The Dangers of Designer Drugs

Posted by | Alcohol and Drug Use | April 27, 2015

Spice is likely one designer drug you might have heard of. Designer drugs are those that are manufactured versus those that come from the natural world. For instance, marijuana is a plant that grows naturally in certain environments, and morphine is a naturally occurring substance extracted from the seedpod of the Asian poppy plant. However, designer drugs are created by humans, not nature, and the ingredients in these drugs are often being manipulated so that they can remain legal.

Designer drugs are those that are made to have similar effects as other illegal drugs, such as marijuana, but have been altered just enough to keep it legal. For instance, Spice is a synthetic marijuana product that can be sold legally. The legality of this drug might create confusion, indicating that because it is legal it may not cause serious harm. However, the dangers are like any drug that can lead to an addiction: drop in work performance, absences from work, behavioral concerns, relationship problems with friends and family, among others. Furthermore, spice is a serious drug. It is considered to be a Schedule I drug, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), along with heroin, marijuana, and LSD.

Spice, also known as K2, has similar effects on its users as marijuana. Although it might lead to a family of euphoria, it can also cause vomiting, high blood pressure, increased heart rate, seizures, and hallucinations. The synthetic version of THC (the compound in marijuana that creates euphoria in its users) was originally created with the intent to use it for medical purposes. However, since then, others have abused the synthetic version.

“Bath Salts” is another recent drug use trend. Just like Spice is meant to mimic marijuana, Bath Salts is meant to mimic cocaine. Yet, Bath Salts can be even more damaging than cocaine. For instance, Bath Salts affect the brain’s ability to process particular neurotransmitters effectively, resulting in an excessive amount of neurotransmitters, such as Dopamine and Norepinephrine. Although too much of these two neurotransmitters create the feeling of euphoria, it also leads to damaging effects such as rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, damage to the blood vessels, heart attack, heart failure, and a stroke. Other stimulants, such as cocaine, typically wear off relatively quickly; however the effect of Bath Salts can last up to four hours. Since bath salts first appeared in Europe and the United States, alarming reports emerged of users becoming violent.

Other names for these designer drugs are “Plant Food” and “Glass Cleaner” and other inconspicuous names to keep them discreet. Like “Bath Salts”, “Plant Food” is created to mimic an amphetamine. They are derived a stimulant in a plant called khat, with effects are similar to those of amphetamines. Users typically feel an initial sense of euphoria, but this is followed by unpredictable and potentially dangerous effects, including seizures and hallucinations.

Unlike Spice, “Bath Salts” and “Plant Food” are now illegal. “Bath Salts” were made illegal in 2012. However, they have led thousands of emergency room visits, deaths, and injuries, all related to the drug. If an individual is saved before extensive harm from the drug, the need for drug detox and drug treatment may still be necessary. Because of their dangers, researchers are looking for ways to prevent serious harm and drug addiction to other substances. Although drug addiction is possible, it is the harmful effects of use of the drug that scientists aim to end. They have been searching for various ways to identify these drugs. One attempt led to an electrochemical approach, which can be adapted for in-the-field use, but the technique involved the use of mercury which can be toxic. Researchers wanted to find a better, safer way to identify whether a person possessed or had been using “Bath Salts”.

The damaging effects of these drugs might not only require drug treatment but also psychotherapy, drug counseling, and other forms of drug addiction therapy. If you or someone you know is using designer drugs, it’s essential that you contact a mental health provider today.

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