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What New Synthetic Drugs Mean for Drug Abuse Treatment

There are countless chemical substances out there that people are abusing today, including new synthetic drugs. Although we’re most familiar with alcohol, marijuana, prescription painkillers, and heroin, these represent only a select few of the wide variety of substances that exist, most of which can very quickly be lethal in many circumstances. However, addiction is a disease of irrationality with substance abuse being an incredibly irrational, dangerous behavior.

It seems that each week some new substance unleashes its terror on the populace. In past decades, there have been marijuana, cocaine, and prescription painkiller epidemics, the latter of which has recently been supplanted with a major heroin epidemic that has been extremely worrying to citizens and public officials alike.

However, more people are finding themselves in need of treatment for drugs other than heroin, especially these relatively new designer drugs. In a way, synthetic drugs could be considered even more dangerous than many of the traditional substances you’d find on the street since they’re often chemically engineered with one of two purposes in mind: to offer users a substance so accessible it can be purchased at many retail locations or an intense, long-lasting high. Any in many cases, these drugs are intended to offer both.

What are these new synthetic drugs? Where do they come from? How are they dangerous? And what are the implications of synthetic drug abuse and dependency for addiction treatment?

New Synthetic Drugs Are Incredibly Dangerous

Not too long ago, the most “exotic” drugs on the black market were things like heroin and hash. Over time, a new class of drugs emerged, ushering us into an entirely new era for substance abuse and addiction. Synthetic drugs, also called designer drugs to reflect the nature of their creation—engineered using a dangerous chemicals and designed to be similar in molecular structure to the chemicals found in more traditional drugs as well as similar to those drugs in their effect—range in strength and type with some being analogous to marijuana and others being comparable to stimulants or hallucinogens. However, due to the unnatural origin of these substances, they’re incredibly volatile, oftentimes unpredictable in terms of their effects, and since they’re non-traditional, it’s difficult to determine dosage; in other words, there’s really no way to safely experiment with synthetic drugs because they’re inherently unsafe by default.

Unfortunately, there’s a common misconception that these synthetic, designer drugs can’t be addictive since they’re not made with many substance abusers feeling like synthetic drugs are real drugs. However, rates of substance abuse treatment for addiction to synthetic drugs increased more than 400 percent from 2008 to 2012, which indicates just how rapidly this dangerous trend has grown. One of the most common synthetic or designer drugs that most people will have heard about is called bath salts.

The name “bath salts” is actually more a slang term or nickname since the drug bears little more than a superficial resemblance to the Epsom salts people use in their bathtubs. Instead, bath sales contain a powerful hallucinogenic stimulant that too frequently causes paranoia and violent psychosis. Another synthetic drug is the synthetic marijuana that’s been a staple of paraphernalia retail and available in many online stores. Synthetic marijuana is made by spraying a shredded and dried herb with chemicals, causing a sort of dissociative high when users smoke it.

Dangerous Synthetic Drugs in Retail Stores: How Is It Legal?

Before a substance can be considered an actual drug and made illegal, there must be considerable research in support of that verdict. While the Federal Drug Administration has made numerous engineered compounds used in synthetic drugs illegal, oftentimes the manufacturers or producers of the substance will simply modify the chemical just enough that it would have to be called something else, preventing any of a drug’s ingredients from being illegal.

Additionally, there are loopholes in how these drugs are sold. Many of the new synthetic drugs prominently display “Not For Human Consumption” on the package; while it’s illegal to sell such substances for the express purpose of being consumed, manufacturers can simply change the packaging, labeling bath sales as “smartphone cleaner,” in order to be able to continue legally selling the product. Meanwhile, substance abusers can continue to buy the product knowing that the substance is meant to be abused as a drug despite its packaging saying that it’s not meant for human consumption. The warning not only allows manufacturers to continue selling these synthetic drugs in retail locations, but it protects them from liability for accidents and overdoses.

Implications for Addiction Recovery & Treatment

While these synthetic drugs are incredibly dangerous and tragically accessible, they’re problematic in yet another way, having serious implications for addiction treatment. Although synthetic drugs are designed to be similar to more traditional drugs and, as such, offer comparable effects, on a chemical and molecular level synthetic drugs contain different chemical compounds. For instance, although synthetic marijuana contains chemicals designed to be similar to cannabinoids, there is no THC in synthetic marijuana; therefore, if an individual who smoked synthetic marijuana was screened for drugs, the test would be negative for marijuana, indicating that he or she had not abused cannabinoids.

The big problem with this is that individuals who are in treatment—and receiving regular, random drug screens—can oftentimes abuse synthetic drugs without their substance abuse being detected on drug screens. Again, the chemicals implemented or incorporated in synthetic drugs are different from actual, traditional drugs, which means that they wouldn’t appear in a drug test. As such, this implies that an individual who enters a recovery program could simply replace his or her drug of choice with synthetic or designer drugs and complete the program without actually being abstinent.

Find Peace in Recovery — Call Drug Treatment Center Finder Now

Not only are synthetic drugs addictive with very dangerous and potentially lethal side effects, but they are often undetected with regard to drug screens. Unfortunately, this means that synthetic drugs could strip an addiction treatment program of all efficacy if an individual were to simply substitute their prior addictions with synthetic drug abuse. Therefore, it’s crucial for individuals to have a thorough knowledge of synthetic drugs so that their use can be more readily detected. If you or someone you love is abusing synthetic drugs or another harmful substance and would benefit from learning more about the recovery process, Drug Treatment Center Finder can help. Call 1-855-619-8070 now for a free consultation and assessment with a friendly, understanding recovery specialist. Don’t be another casualty of addiction.