldn’t be confused with Epson salts (actual bath salts that people add to their bath to relax). Manufacturers get around health laws by branding the drug not for human consumption, although when abused, they are generally snorted, injected, or swallowed. 

Users of bath salts can experience temporary feelings of joy and hyperactivity, but also paranoia and hallucinations. As these are manufactured drugs, they carry serious and unknown health risks. They’re unregulated, with potentially dangerous and untested chemicals. 

Since bath salts operate similar to an amphetamine on the brain, they can be very addictive. The drug interacts with the pleasure and reward areas of the brain, increasing the likelihood to develop an addiction since using the drug becomes associated with the release of “good feeling” chemicals. 

Dangers of Bath Salts

Bath salts are as much as 10 times stronger than Cocaine. A PBS article uses an excellent analogy as to why bath salts are so dangerous:

Imagine the space between the nerve cells as a kitchen sink and the water as dopamine. In the brain’s natural state, the faucet, or nerve cell endings, are always leaking some dopamine, and the drain is always slightly open, vacuuming some of the chemical back into the cell. Methamphetamine turns the faucet on high. Cocaine closes the drain. Bath salts, researchers discovered, do both at the same time. (The Drug That Never Lets Go) 

The use of bath salts is also being linked to the development of psychosis and more research is still underway. Other affects include: hypertension, suicidal ideation, tachycardia, and death. Additional research also suggests that bath salts may impair functioning of the central nervous system.  

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If you’d like more information or have any questions, please call or text 1-833-JADENOW

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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.

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