The term, “designer drug,” tends to conjure up images of something cool and hip. In actuality, all that the phrase refers to is the fact that an individual designed – or manufactured – the drug. Designing a drug means that the original chemical structure and resulting effects of a substance has been altered by someone playing chemist in a shed or basement. At best, it has been designed by someone working in an illegal lab.
As with any homemade goods, the results can tend to be varied. A cake baked by your grandma is likely to taste nothing like a cake baked by your little sister. A painting done by a master artist will look little like one done by an art teacher, and even less like the one you created in high school. With any non-standardized, non-regulated, product, you can never be quite sure what you are going to get. Unfortunately this also make addiction treatment for these kinds of drugs more difficult.
Types of Designer Drugs
With their popularity on the rise, maintaining a current list of designer drugs on the market is an exhausting task. Nefarious chemists are continually inventing new ways to get people high and hooked. Their concern is on putting dollars in their pockets, and they don’t appear to care one bit about the horrendous effects suffered by those who ingest. Some of the most recent classifications of these ever-changing substances invading our streets include the following:
When these drugs came onto the black market, there was much confusion as to what the term referred to. People outside of the loop could be overheard discussing the matter as though kids were getting high off of the Epsom salt found in the drugstore. By now, the knowledge of what bath salts consist of is more widespread. They are synthetic cathinones, which are created by altering the chemical structure of a plant. While the plant, in its natural form, has been ingested by natives for hundreds of years, the alterations made to it by the designers have made it up to 10 times more potent than the effects of cocaine. While only a small percentage of the population reports trying Bath Salts, an alarming amount of those exhibit addictive tendencies toward it.
Spice entered the market as an alternative to marijuana, and could be found in local smoke shops prior to marijuana being legalized in many states. Even back then, there were rumors of death and psychosis being associated with the synthetic concoction. Modern versions of Spice have left no doubt as to their danger. Natural plant substances are combined with a myriad of chemicals, which are often difficult to observe with the eyes. An unwitting person may believe that they are only smoking marijuana, only to find themselves experiencing convulsions, psychosis, and organ failure. Deaths from Spice tend to occur in waves, most likely related to whatever is mixed into the current batches of the drug.
If you haven’t yet viewed an online video of a person under the influence of Flakka, give it a go. It can be as terrifying as watching a horror movie. Some describe Flakka as a next generation of Bath Salts, but with even more dangerous chemicals and a cheaper price tag. Flakka is also known as A-PVP, which is a substance contained in another designer drug, known as Ecstasy. The devastating consequences of Flakka use most often arise from the dangerous behaviors a person will engage in while out of their minds.
Like with other drugs, the appeal of opioids was first delivered in the form of a vegetation. Extracts of the poppy plant were used to create pain relief medications for the medical community to prescribe. As the addictive nature of these prescription medications became apparent, government crackdowns on their use have gone into effect. As per usual, when the government steps in to limit access to a substance, bootleggers step up to fill the void. Opioids are currently being illegally manufactured into designer drugs such as the one being called
U-47700. The effects of this drug tend to be exponentially higher than those of taking morphine.
Death and Designer Drugs
The results of consuming bootlegged products can be disturbingly observed through examining the devastation that occurred during prohibition. Without the ability to obtain their booze legally, hardcore drinkers turned to home stills and moonshine. The most desperate of them even resorted to converting the gasoline from their cars into a drink. These unregulated manners of imbibing led to a staggering amount of deaths and disabilties.
There is a similar problem going on today, but it is not with alcohol. A current epidemic of deaths through poisoning is related to so-called designer drugs. As of 2019, overdosing on these cocktails is contributing to the largest spike in substance-related deaths. The fact that the drugs are illegally manufactured contributes to this statistic. The variance of chemical compounds within the drugs are not easily detectable by hospital and emergency staff, and so finding the best way to treat a person who is overdosing on a designer drug can be impossible.
Psychosis and Designer Drugs
For those who are lucky enough to escape the causes of death that are related to designer drugs, there remains the potential consequence of developing a psychosis. The nature of many of these drugs is to produce paranoia and delusional thoughts, and, for some, that particular trip never ends. The chemical changes that the brain and body undergo while under the effects of such substances can result in permanent disruption to the system.
Emergency rooms and psychiatric wards are regularly filled with people who end up with a diagnosis of Substance-Induced Psychotic Disorder. Attempts to mitigate the symptoms of these diagnoses can lead to a person being highly medicated – by psychiatrists – for many years. Once that line of psychosis has been crossed, it can be very difficult to ever return to a life of normality. There will remain a doubt about your abilities to function apart from the regular dosage of an anti-psychotic medication.