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Synthetic Drugs

What are synthetic drugs?

Synthetic drugs are manufactured using chemical compounds created in a laboratory. Synthetic drugs often fall into one of two categories: stimulants and cannabinoids.

What are synthetic stimulants?

Synthetic stimulants contain ingredients that mimic the effects of methamphetamine, cocaine or LSD. Street names include “bath salts,” Bliss, Blue Silk, Pure Ivory, Purple Wave, White Lightning and more.

Synthetic stimulants are often sold in convenience stores, online and in “head shops” (retail stores that sell items related to cannabis and tobacco consumption) under various brand names. Some are labeled “not for human consumption.”

People may inject, smoke, orally ingest, sniff or snort synthetic stimulants.

Side effects of synthetic stimulants include:

  • Alertness
  • Dizziness
  • Euphoria
  • Delusions
  • Feelings of empathy
  • Hallucinations
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Paranoia
  • Prolonged panic attacks
  • Rapid heart rate that can lead to a heart attack or stroke
  • Seizures
  • Sensory awareness
  • Stimulation
  • Sweating
  • Suicidal thoughts

These drugs can also be deadly.

What are synthetic cannabinoids?

Synthetic cannabinoids mimic the effects of THC, the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

Common names include “fake weed,” Spice, Black Mamba, K2, AK-47, Kronic, Kush, Mr. Happy, Scooby Snax and more.

Many synthetic cannabinoids are illegal and cause serious side effects that are very different from marijuana’s side effects.

People may add them to food or tea, mix them into vaping liquid, or spray them onto plant materials and smoke them.

Synthetic cannabinoids aren’t safe. They can be contaminated with other drugs or toxic chemicals, be mislabeled, or contain different ingredients from one package to another.

Compared to marijuana, synthetic cannabinoids may affect the brain in different and unpredictable ways.

Side effects of synthetic cannabinoids include:

  • Anxiety
  • Convulsions
  • Giddiness
  • Hallucinations
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Organ damage
  • Panic attacks
  • Paranoia

They can also cause death.

Why are synthetic drugs dangerous?

Because synthetic drugs are relatively new, there is little legal regulation when making or selling them. The strength and contents of each package can vary greatly.

So, even if you used them before with no serious side effects, that doesn’t mean they’re safe. The next batch you try could be much stronger or contain different ingredients, leading to severe illness or death.

They can also be addictive.

Withdrawal symptoms of synthetic drugs include:

  • Breathing problems
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Extreme anxiety
  • Headache
  • Heart palpitations
  • Nausea
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Seizures
  • Sweating
  • Vomiting

If you or someone you know experiences any of these symptoms after using synthetic drugs, call 911 or visit your nearest emergency department.

Synthetic drugs aren’t safe. If you suspect you may be addicted, talk to an adult you trust, such as a doctor, nurse, parent, aunt, uncle, older sibling or cousin, teacher, guidance counselor, coach or neighbor. And if someone offers you synthetic drugs, say no.

Need more info? Ask an Expert.

CDC: About Synthetic Cannabinoids
CDC: Synthetic cannabinoids: What are they? What are their effects?
United States Drug Enforcement Administration: Bath Salts
United States Drug Enforcement Administration: Spice/ K2, Synthetic Marijuana
Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America
National Institute on Drug Abuse: Spice
National Institute on Drug Abuse: Bath Salts

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