The Rise of Synthetic Drugs

By Dr. Harold Jonas

Synthetic Drugs are marketed as “safe” and “natural” even though they are anything but.  Instead, synthetic drugs are man-made in labs using chemicals and geared to reproduce the effects of other popular drugs.  There is no way of knowing what the producers have put into the packaging, and therefore, no way of knowing what effects they will actually have on their user.  Users literally have no idea what they are putting into their body or how their body will react or what is going to happen next.

Quite scary truth behind drugs that look and are labeled harmless.  Synthetic drugs are easy to obtain and can be purchased in stores or on the Internet.  The packages are colorful and fun.  They look more like candy or children’s fruit snack wrappers than that of a package containing an unknown mix of chemicals.  They are labeled as “not for human consumption” to make their sale appear legal and legit.  Most are labeled as being used for incense, bath water additives, plant food and more to escape the long arm of the law.

For this reason, synthetic drugs were created and exist.  They are an attempt to get a product into hands while trying to avoid the law.  Synthetic cannabinoids, such as Spice or K2, are made by spraying dried plant material with man-made chemicals thought to produce the same effects as THC in marijuana.  It can also be found in liquid form and both are easily to obtain.  Also, producers keep changing the chemicals used to avoid prosecution as law enforcement discover chemical formulas and makes them illegal to buy, sell or possess.  Another reason for their continued use and popularity is that synthetic cannabinoids are not detected on standard drug tests.

According to NIDA, “So far, there have been few scientific studies of the effects of synthetic cannabinoids on the human brain, but researchers do know that some of them bind more strongly than marijuana to the cell receptors affected by THC, and may produce much stronger effects.”  Users may not realize that they can also experience psychotic effects, elevated heart rate, kidney damage, seizures, vomiting, suicidal thoughts, violent thoughts and elevated blood pressure.

The truth behind synthetic cathinones can be even scarier.  Also known as “bath salts,” these crystal-like powders are made to mimic cathinone.  This is a stimulant found in the khat plant in Africa that people have been known to chew to achieve a mild stimulant affect.  However, these synthetic cathinones can be much more powerful than the actual plant and very dangerous (Baumann, 2014).  These synthetic cathinones are known to be chemically like MDMA, cocaine and antiphetamines.  They can cause paranoia, nosebleeds, nausea, sweating, hallucinations, excited delirium and death.

What happened to that “safe,” “natural” substance?


Baumann MH. Awash in a sea of ‘bath salts’: implications for biomedical research and public health. Addiction. 2014;109(10):1577-1579.

National Institute on Drug Abuse; National Institutes of Health; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.