Treatment for Synthetic Drug Use  by Teens

Is Your Child Using Synthetic Drugs?

Learn the Signs and Symptoms of Synthetic Drug Use

The Dangers of Synthetic Drug Abuse

June 20, 2016

Synthetic drugs are a rising concern in the United States. Though touted as “safe” or “natural,” these drugs are anything but innocent. Hundreds of “designer drugs” are introduced into the United States every year, and many of them are manufactured in China. They are incredibly dangerous because they contain chemicals that have not been tested for their effects on the human mind or body. 

Synthetic drugs are difficult to make illegal because once certain chemicals are outlawed, the manufacturers begin to use different and equally dangerous chemicals. The sheer number of unknown substances used in synthetic drugs makes them a veritable poison to the human body, with emergency room visits doubling in the past few years.  But the low cost of the drugs, often as little as a few dollars, makes them attractive to young people looking for a quick and easy high.

Types of Synthetic Drugs

Synthetic Cannabinoids

One common group of synthetic drugs includes synthetic cannabinoids, also incorrectly referred to as “synthetic marijuana.” To create the drug, manufacturers spray man-made chemicals onto plant matter, which is then smoked or ingested by users.  

Street names such as K2, Spice, Black Mamba and others are used to market the drugs, which are sold in gas stations, drug paraphernalia stores, or on the street or Internet. In 2015, one out of twenty high school seniors had tried the drug, which often comes in a small silver packet labeled as incense or potpourri. 
When a person smokes K2 or Spice, the drug targets the same brain cell receptors activated by marijuana. However, synthetic cannabinoids are typically much stronger than marijuana, and the resulting symptoms are difficult to predict. A person may smoke the drug on two separate occasions and have completely different reactions. Some of these might include:

  • Delusional thinking
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Elevated mood
  • Paranoia
  • Anxiety or irritability
  • Hallucinations
  • Vomiting
  • Violent behavior
  • Suicidal ideation

People frequently using the drugs may also find that they can experience withdrawal symptoms if they try to quit, including depression, anxiety, and headaches. Users can also become addicted to the substance and require intensive treatment to stop getting high. Long-term use can also be associated with memory impairment and even paralysis. 

Synthetic Cathinones

Another common group of synthetic drugs includes synthetic stimulants or cathinones. These are drugs that are often labeled “not for human consumption” to hide their purpose, and they come in the disguised form of bath salts, plant food, phone screen cleaner, or jewelry cleaner. Users often ingest the drug with food or water or inhale it by smoking it.  The short-term effects of these “bath salts” are numerous and can include violent, life-threatening behavior, as well as: 

  • Nightmares
  • Depression
  • Hallucinations
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Seizures 
  • Dizziness
  • Homicidal & Suicidal Behavior

Long-term use of the drugs can also cause kidney and liver damage, brain swelling, and even death. 
It’s important to talk to your son or daughter about what they know when it comes to synthetic drugs. Chances are they might assume that the drugs are safe because they are described “natural” or are sold in a store. If you’re not sure where to start, you can emphasize the following key points. 

Man-made drugs are basically poison. Because so many different and unknown chemicals are used in synthetic drugs, one “high” that feels good might be followed by death or violent behavior the second time around. Chemicals such as rat poison and pesticides have been found in synthetic drugs in the past.
Long-term effects outweigh the short term high. Many people who use synthetic drugs chronically are often described as “zombies.” Thinking and moving become muddled and difficult, and even the best treatment may not be able to reverse the damage. The short-term desire to fit in or to relieve anxiety or stress is never worth this price. 

Help is available. In addition to family, there are community, school, and professional supports available to help your daughter or son cope with life’s challenges. A cheap, dangerous high will only delay life’s problems, and probably make them tenfold. 

What steps will take to educate your son or daughter about the realities of synthetic drugs? Have courage and start the conversation today. 

List of Synthetic Drugs and Their Common Street Names

Q. What are the common street names for synthetic cathinones that a parent should be looking out for?

A. Synthetic cathinones are commonly found in small foil packages and sold as "bath salts" or "plant food" with exotic names like Bliss, Drone, Vanilla Sky, Ivory Ocean, Eight Ball, White Girl, White Dove, M-Cat, Miaow, Meow Meow, Subcoca-1, Top Cat or Bubbles. Often the instructions on the packaging will say the product is for a "stimulating bath" or that it is a fertilizer or plant food.

Q. What are the common street names for synthetic cannaboids that a parent should be looking out for?

A. Synthetic cannaboids are often sold in small foil packages labeled as K2, K3 Legal, Spice, Spice Gold, Diesel, King Kong, Cloud 9 and many other names. The packages are often labeled as incense.