What are Synthetic Drugs?

Over the past several years there has been a dangerous increase in the sale and wide spread use of synthetic drugs.  A “synthetic drug” is a mixture of various chemicals, which are produced and combined in laboratories around the world with the sole purpose of recreating similar effects of various illegal drugs.

“Make no mistake, these drugs are some of the most life threatening ever produced.” – D.E.A.

There are two major perpetrators in the synthetic arena that have become an epidemic and are now causing severe problems: “Spice” and “Bath Salts”

  • “Spice” (also called, “synthetic marijuana”) is a variety of shredded plant material that is sprayed with various chemicals that attempt to mimic the effects of Tetrahydrocannabinol (“THC”) – the main ingredient in marijuana. For several years, Spice mixtures have been easy to purchase in shops and gas stations and via the Internet. Because the chemicals used in Spice have a high potential for abuse and no medical benefit, the DEA has designated the five active chemicals most frequently found in Spice as Schedule I controlled substances, making it illegal to sell, buy, or possess them. However, manufacturers of Spice products attempt to evade these legal restrictions by substituting different chemicals in their mixtures, thus, continually creating drugs that are no longer illegal to sell. Spice products are popular among young people; of the illicit drugs most used by high-school seniors, they are second only to marijuana. Easy access and the misperception that Spice products are “natural” (false adverting of it being synthetic “Marijuana”) and therefore harmless have contributed to their popularity. Another selling point is that the chemicals used in Spice are not easily detected in standard drug tests.
  • “Bath Salts” are synthetic drugs, which are reported to have similar effects as cocaine and methamphetamines, as well as hallucinogenic effects such as LSD. Much like Spice, it is a chemical compound that is entirely unique, thus, it is not violating any drug enforcement laws.  The common effects of bath salts, according to the Center for Disease Control, are extreme agitation, hallucinations, increased heart rate, seizures and intense paranoia.  Many cases have been reported where the user has a complete loss of reality and has acted violently against friends and family. Numerous deaths have been related to its use. Oftentimes, Bath Salts are also marketed as “plant food”—or, more recently, as “jewelry cleaner” or “phone screen cleaner.” They are sold online and in drug paraphernalia stores under a variety of brand names, such as “Ivory Wave,” “Bloom,” “Cloud Nine,” “Lunar Wave,” “Vanilla Sky,” “White Lightning,” and “Scarface.”

A Dangerous Trend

Synthetic drugs are readily available and can typically be purchased at gas stations, smoke shops and on the Internet. Due to their complete lack of regulation and ease of availability, their use has spiked in recent years.  In fact, a study done in 2011 by the University of Michigan found that one in every nine 12th graders has used spice.

In 2010, there were 3,200 calls to the American Association for Poison Control Centers related to synthetic drug use and in 2011, this number exploded to 13,000. Today, estimates are closer to 25,000.

It is difficult for the CDC and DEA to curb the trend. Vendors label products as ‘Not for Human Consumption’, which avoids FDA regulations. To make matters worse, each time a chemical compound is identified and added to the controlled substance list, laboratories alter, just slightly, the chemical makeup, creating a new substance no longer considered illegal.

Horrifying Examples of The Effects

  • Rudy Eugene was shot and killed by police after repeatedly biting another man’s face. Armando Aguilar, a representative for the Miami Police, stated believed bath salts to be the cause of this horrifying attack.
  • A boy in Louisiana snorted bath salts and was launched into a psychotic episode that resulted in suicide.
  • A teen in Illinois smoked spice while driving and died in a car accident. He drove his car into a house and directly into the bedroom of a newborn infant.
  • Police arrested a 22-year-old man after ingesting bath salts and allegedly tearing off his girlfriend’s skin.
  • A man was transported to a local emergency department after experimenting with bath salts. He had to be physically detained in four-point restraints after inconsolable and trying to aggressively bite staff members.

The above examples are only a small sampling of the widespread deaths and health issues caused by these drugs. There are thousands of examples where users are hospitalized in critical condition after their first use.

Parents must stay vigilant in their awareness. Synthetic drugs, in our opinion, will soon become one of the most dangerous epidemics in the war against drugs this country has ever seen. Not only is use besieged with terrifying effects, law enforcement and policy makers are struggling to find ways of limiting its production – until they do, it keeps flowing into the U.S. daily.  While this happens, more and more children are experimenting with such substances with catastrophic consequences.

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