An Overview of Designer Drugs

Many believe that molly is pure MDMA – the main ingredient in ecstasy – but it is frequently a mixture of chemicals that recreate the effects of MDMA.
Designer drugs – synthetic drugs designed to mimic the effects other drugs – appear to be the fastest-emerging drug problem in the US.

Author:  Neal Catalano, North Bay Recovery Center Blogger

Many drugs are designed as substitutes for ecstasy or acid. Some of these drugs, like K2, (also known as “spice”), designed to replicate the high of marijuana, can be considerably more dangerous than those they are mimicking. Many of these drugs – like bath salts and K2 – are marketed as household products; K2, for example, is sometimes marketed as “herbal incense”. The formulas to produce them are frequently changed to stay one step ahead of the law. It is important to understand the dangers posed by these drugs, and to understand that they are no less dangerous than the drug they are designed to emulate.

Among the most popular synthetic drugs is “molly,” a drug that mimics the effects of MDMA. Many believe that molly is pure MDMA – the main ingredient in ecstasy – but it is frequently a mixture of chemicals that recreate the effects of MDMA. The drug is very popular at parties and concerts for its euphoric effect, especially at “rave” shows, organized underground parties involving music, dancing, one or more DJs playing electronic dance music such as techno, trance, breakbeat, jungle, and ambient. What makes molly so dangerous is its unpredictability: any given capsule could contain any number of chemicals, since the formula varies so much amongst creators. Because it is unknown how these chemicals interact, or even what they are, some have compared taking Molly to playing Russian Roulette; you simply don’t know what you’re messing with. To that end, negative effects can include severe dehydration and hyperthermia (overheating), as well as elevated blood pressure and arrhythmia, among others.

K2, or “spice,” is another dangerous designer drug. While designed to replicate the effects of marijuana, it can induce myriad physical and psychological ailments: heart issues, hallucinations, vomiting, psychosis, and even death, have all been reported. K2 has these harsher effects due to its increased toxicity. K2, like Molly, is marketed towards and used most by teens. It is often sold at convenience stores as incense or labeled simply as “not for human consumption”.

“Bath salts”, like K2, are among the most prevalent designer drugs in circulation today. While they look like actual bath salts and have been marketed as such, they are actually combinations of synthetic chemicals meant to produce a euphoric high. They are sold online under a variety of names, and can be disguised as other substances such as insect repellant. Effects include paranoia, heart palpitations, nausea, and even unpredictable or violent behavior. Distributors may label them as “not for human consumption” to sidestep laws.

The compounding and ingredients of designer drugs such as those described here are being changed constantly in order to avoid laws and new legislation. This means that on top of the danger of these drugs in and of themselves, they are also wildly unpredictable and become more unpredictable and potentially more dangerous every day.

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