Last updated: January 30, 2023
Designer drugs chemically resemble controlled or illegal substances. Manufacturers alter the ingredients but still obtain the desired effect of the drug that they’re imitating. They achieve it by changing up the chemical formula or composition so that existing drug regulations don’t apply to them.
Drug users may think it’s trendy to use the latest designer drug that hits the streets. It’s certainly far less expensive! The truth is that these synthetic drugs are more potent and dangerous than the actual drug that it’s likened too.
The gray market
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) regulates controlled substances—both over-the-counter and prescription medications. The DEA rates drugs according to their potential for dependency and abuse.
Because designer drugs don’t fall under the normal regulatory guidelines, they fall into the “gray market.” There are no regulations for manufacturers to adhere too so using “a little of this” and “a lot of that” flys as long as they reach the desired outcome.
A product that makes the user feel just like they’re taking “fill in the blank here.”
These synthetic drugs are often marketed as an herbal substance of some type, such as K2 and other synthetic forms of marijuana. They can also be sold as plant food and bath salts. Even though they are clearly marked “Not for Human Consumption,” they are sought out for that very purpose.
Users in the know can walk into their store of choice and purchase these drugs at the checkout. As a matter of fact, that’s often where they’re stocked. The cashier, of course, is often completely unaware they are taking part in a drug deal.
When word gets out that there’s a new designer drug on the streets, law enforcement is quick to track down the source and shut it down. Until it happens, users risk having a very negative experience rather than the positive one they anticipate.
It’s no secret that methamphetamine is often manufactured in a fly by night laboratory using common household ingredients such as lantern fuel, cleaners, acetone, muriatic acid, and diet pills or allergy medications.
It’s horrifying to think that anyone would willingly put those things into their body. Once may be all it takes to get hooked because the drug is extremely addictive.
What’s more, as with other synthetic drugs, the body builds up a tolerance. It forces the addict to continuously up the dose to achieve the desired effect. Of course, that greatly increases the risk of death due to overdose.
Additionally, using this “designer amphetamine” over an extended length of time causes extreme damage to the body. It affects the addict’s physical appearance, thought process, and causes extensive damage to the body internally.
Synthetic drugs cause hallucinations, anxiety, extremely aggressive behavior, and death. Even though they have been proven to be toxic, their affordability often coupled with an “it won’t happen to me” attitude is why they’re used all over the United States.
Treacherous, not trendy
Ecstasy was easily the most popular designer drug back in the 1990s. The synthetic stimulant became an extremely popular party drug among young people nationwide.
During the 1990s and into the 2000s, designer drugs fell into several different categories that included opioids, dissociatives, stimulants, and hallucinogens.
The most popular designer drugs of the day were:
Notably, the designer versions of many of these drugs are the cause of the serious abuse and addiction problems that began in the United States during that time.
Today’s popular designer drug list includes the following:
- Spice or synthetic marijuana
- Bath salts
- Methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV)
- 2C family of synthetic hallucinogens
The designer drug market is expanding beyond opioids, hallucinogens, and steroids. Currently, synthetic cannabinoids and synthetic cathinones are two of the main groups of chemicals used to manufacture these drugs.
Synthetic cathinones stimulate the central nervous system and are designed to mimic drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamine, and Ecstasy. They are manufactured in East Asia and distributed worldwide marketed as “glass cleaner,” “plant food,” “research chemicals,” or “bath salts.”
The side effects are unpredictable and intense. They can include:
- Extreme agitation and anxiety
- Increased aggression
- Irritability and mood swings
- Suicidal thoughts
- Panic attacks
- Difficulty with cognition
- Chest pain
- Heart attack or stroke
- Psychotic behaviors that include self-harm and unprovoked violence toward others
Marketed undercover as a “legal” alternative to marijuana, manufacturers create synthetic cannabinoids using a plant material treated with synthetic psychoactive chemicals. It often looks like potpourri but users don’t buy it just because it smells good.
Instead of experiencing a sense of extreme relaxation and goodwill, users are prone to the following:
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Increased heart rate and blood pressure
- Convulsions and organ damage
There’s no room for gray
Using a designer drug is an extremely dangerous choice because manufacturers are all about the end result—profit. Synthetic drugs are inexpensive to produce in large quantities. People buy them up because they expect the same effect that prescription medications and high-quality marijuana produce.
Instead, the people that purchase these drugs are playing a high stakes game of Russian roulette each time they ingest the drug. With no way of knowing what’s in the drug, it’s hard to determine how much to take.
Because designer drugs cause violent acts of aggression without provocation, everyone in the vicinity of the user could potentially face severe injury without a moment’s notice.
We can’t stop advocating for drug-free communities.
Educating our children is the first step. Statistics show that children who are informed about the dangers of drug use make better choices when confronted with them head on.
Training our employees on the dangers of drug use is another way to promote awareness. Informed employees make better choices too. Or, perhaps, if someone is struggling with a drug problem, the information they learn can spark the realization that they need help.