Synthetic Drug Abuse and Side Effects

Medically Reviewed

Synthetic drugs are potent and dangerous substances that can have a multitude of effects on the user. These are often known as “designer” drugs that are created in clandestine laboratories. The chemicals used to make these substances were once designed to be prescription medications. Due to apparent reasons, they were not used for this purpose.

Since then, chemists have taken these chemicals and modified them to sell as research chemicals. The modifications of the compounds allow the drugs to be sold legally. The rise of synthetic drugs is affecting many lives, mostly young people. Synthetic drugs cause bizarre behavior, and a story from Miami will back up this claim.

In 2012, Miami police were forced to shoot and kill a man who was believed to be under the influence of synthetic drugs. Their reason? The man who was high on the drugs was eating a homeless man’s face. The assault was said to have lasted for 18 agonizing minutes. It was captured on nearby surveillance cameras. It’s not clear what provoked the man to start the attack, but one of the side effects of synthetic drugs is violent outbursts and disassociation.

Nearly every state has officially banned most synthetic drugs, and the federal government has passed controls on several of these substances as well. That may seem like it’s good, but clandestine labs make tiny changes to the structure of the drugs to bypass the new laws.

The federal government has a tough time trying to keep up with these laboratories, and as soon as the law is altered, there is already a new formula that is created. These issues have been causing headaches for lawmakers, but even worse, have been contributing to the problems we are facing with the use of the drugs.

The laboratories remain hidden from lawmakers and law enforcement, and they are legally able to continue their operations without fear of punishment. The government will keep playing this game of cat and mouse because it’s their job, but these criminals seem always to be one step ahead.

If police can’t catch these criminals, they will continue to readily pump drugs into the street and keep hurting our children, families, and loved ones.

The Most Common Types of Synthetic Drugs


Synthetic cathinones are stimulants chemically structured to resemble cocaine or amphetamines. These are often known as bath salts, but there are many similar chemicals in this class of drugs that have other names.

Cathinones are the chemicals found in the khat plant that is native to southern Arabia and East Africa. These are often labeled as “not for human consumption” as a means to get around the law.

They are typically branded as glass cleaner, plant food, jewelry cleaner, or phone screen cleaner. Synthetic cathinones come in a white-brown crystal powder, and they are designed to be smoked, snorted, and in some extreme cases, injected. They cause an intense stimulant high.

The drugs are still relatively new, and the long-term effects have not been studied in-depth. The short-term effects are intense, physically harmful, and can resemble more of a drug overdose than a high.

Studies have shown that the drug 3,4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV) is a chemical common in many cathinones, and works on the brain such as cocaine. Unfortunately, it is 10 times more powerful.

The drugs lead to overdose-related hospitalizations, and it is difficult to know how addictive these substances are. Those who do develop dependence can lead to withdrawal symptoms that include:


These drugs are referred to as Spice or K2, and this group resembles tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the active ingredient found in marijuana. Synthetic pot and cannabinoids are packaged to appear like marijuana, and the chemical may be sprayed on to dried plant matter.

The drugs are sometimes packaged as crystals or powder, but in all cases, they will be labeled “not for human consumption.” These may be sold as incense, air freshener, or jewelry cleaner. The drugs are usually snorted, smoked, or vaped to achieve the high.

Like other drugs that fall under this category, there are few studies on how cannabinoids affect the brain. The effects mimic those of marijuana, but they are far more intense. Synthetic cannabinoids bind to the brain’s natural receptors and cause effects such as:

Potentially harmful and long-lasting adverse effects associated with synthetic substances include:

These substances are thought to be addictive and can lead to physical dependence. Those who use these drugs show signs of compulsive behaviors to take more, and they report withdrawal symptoms that include:


These fall into the category of synthetic drugs that are similar to mushrooms or LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide). They are often found as powder, liquid laced edibles, or soaked onto blotter paper that you would see with acid. These are not sold in head shops or convenience stores, but they are sold like illicit drugs. These have unpredictable effects, and small doses can lead to heart attacks, respiratory arrest, seizures, and death.

Fatal Outcomes to Synthetics Abuse

As we described in the story above, synthetic drugs can have deadly outcomes. That is just one such story, and in Washington state, bath salts abuse caused the death of a 4-year-old boy and both parents.

In Minneapolis, a teen overdosed and died on a drug called 2C-E, and a mother in Kentucky who tried bath salts once tried to kill her young child when she was convinced that he was a demon. In Hawaii, a man used Spice and tried to throw his girlfriend off the 11th-floor balcony.

Synthetic drugs are so unpredictable that one should avoid the drug in its entirety. Families that are trying to deal with someone abusing synthetic drugs may not be able to test the drug user successfully. It makes the substances even more attractive to users since they will not get caught for their actions.

In addition, they cause catastrophic effects on the mind and body, which can cause severe long-term damage. If someone is abusing bath salts, they must seek out treatment immediately.

Since information about synthetic drugs is still, the detox process must be under the supervision of medical professionals. By doing so, it will ensure the transition off the drugs is done safely and efficiently. We will highlight the best approach to treating synthetic drug addiction.

The Best Approach to Treating Synthetic Drug Addiction

To treat synthetic drugs, you must attend a supervised medical detox. Due to the unknown nature of the drugs, there could be psychological and physical effects that could arise during the time you rid them from your system. There are no medication-assisted treatments (MATs) designed specifically for synthetic drugs, but being in the presence of those trained to handle any and all medical emergencies will mitigate the risks involved.

The ability to have full access to a staff that can provide psychiatric drugs and pain management is an essential part of detoxing from a substance. Long-term counseling and behavioral therapy are also needed to treat some of the long-term psychological effects of your brain.

Outpatient treatment will be the best approach for people who are medically stabilized. For those who have health struggles or a severe addiction, residential treatment could be required. The course of action for the user will depend on many factors that the clinicians will determine.

Synthetic drug use and addiction are possible to overcome with the right help. Your mental and physical health does not have to suffer the damage from these drugs a day longer. There are several approaches to evidence-based treatment available that include detox, and Maryland House Detox may be the right option for you. If you are struggling with an addiction to synthetic drugs, it is time to consider treatment.

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