The Dangers of Synthetic Drugs
Humans have been struggling with substance abuse since at least the beginning of recorded history and likely longer than that. While a majority of the substances which humans find themselves addicted to, such as alcohol, opiates, and marijuana, have been around for thousands of years there are some new substances which are becoming popular and have the medical and addiction treatment community scratching their heads. These new substances, referred to as synthetic drugs, have exploded in popularity in the past decade and are prompting the need for specific synthetic drug treatment programs in order to tackle the unique dangers and problems that these substances create for those that use them.
What are synthetic drugs?
Synthetic drugs are a broad class of drugs which are hard to classify because they vary drastically. Typically they are chemicals which have been designed to have properties similar to drugs like marijuana or methamphetamine but have altered chemical structures which allow them to get around current drug laws and make them technically legal from a law enforcement and regulation standpoint.
This loophole allows for these powerful and dangerous drugs to be sold to the general public in gas stations and smoke shops. The ease of which people can acquire these drugs has led to an explosion of their popularity over the past 10 years and lawmakers and treatment professionals at synthetic drug treatment centers are struggling to catch up with the quickly changing trends. Just as quickly as we can identify and then attempt to regulate these different drugs, the manufacturers can simply change them slightly and create an entirely different drug, with potentially different dangers. This is the crux of the problem, the more variations of these synthetic drugs that are available, the more difficult it can be to treat a synthetic drug addict.
Who is abusing synthetic drugs?
Unfortunately, the fact that these drugs can often be bought easily at the local store has made their abuse more common among teenagers and young adults. The fact that they are typically less expensive and much more readily available than more traditional drugs have led to a clear trend towards high school and college aged kids abusing synthetic drugs.
This is alarming in its own right as so little is known about the long-term impact that these drugs have on humans. Most of these chemical compounds have been around for less than 10 years, and therefore extensive data on their long-term impact on people is unavailable. Particularly concerning is the mental and psychological effect that these synthetic drugs have on young people. Because young people have brains which are still developing, drugs can have a significantly more profound impact on young people. This, combined with the fact that these synthetic drugs are unprecedentedly potent is a recipe which many researchers are very concerned about.
One of the most common types of synthetic drugs are stimulant type drugs, often referred to as bath salts, which are designed to mimic the effects of methamphetamine and cocaine. These drugs are marketed as bath salts which are not for human consumption, but that is because it allows them to be sold with little to no regulation. Synthetic stimulants can be smoked, inhaled, injected or ingested orally and can lead to some dangerous and often unpredictable side effects which are causing problems for synthetic drug treatment centers. Some of the most common side effects of synthetic stimulants are:
- Violent behavior
- Liver and kidney failure
The other most common form of synthetic drugs are synthetic cannabinoids, also referred to as synthetic marijuana. These synthetic drugs are most commonly smoked and are manufactured to look and smell similar to real marijuana. While these drugs are designed to mimic the effects of marijuana, this can be deceiving as most synthetic cannabinoids are far stronger than any natural forms of marijuana. This has led to many issues as synthetic drug treatment programs have reported increased overdoses and devastating side effects from prolonged and extensive use of synthetic cannabinoids. Some of the most common side effects of synthetic cannabinoids are:
- Violent behaviors
- Increased heart rate
- Memory loss
Treatment for synthetic drug abuse
Treating someone who abuses synthetic drugs presents a plethora of unique problems and challenges for synthetic drug treatment centers due to that fact that there are so many different chemicals which fall under the category. Unlike most other commonly abused drugs which have one or maybe a half dozen chemical variations, synthetic drugs can literally have hundreds or even thousands of different chemical compositions. This is due to the fact that as lawmakers struggle to regulate these new drugs and make them illegal for sale or consumption, the manufacturers of these drugs simply tweak the chemistry of the drug and create a new chemical compound which does not fall under legal regulation.
The problem this creates is that even small changes in the chemical structure of a drug can drastically alter the side effects it has on humans. This makes it extremely difficult to treat those who have been taking synthetic drugs because medical and counseling professionals have no way of knowing exactly what chemical a person was taking and therefore cannot offer precise treatment.
This is why programs which specialize in synthetic drug treatment have begun to emerge across the country, offering a better option for those who find themselves addicted to these extremely dangerous and unpredictable drugs. These programs typically employ doctors and counselors who have extensive experience and specialized training in treating those who are recovering from synthetic drug abuse. This is crucial as synthetic drugs have side effects and can create long-term medical and psychological problems which most other drugs do not. Many times those getting off of synthetic drugs require extensive medical treatment for issues like internal organ damage as well as in-depth psychological treatment for the common psychiatric issues that synthetic drug abuse can cause.