There is a new trend in drug use in today’s society. Synthetic drugs have been on the rise mostly among young teens and have created many problems such as health risks and controversy with the government. Synthetic drugs are being chemically created in laboratories and in some households, made with easily accessible chemicals and is being sold under misleading names such as ‘Mr. Smiley or Spice’ to not make the product obvious of its’ contents. Synthetic drugs are created to give the same high as marijuana and cocaine in a ‘legal’ form and users will still pass a drug test. Nobody knows what kind of chemicals are put into each batch of synthetic drugs since the creators are constantly changing the chemicals leading to dangerous circumstances, not knowing what kind of health risks synthetic drugs can cause. With synthetic drug usage being so common now, not very many people educated about the consequences and how a quick high can drastically change lives and not in a good way.
What are Synthetic Drugs?
They sound like something you might find on the fragrance aisle at Target, but these are actually dangerous drugs masked as harmless fragrances, sold in convenience stores and online. Innocent names such as Mr. Smiley hide the dangers (Escobedo, CNN). Synthetic drugs are chemically laced substances depending on the chemicals they are divided into two categories. Cannabinoids which are popularly known as K2 or Spice. Cannabinoids are chemically formulated versions of synthetic marijuana that consists of lab-manufactured THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). Cathinones are another category of synthetic drug, often known as ‘bath salts’. Cathinones contain chemical compounds that mimic the effects of cocaine of meth. (‘Synthetic Drugs’, Allegany County Health Department)
These synthetic drugs are often sold in common retail stores such as gas stations and head shops. They are sold as ‘K2, Spice, bath salts, potpourri’ and labeled ‘not for human consumption’ to mask their intended purposes and to avoid the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These synthetic drugs are being marketed as a ‘legal’ high. Users claim that synthetic cannabinoids mimic THC, the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana (‘Synthetic Drugs (a.k.a. K2, Spice, Bath Salts, Etc.)’, The White House).
Synthetic Drug Use
Synthetic cannabinoids were first reported in the United Sates in December 2008 (‘Synthetic Drugs (a.k.a. K2, Spice, Bath Salts, Etc.)’, The White House). Since then, the usage and popularity quickly grew, mostly among teenagers. ‘The biggest user populations of these drugs are 12-17 year olds, because they are easily accessible,’ whether it’s in a convenience store, a smoke shop or online, synthetic drug sale is a multi-million dollar product (Escobedo, CNN).
The expansion of different varieties of synthetic drugs has increased dramatically since its introduction in December 2008. Fifty-one new synthetic cannabinoids were identified in 2012, compared to just two in 2009. Furthermore, thirty-one new synthetic cathinones were identified compared to just two in 2009. In addition, seventy-six other synthetic compounds were identified in 2012, bringing the total number of new synthetic substances identified in 2012 to a total of one hundred fifty-eight (‘Synthetic Drugs (a.k.a. K2, Spice, Bath Salts, Etc.)’, The White House). It is amazing how rapidly synthetic drugs have expanded in such a short period of time.
Health Risks Related to Synthetic Drug Use
We all know that using drugs are bad for the body, but using chemically created drugs is just taking a chance at death. Since these synthetic drugs are constantly being changed in their chemical composition, we do not know exactly what is in the packages, since every batch could possibly be different. The side effects of using these synthetic drugs are outrageous. Synthetic drugs also have ‘unpredictable effects on human behavior’ (Escobedo, CNN). Signs and symptoms may include seizures, hallucinations, suicidal tendencies and attempts, homicidal tendencies, delusions, aggression, paranoia, chest pain, heart attack, death, overheating that cause a person to tear off his clothes, and other self-destructive behavior like bashing one’s body or head against walls. Some less symptoms of synthetic drug use can include agitation, anxiety, sweat, heart palpitations, inability to speak, restlessness, and euphoria. These symptoms can last for hours or even days.
Synthetic Drug Abuse
The abuse of synthetic drugs is not only dangerous and potentially addictive to the user. It can be fatal for children or people in the vicinity. In Washington State, bath salts abuse resulted in the deaths of a four-year-old boy, both parents and a teen who died after overdosing on a drug just referred to as 2C-E. A mother in Kentucky who used bath salts tried to kill her two-year-old when she became convinced that he was a demon; he survived. A Hawaiian man used Spice (synthetic cannabis) and then tried to throw his girlfriend off an eleventh ‘floor balcony. Near New Orleans, a young man snorted bath salts and then tried to kill himself with a knife whis his father stood nearby. He received medical treatment for the knife wound, but he then succeeded in killing himself the next day (‘Signs and Symptoms of Synthetic Abuse’, Narconon International). These real-life examples prove that synthetic drugs are dangerous and are something that should be taken off the streets.
Synthetic drugs are so unpredictable that the best thing to do is to stay away from it completely. Families dealing with someone who has been abusing a synthetic drug may not even be able to successfully drug test the user. This is what makes these drugs attractive to some people who think they can use a drug and not get caught, but the risks are enormous (‘Signs and Symptoms of Synthetic Abuse’, Narconon International).
The Governments’ Efforts to Ban Synthetic Drugs
All these tragic accidents that resulted from the use of synthetic drugs caught the government’s attention. The federal government and at least 43 states have taken steps to ban synthetic drugs. The Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act is part of the FDA Safety and Innovation Act of 2012, signed into law by President Obama. The law permanently places twenty-six types of synthetic cannabinoids and cathinones into the Controlled Substances Act of 1986 (CSA). (‘Synthetic Drugs (a.k.a. K2, Spice, Bath Salts, Etc.)’, The White House). As soon as one compound is banned, the chemical structure of the synthetic drug is altered and that ‘changes the whole structure of the drug, so the drug becomes legal and we’re at it again,’ stated James Capra, DEA Chief of Operations (Escobedo, CNN). Retailers are dodging the law by marking on the labels ‘not for human consumption’, to avoid the law enforcement; ‘It’s a cat and mouse game’ (Escobedo, CNN). Another law that went into effect was the Controlled Substance Analogue Enforcement Act of 1986, which allows many synthetic drugs to be treated as controlled substances if they were proven to be chemically and/or pharmacologically similar to a controlled substance (‘Synthetic Drugs (a.k.a. K2, Spice, Bath Salts, Etc.)’, The White House).
Today’s society needs to be more educated about the health risks and life threatening dangers involved in using synthetic drugs. By spreading the word of the dangers and promoting a sober life, we could possibly save lives and prevent healthy lives to be ruined. We can make this a better world by teaching the young adults that using drugs is not as cool as it seems.
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