Designer drugs are illicit street drugs that are primarily used in the night life of the club scene, at raves, and at wild parties, and amongst people who want to get high without failing a drug test. Most of these drugs are either legal or within the DEA’s grey zone, because they are “research chemicals” that are not well known or are molecular variations of already illegal substances, circumventing the DEA’s ban by switching a few molecules here or there.
Black market chemists work around the clock to create hundreds of new drugs a year that are off the government’s radar. Drug cartels have been reported to routinely employ off-the-cuff chemists to make meth and other drugs for production in Mexico and distribute them across the continental United States. These are not the typical makeshift “meth labs” you hear about in someone’s basement, these are state of the art, top of the line facilities ran by people with doctorates in Chemistry.
Designer drugs are extremely dangerous for two reasons: one, because we don’t know what effect they might have on a person, or how they were made or what they were cut with, and two, because of their seductive, glamorous appeal to unsuspecting partiers. Bath salts, synthetic cathinones such as mephedrone, made headlines a couple years ago when a bunch of people took them and had psychotic episodes, ranging from a user biting someone’s face off to people running down the street screaming naked. We know what these drugs are capable of because of the news stories of people’s reactions, we know what some of these drugs are capable of, but the problem is that research and designer drugs number into the hundreds to thousands.
Designer drugs fall into two main categories: legal and illegal (along with the DEA’s grey zone or classification). Legal designer drugs include spice and bath salt derivatives (which aren’t actually bath salts but amphetamine-like chemicals), while AMT, a little known stimulant and psychedelic similar in effect to MDMA and LSD, has been illegal since the late 60s after it was first tested as an antidepressant. There are so many research chemicals and designer drugs out there it would be impossible to list them all in this short article. Suffice to say, the rate of new designer drugs being produced far outweighs the government’s ability to criminalize them.
According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, calls concerning poisoning from “bath salts” rose from 304 in 2010 to 6,138 in 2011. Both legal and illegal drugs find their ways on to the streets, into night clubs and other entertainment venues on a regular basis. The illegal ones are harder to stop because there’s more risk associated with them, but the legal ones are easily distributed without fear of reprisal. AMT has been the cause of at least 2 reported deaths, and has been known to cause anxiety, tachycardia, psychosis, and heart attacks. People looking to get a legal, marijuana-like high from synthetic cannabinoids like Spice have been reported to go crazy and jump out windows. No one really knows what they’re putting into their bodies when they ingest these drugs.
Flakka, the newest designer drug to make recent headlines, is an amphetamine-like compound that has been found mostly in Florida and as far away as Texas and Ohio. One man who recently snorted the drug ran out of his house screaming, ripping his clothes off, and exhibiting superhuman strength, requiring five officers to take him down. He exhibited symptoms of paranoid delusions and hallucinations of objects that weren’t there.
Individuals looking for a quick high are using these synthetic designer drugs and research chemicals as an alternative to their drug of choice, and they and society are paying the price. Awareness and education of the problem are crucial in the on-going battle against these dangerous substances. If you or anyone you know has been using designer drugs, seek professional help immediately.