Some drugs are natural, meaning that the plants from which they are derived exist in nature without any help from humankind: opium poppies (heroin, morphine, codeine), coca leaves (cocaine), psilocybin mushrooms (shrooms), and marijuana. Other drugs are synthetic, which means they are created using man-made chemicals, not natural ingredients. For example, K2 (also known as Spice), Ecstasy (also known as Molly), and bath salts are all types of synthetic drugs. Since synthetic drugs are created in illegal labs to bypass regulations prohibiting controlled substances, their strength, composition, and ingredients are unknown to the consumer. Fun names and colorful appearances can sometimes mask their extreme potential for harm, but make no mistake about it: synthetic drugs are extremely dangerous and can cause addiction, severe health issues, and even death.
Synthetic drugs began appearing in the United States around 2009, and their popularity has surged in the eight years since then. They are especially popular amongst teenagers due to their high level of accessibility (source). In fact, according to a study conducted in 2013 by the Center for Substance Abuse Research (CESAR) at the University of Maryland at College Park, about 12% of high school students said they used synthetic drugs regularly (source). Many of these teens aren’t aware of how dangerous these substances can be.
The term “designer drug” refers to a substance designed in a laboratory to mimic the pharmacological effects of a controlled drug. Manufacturers create these drugs with slightly altered molecular structures in order to avoid having them classified as illicit drugs. The broad term applies to almost every synthetic drug, but it is typically used to refer to synthetic recreational drugs.
New designer drugs frequently enter the market. In fact, between 2009 and 2014, between 200 and 300 new designer drugs were identified. Most of these were manufactured in China (source). Many designer drugs are sold over the Internet or in certain stores, and they are often labeled as herbal smoking blends, plant food, jewelry cleaner, or bath salts. To protect the public and stay on top of the ever-changing market, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) monitors the online sale of synthetic drugs (source).
Types of Synthetic Drugs
Like many types of synthetic drugs, synthetic marijuana goes by many names: K2, Spice, fake pot, potpourri, legal weed, and more. It consists of active ingredients sprayed onto dried plant material and chopped herbs. Unlike marijuana, which contains THC, synthetic marijuana incorporates synthetic cannabinoids to replicate THC’s effects. As there are over 120 known chemical forms of synthetic cannabinoids, the drug can change drastically from batch to batch. In addition, because synthetic marijuana is often falsely advertised as “safe” and “natural,” many users mistakenly assume it is no more dangerous than natural marijuana (source). To learn more about synthetic marijuana, please check out this previous blog post.
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 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. The following are the chemical names of N-Bomb:
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.
Effects and Testing
Synthetic drugs can produce a number of harmful effects, including anxiety, aggressiveness, paranoia, seizures, loss of consciousness, nausea, violence, vomiting, coma, and even death. There was a 230% increase in synthetic drug-related emergency room visits between 2010 and 2011 (source). Plus, as manufacturers develop new chemicals to evade existing laws, consumers have no way of knowing what the drugs they take contain. Small modifications can produce major effects, often endangering the lives of experimenting users. The Food and Drug Administration has approved neither the products nor their active ingredients (source).
To prevent synthetic drug abuse in the workplace, employers are encouraged to create a drug-free workplace policy and regularly test employees. If you’re looking to implement drug and alcohol testing, contact Tomo Drug Testing. We offer synthetic drug testing, so you can test employees for many types of synthetic drugs, including K2 and bath salts. Our customized solutions make drug testing simple. Plus, our nationwide network of clinics and providers allows Tomo Drug Testing to be available anytime, anywhere. For a free needs analysis, give us a call today at 1-888-379-7697 or contact us online. We would be happy to help!