01-08 | CDAH Team
The presence of synthetic drugs in the United States, which has gone up significantly since the beginning of the decade, has made the task of law enforcement agencies – already battling to tame the organized drug peddling gangs and the menace of substance and prescription drug abuse – much more difficult. It has created a trend that both authorities and health care officials are now struggling to contain.
According to reports, synthetic cannabinoids, also known as synthetic marijuana, is widely used in the U.S. today, leading to a rise in overdose and violent crime. The products are commonly known as K2, Scooby Snax and Spice. These are made of chemicals that are unknown to the user. Thus, users have no idea what they are smoking or consuming.
These manmade mind-altering chemicals can pose various health risks. Synthetic drugs are likely to affect the functioning of the brain and can have a stronger effect than marijuana. As per reports, lately many cities are witnessing an increase in drug-related violence which can be attributed to the rampant use and availability of synthetic drugs.
Another group of drugs, known as bath salts, contain one or more synthetic chemicals that are related to a strong and dangerous stimulant called cathinone. These chemicals have emerged as substitute for various traditional illicit drugs and are marketed in distinct ways.
Widespread use of synthetic drugs has left the authorities concerned about public health and safety. These drugs cause euphoria, paranoia, agitation and hallucination. In some cases, it can result in psychotic and violent behavior, leading to death.
According to reports, of the 136 individuals arrested for violent crime in July 2015, 20 percent tested positive for synthetic drugs. And, it has been noticed that people exhibiting violent behavior more often test positive for synthetic drugs, instead of cocaine.
A synthetic drug is a substance that has properties similar to narcotics, but features altered chemical structures to avoid penalization by the existing drug laws. Due to this, the components of synthetic drugs are really difficult to trace, making even its regulation also a challenge.
These “designer drugs” mimic the effects of other illicit drugs, such as LSD, methylamphetamine, ecstasy, cocaine and cannabis. Also known as new and emerging psychoactive substances (NPS), these drugs are often marketed as legal or herbal substances, neither of which is true.
Although not much is known about the safety profile of NPS, especially in comparison to traditional illicit drugs, evidence shows that it has devastating effects, often leading to death. Even a low dose of NPS can prove to be dangerous. With multiple drugs abuse being the norm these days, health experts are concerned about the double impact of mixing traditional drugs with NPS.
“Researchers are receiving constant reports of people showing up in emergency rooms with all sorts of bizarre symptoms,” says Eric Wish, an associate professor and director of the Center for Substance Abuse Research at the University of Maryland. “Because doctors know so little about the chemicals involved, the users are effectively playing Russian roulette with their bodies,” he added.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has come up with Intramural Research Program under which it analyzes facts related with the toxicology of synthetic drugs and has also explored many unknown areas associated with their easy access. The NIDA organized a workshop entitled Emerging Trends in the Abuse of Designer Drugs and Their Catastrophic Health Effects that threw light on addiction and treatment of synthetic drugs.
If you or a loved one is seeking recovery from addiction to synthetic drugs, the Colorado Drug Addiction Helpline is a resource where people struggling with addiction can seek support any time. Call us at 855-982-2401.