synthetic drugsRecent stories in the news have brought the subject of synthetic drugs to national attention, with sensational reports of the effects of synthetic cannabis and the hallucinogenic “bath salts” making headlines across the country. These drugs are only the most recent developments in a trend over recent years as the abuse of other man-made drugs have been on the rise. In fact, statistics published by the American Association of Poison Control Centers reveal that 2,700 people were reported to have fallen ill from the use of synthetic drugs in the first four months of 2011, as compared with 3,200 for the entire year of 2010, figures which portend a 500% increase in such cases. What are synthetic drugs? Why are they becoming so widespread? What can be done to combat the problem?

About Synthetic Drugs

The term, “synthetic drugs,” has become something of a buzzword, but what does it mean? Generally speaking, synthetic drugs would include any type of narcotic or similar substance which is not naturally occurring, but which has been artificially developed, such as in a laboratory. Marijuana is derived from the cannabis plant, which also provides hemp, a widely used industrial fiber. Cocaine is derived from the leaves of the coca plant. Heroin and opium are derivatives of the seeds of the beautiful poppy flower. These and other widely abused street drugs can be considered, for purposes of comparison, as “natural” drugs.

Synthetic drugs, on the other hand, include a wide range of chemical compounds which have been deliberately formulated with the purpose of affecting the human brain and body to give the user a high. Whereas natural drugs were originally discovered by primitive peoples to have mind-altering effects upon the user, many synthetic drugs are the result of billions of dollars and thousands of hours of research, testing and development. Common examples of synthetic drugs include PCP, methamphetamines such as crystal meth, MDMA or ecstasy. They are otherwise referred to as “designer drugs,” or “party drugs,” and even include many common prescription medications such as the pain relievers Oxycontin and Vicodin.

Synthetic cannabis and bath salts represent a change in the way that this type of drug is distributed: instead of being strictly illegal or obtained through a doctor’s prescription, they are sold at many legitimate stores. By branding them as herbal incense, plant food, bath salts similar products, and by clearly labeling them as “Not for Human Consumption,” many of these drugs have been able to escape the scrutiny of law enforcement agencies. That is, until recently when the Federal Government passed the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act of 2012 with the goal of bringing this type of drug directly into the crosshairs of police and other law enforcement.

Why Synthetic Drugs Are Addictive

The White House reports a recent survey of high-school seniors which found that 11.4% of them had used Spice or K2, making synthetic cannabis the second-most frequently used illegal drug that year, a statistic which reflects the larger problem of rising synthetic drug abuse. Perhaps the reason why they have become so addictive is found in their very nature–namely, the fact that they are synthetic. Prescription painkillers, psychiatric drugs, party drugs and others were all developed based on a thorough understanding of the chemistry of the human brain and how such substances affect the mind and body. These powerful drugs derive their effect from the way that they mimic and intensify various processes in the brain, causing the user to experience feelings of euphoria, elation, stimulation and other sensations, as well as a host of negative side-effects. The individual who uses such a drug once is likely to repeat the action in order to experience the same high, but with repeated use the brain learns to shut down certain aspects of its function, with the result that the individual becomes cripplingly dependent on the drug. The fact that synthetic drugs are among the most addictive is reflected in the way that they are classified. The federal Controlled Substances Act categorizes hundreds of illicit and legal drugs into Schedules according to their potential for abuse and dependency: while cocaine and opium are in Schedule II, PCP, MDMA, GHB, LSD and others are all included in Schedule I, and the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act placed synthetic cannabis in this category as well.

What Can Be Done About Synthetic Drugs

As with any other type of chemical substance abuse, the first step in prevention is to raise awareness among your friends and loved ones. One of the factors which have assisted the spread of synthetic drugs is the misconception that they are somehow safer than other drugs because they are manufactured by pharmaceutical companies and prescribed by doctors. On the contrary, one could argue that they are more dangerous for the same reasons. Make sure that those you care about understand that these drugs can have dangerous side-effects, that they are often devastatingly addictive, and that it is illegal to use them without a prescription. If you or a loved one has already developed a dependency to some type of synthetic drug, it is not too late for you to seek help by talking about the problem with someone you can trust and exploring your options for rehabilitation programs.

For more information on synthetic drugs, contact Narconon Arrowhead now toll free at 800-468-6933.