Since their first documented appearance in the United States in 2008, synthetic drugs have created a trend that both authorities and health care officials alike are struggling to contain. Due to the ever-changing formulas of these substances, lawmakers find it difficult to pass all-encompassing legislation that makes these new drugs fully illegal. And with these changing formulas comes new chemical combinations that are unknown, unstudied, and extremely dangerous.
What is a synthetic drug?
The New York Department of Health defines a synthetic drug as a substance that has properties similar to narcotics, or hallucinogens, but features altered chemical structures to avoid penalization by current drug laws. Because of this, the components of synthetic drugs are more difficult to trace and regulate.
Two of the most popular synthetic drugs in this new trend are bath salts and synthetic marijuana, better known by the names Cloud 9 and Spice. Both drugs are alarmingly available to the public, often sold under the guise of incense, potpourri, or other fragrant herbs marked “not for consumption.”
In the case of synthetic marijuana, chemical mixtures are sprayed on dried plant material to mimic the effects of THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in regular marijuana. Bath salts, on the other hand, contain a mixture of synthetic chemicals related to cathinone, a stimulant very similar to amphetamines. Long-term health effects of both are still relatively unknown.
Who’s using these drugs?
When it comes to synthetic drug users, an exact number is hard to peg down, but thanks to reports by poison control centers, along with forensic data reports from local laboratories across the United States, we are able to get an idea of how drug use has increased since its start, as well as where use is most concentrated.
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