What is a designer drug? You may have heard the phrase but aren’t sure what it means. The term describes synthetic versions of controlled substances that imitate the pharmacological effects of the original drug.
Designer drugs may be created for several reasons, including:
- As a cheaper alternative
- For more potency
- To avoid detection in standard drug tests
- To avoid classification as an illegal substance
Designer drugs started appearing around 2008 and have continued to gain popularity since then. Dozens of documentaries have been made about synthetic drugs, but many people are still unaware of their existence. Even when a person hears about a designer drug, they may not realize what it is. One of the most common examples of this is bath salts. Most people heard about the drug’s use when a violent bath salts-induced attack in Miami made national headlines. However, few know that bath salts are a type of designer drug.
Designer drugs are also known as novel psychoactive substances (NPS). Individuals may take an NPS for a strong high or to get around legality issues. For example, some of these drugs are sold and advertised as legal simply because they’re labeled as not for human consumption. Alternatively, a person may think they’re taking a normal street drug and not realize they’ve been given a designer drug version.
Designer drugs can be incredibly dangerous and carry risks of serious health problems, fines and arrest and even the potential of overdosing. Let’s take a closer look at some common designer drug examples and their potential side effects.
Identifying Designer Drugs
The most common designer drug categories are synthetic cannabinoids, novel opioids, novel benzodiazepines, stimulants and hallucinogens. These drugs are used as substitutes for marijuana, ecstasy, cocaine, heroin and opioids.
Designer Drug List
The most common synthetic drugs are:
Also known as U4 and pinky, U-47700 is a highly potent synthetic opioid. It’s commonly sold in powder or tablet form and often has a pink hue. This drug is comparable to heroin or prescription opioids. It’s commonly snorted, swallowed or injected into the body.
U-47700 was originally invented in the 1970s but never passed FDA approval. This drug is 7.5 times stronger than morphine and carries a risk of addiction and overdose. Some of the common effects include respiratory depression, cyanosis and tachycardia.
Use of this synthetic opioid increased during the opioid epidemic. As more individuals became addicted to opioids, they often had to turn to street drugs to find a supply. U-47700 seems very appealing because of its potency and the strong high it produces, but that also comes with increased risks.
Also known as spice, K2, black mamba and legal weed, this designer drug consists of plant material sprayed with synthetic psychoactive chemicals. The drug is supposed to mimic the effects of the THC found in marijuana. Since 2009, K2 has been widely sold with a label warning that it’s not meant for human consumption. The drug is passed off as an herbal incense product or potpourri.
Synthetic marijuana is often cheaper and stronger than real marijuana. However, it can be tough to determine how potent a batch of K2 is, making it much more dangerous than real marijuana. Individuals smoke K2 as they would regular marijuana, in pipes or joints, or drink it as a tea.
The effects of using K2 can include acute kidney damage, anxiety, convulsions, hallucinations, giddiness, increased heart rate and blood pressure, organ damage, paranoia, panic attacks and death due to heart attack.
Flakka, also known as alpha-PVP and gravel, is a street drug sold in crystal form. The drug can be eaten, snorted, vaped or injected.
Individuals who’ve taken Flakka often experience paranoia and hallucinations, which can lead to violent aggression toward themselves or others. Some individuals have overdosed and died from Flakka.
This synthetic drug is sold online as various fake products, such as bath salts, plant food and research chemicals, and labeled as not for human consumption. Bath salts can be incredibly potent and dangerous, resulting in various possible symptoms. Individuals can snort, smoke or inject bath salts. Many people opt for bath salts because they’re a cheaper alternative to crystal meth.
Bath salts can cause many symptoms, including alertness, delusions, dizziness, euphoria, hallucinations, insomnia, irritability, paranoia, vomiting, prolonged panic attacks, a rapid heart rate that can lead to stroke or heart attack, seizures and suicidal thoughts.
The most widely known case involving bath salts occurred in 2012 in Miami. A 31-year old man was suspected of taking bath salts, which gave him “superhuman strength” and drove him to “viciously gnaw” at a stranger’s face in broad daylight. Miami police said the case was consistent with other instances involving bath salts, in which individuals had dangerously high body temperatures, were delirious and were incredibly violent.
Additional Designer Drugs Are Out There
This isn’t a complete list of all the designer drugs available, as new synthetic drugs are constantly being created, but these are the most prevalent in the United States.
Addiction to Designer Drugs
Designer drugs are typically more accessible, potent and affordable than regular drugs. Individuals can afford more supply, get the drug more easily and experience a stronger high. Unfortunately, this combination can quickly lead to addiction. After a person starts using synthetic drugs, regular street drugs will often no longer be potent enough for them.
Using designer drugs also carries a significant element of risk. These synthetic creations are being experimented with constantly to come up with more potent versions. However, this experimentation takes place in illegal labs, usually by people who don’t know what they’re doing. As with regular street drugs, an addiction to designer drugs comes with many risks to an individual’s health, safety and personal well-being.
Treatment for Designer Drugs
Designer drug withdrawal can have varying degrees of severity, usually depending on the length and frequency of use. Individuals who want to safely detox from a designer drug addiction can undoubtedly benefit from enrolling in a rehabilitation program.
Synthetic drugs carry extra risk because you can’t be sure exactly what you’re consuming, injecting or smoking, so there’s no way of knowing how your body will respond when you try to stop using them. A rehabilitation center can provide 24/7 monitoring, so if any health issues arise, medical staff is on standby ready to help. Additionally, staff at a rehabilitation center can teach you the coping skills for managing post-rehab life so you don’t relapse and fall back into your old addiction.
FHE Health Can Help
FHE Health provides addiction treatment using evidence-based clinical practices and cutting-edge technology. Our experienced, compassionate staff provide a judgment-free environment to help individuals get on track to sobriety. You don’t have to do this alone. Call (833) 596-3502 to find out how we can help you.