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Not Your Mama’s LSD: The Dangers of “New” Synthetic Drugs

March 11, 2015

Not Your Mama's LSD | Teen Treatment Center

N-bomb, Snake oil tea, Cloud 9, Gravel … have you heard of these drugs? If you haven’t, these “new” synthetic drugs are being created at faster rates than U.S. government agencies can keep up with, and this rapid production of new designer drugs is making it difficult to ban specific drugs.

As the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency tries to ban synthetic drugs, every year there is a new class of designer drugs that are created with a different chemical compound to evade the bans. These new chemical compounds make the drugs “legal” to sell in head shops and neighborhood convenience stores around the country.

With an endless cycle of new drugs entering the market with relatively unknown toxic compounds, teens are becoming more and more at risk of a deadly overdose with each new batch. 

The Deadly Effects of Synthetic Drugs

Synthetic marijuana (K2 and Spice) and other synthetic drugs can be found just about everywhere. Most commonly, they are found at school, music festivals, raves, parties and the internet via online black market sites.  

Experimentation of marijuana may seem harmless to some, but the psychoactive affects of synthetic marijuana and other synthetic drugs poses a deadlier threat of overdose than some illegal drugs like heroin and cocaine. So what exactly is synthetic marijuana and how lethal is it?

Synthetic Marijuana 

Synthetic marijuana produces a psychoactive affect that is stronger and more potent than the THC levels found in marijuana. The THC levels found in marijuana varies between 15 to 30 percent. They can be up to one hundred or more times greater in synthetic marijuana. 

This means that a smaller dosage of the synthetic drug is all that’s needed to produce a maximum effect in the brain. Since many teens aren’t always aware of the dosage, the adverse effects can be life-threatening. The deadly symptoms from synthetic marijuana can be as severe as:

  • Tremors/seizures
  • Paranoia/hallucination
  • Chest pains, cardiac problems
  • Stroke
  • Acute psychosis
  • Brain damage

Since synthetic marijuana can be laced with any other chemicals from plant food and household products to black tar heroin, teens often have no idea what they’re ingesting. The unknown contents of synthetic drugs overall makes them more lethal than many other illegal drugs. 

How is synthetic marijuana affecting teens today?

In a study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, over 11 percent of high school seniors in the United States reported using at least one synthetic drug, mostly synthetic marijuana in 2012. Consequently, synthetic drugs are now the second most popular illegal drugs among American teens after marijuana.  

Emergency rooms across the country have seen an increase in visits related to synthetic marijuana use. In one year between 2010 and 2011, emergency room visits more than doubled from 11,000 to almost 29,000 according to a recent U.S. government report. That number keeps skyrocketing each year.

“New” Synthetic Drugs 

Synthetic drugs are created in labs mostly in China and India, and sold in the form of a white powder. Usually, the powder is turned into liquid on blotter paper and marketed to look like stamps, usually with cartoon characters on them. They are also marketed as “plant food” with the warning label, “not for human consumption”. 

The composition of synthetic drugs can vary; they can come in liquid form, have a rocky appearance or look like potpourri. Some of the “new” synthetic drugs include: 

  • N-bomb
  • Snake oil tea
  • Cloud 9
  • Mojo

New synthetic drugs are being manufactured as alternatives to marijuana, bath salts, spice, and methamphetamines. With snake oil teas, it’s often labeled “tea” or “party pills”. However, new synthetics are often packaged differently with each new batch to disguise their contents.   

Catch Me if You Can

When a new ban is passed on a specific synthetic, it doesn’t take long for a new drug to be released. It takes chemists about three hours to change a formula, and at least 5 months for government agencies to identify and ban them.

This rapid production is causing a crisis for government agencies worldwide. Just to give an idea of how quickly these drugs are developed, in 2011, there were 49 new psychoactive drugs in Europe, which swelled to 81 by 2013. Today, more than 350 new synthetic drugs are on the black market worldwide. 

What to Look for as a Parent/Guardian

Excusing teen drug use as experimentation is not an option. The drugs from today are more potent than the popular drugs that were abused in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Teens can’t be monitored 24/7; however, you can look out for any suspicious activity from your teen by being vigilant and more aware of the type of drugs that are out there.  

Also, have an open discussion with your teen. Doing research together and openly talking about drug use or the desire to use drugs is often a great way to address these issues. With an open discussion, you and your teen can be more transparent about the dangers of synthetic drugs and other illicit drugs.

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