“A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. So is a lot.”
― Albert Einstein
Science can be a great thing. In drug rehab centers across the world, science and technology have allowed us to medicate, detox and treat millions of addicts. This is how all drugs in general should be used: to save lives, not destroy them.
Frankenstoned: The Rise of Synthetic Drugs
Unfortunately, science had other plans. Now, there are hundreds of synthetic drugs being created every year. According to the 2014 Global Synthetic Drugs Assessment by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, synthetic drugs have increased worldwide by 435% in only 5 years — from 80 identified synthetic drugs in 2008 to 348 in 2013. Here are the most popular ones and the dangers they pose.
- What You Might Know It As: “Bath salts”
- What It’s Also Known As: methylone (“explosion,” “M1”), mephedrone (“meph,” “drone,” “meow meow”), MDPV (“Cloud-9”, “Ivory Wave”)
- What It Is: Synthetic cathinones are popularly referred to as “bath salts” because they resemble the Epsom salts that are used to take a relaxing bath. In reality, they are amphetamine-like chemicals derived from the khat plant.
- What It Does: Synthetic cathinones are similar to other amphetamines such as meth, cocaine and MDMA (Ecstasy). Little is currently known about them, but users are said to experience increased blood pressure, cardiac stress, kidney failure, liver failure, muscle spasms, dehydration, panic attacks, hallucinations, paranoia, and violent behavior.
- What You Might Know It As: “Spice” or “K2”
- What It’s Also Known As: Blaze, Blueberry Haze, Dank, Genie, Magma, Moon Rocks, Ninja, Nitro, Skunk, Ultra Chronic, and Voodoo Spice, among other names.
- What It Is: Cannabicyclohexanol, HU-210, JWH-018, and JWH-073. All of these act very similarly to THC, which is the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana/cannabis. They mimic the effects of cannabis even though they do not actually contain any THC.
- What It Does: Although it’s called synthetic cannabis, many scientists believe this title is inappropriate. According to Lewis Nelson, a medical toxicologist, “It’s really quite different, and the effects are much more unpredictable” than marijuana. One thing we do know about this drug is that it’s extremely dangerous — in 2010, there were over 11,000 hospitalizations due to synthetic marijuana alone.
- What It Is: This wide range of synthetic drugs includes PMMA, 25B-NBOMe and the “2C-” family (2C-E, 2C-I, 2C-P, etc.). They act as a cross between amphetamine-like drugs (e.g. meth & cocaine), entactogens (e.g. Ecstasy), and psychedelics (e.g. LSD).
- What It Does: Phenethylamines are the 3rd most commonly abused ones worldwide (after synthetic cannabis and cathinones), and their effects can be just as unpredictable as the others. For example, 2C-P causes hallucinations that can last between 10-20 hours. This makes it extremely dangerous to function on and can lead to both permanent physical and mental damage.
Drugs have always been dangerous and addictive. However, if there was ever anything positive about them, it was this: heroin, cocaine, etc. have been around for years, so addiction specialists know how to treat them. As long as people stuck to these drugs, we could always take comfort in the fact that we knew what we were dealing with.
When it comes to synthetic drugs, we do not know what we are dealing with. All we know for sure is this: they are dangerous and difficult to detect. Being new, they often go unnoticed by standard drug tests. The ability to use them without failing drug tests has made them popular among people who don’t want to get caught, such as teenagers. A government survey found that 11% of high schoolers use synthetic marijuana by their senior year. This has caused teens to suffer the majority of the consequences — of the thousands of poisonings due to synthetic cannabis in 2010, 3/4 were teenagers aged 12 to 19. 2C-P is also suspected to have hospitalized 4 teens in Connecticut last year.
Synthetic drugs have become like Frankenstein’s Monster. The same ingenuity that leads one scientist to discover a cure for a life-threatening illness leads another scientist to synthesize a deadly synthetic drug. One saves lives, the other destroys them — and destroys the chances of getting help for the addict who needs it.