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The Increasing Trend of New Psychoactive Substances

The Increasing Popularity of Synthetic Drugs

Author: Shernide Delva

With Marijuana Reform policies stirring controversy throughout the country, soon the idea of legal recreational drug usage could become a reality in the United States.

In the meantime, however, many are finding ways to use drugs without the fear of criminalization by synthetic alternatives and they are gaining immense popularity.  New Psychoactive Substances are being created and marketed to those desperate to obtain a “legal high.”

In recent years, stories about synthetic drugs such as bath salts and Flacka gained national attention and caused media panic. Most of us have heard of the infamous face-eating episode involving bath salts that was later debunked.

Still, new psychoactive substances continue to enter the drug markets that mimic the effects of illegal drugs such as marijuana, cocaine and Methamphetamines (Ecstasy).  Even as States and Congress work rapidly on policies to combat these new drugs, newer alternatives get made that replace the old ones.

It’s a rat race involving chemists and manufactures rushing to replace banned drugs with new variations that politicians struggle to keep up with.

New Psychoactive Substances

Before we go further, we should define what is meant when discussing these “new psychoactive substances” in the first place. More commonly known as synthetic drugs, New Psychoactive Substances is the current terminology used to define any “range of drugs that have been designed to mimic established illicit drugs, such as cannabis, cocaine, ecstasy and LSD.”

The Drug Policy Association arranged a conference call with Earth Erowid, one of the founders of the popular drug website, and he elaborated on the change of terminology.

“Synthetic drugs are a term used to imply scary new street drugs,” said Earth Erowid. “But nearly all pharmaceutical drugs are synthetic, whether they’re cannabinoids, opioids, stimulants, or sedatives. You don’t want to use the phrase ‘synthetic drugs’ unless you’re talking about every pharmaceutical developed over the past 50 years.”

“A more accurate and appropriate term is “new psychoactive substances,” he said.  “That’s the standard term in Europe.”

These new psychoactive substances can be grouped into general categories based on the drugs that they attempt to replicate.

Five Most Common New Psychoactive Substances

These are the five most common categories of legal drug alternatives currently being distributed today.  As these drugs gain popularity, the health implications of using these drugs is a major concern since ironically there is often less research done on these legal substances than there is on the illegal drugs they are substituting.

1.  Replacement Cannabinoids

Often sold in powder form; these are sprinkled on herbal blends. One variety known as Spice resembles potpourri and is sold in shops as incense. Products like Spice contain dried, shredded plant material and chemical additives that are responsible for their psychoactive effects. They are not cannabis but are synthetic cannabinoid agonists that work by targeting the same cannabinoid receptors those chemicals in marijuana target resulting in similar relaxing anxiety reducing effects.

In the past, the ingredients in Spice were modified to keep up with laws banning chemicals in their product that produce those cannabis effects.  Some specific compounds include JWH 018 and AB-PINACA, among many others. Often assumed as “natural,” not enough research has been conducted to prove these drugs are safe and several have been associated with death and serious medical complications.

2.  Replacement Euphoric Stimulants

These include cathinones like methadone, MDPV (“bath salts”), and Alpha PDP (“flakka”), as well as compounds related to Ritalin. Flakka has gained huge popularity in Florida and has been dubbed “$5 insanity” because of the low cost to obtain it. It is synthesized legally in Chinese labs and can be delivered right to your doorstep. Unfortunately, flacka has been linked to a stream of bizarre crimes and has gained media attention. Clearly the health risks of flacka is questionable.

Many replacement euphoric stimulants are marketed to young teens and adults active in the rave and EDM communities who desperately desire the effects of ecstasy without the use of illegal drugs.  These forms of legal ecstasy contain various herbs or herbal extracts that are psychoactive. They claim to have similar effects to Ecstasy however none of these substances have been proven to be safe. Side effects for these drugs include racing heart, dry throat, anxiety, tremor and cold extremities.

3.  Replacement Psychedelics

Often those who think they are buying illegal LSD are actually getting this legal substitute. Best known are the NBOMe series (aka “N-Bomb”). The drug was introduced in 2003 by chemist Ralf Heim at the Free University of Berlin and since has continued to climb in popularity.

Batches of these drugs are bought from China by dealers over the internet. They are than cut with alcohol or some other liquid and put on blotter paper where they are sold to young people who continue to increase the use of the drug through word-of-mouth. Some studies warn these drugs are more dangerous than LSD and the NBOMe class has been linked to about 20 deaths.

4. Replacement Dissociatives

These are PCP-like chemicals, including various ketamine variants and methoxetamine. Ketamine is an anesthetic often used in hospitals as a pain killer and bronchodilator. Often ketamine can cause hallucinations causing a person to feel detached from the world around them.

5. Replacement Opioids

These include chemicals such as AH 7921 and U4770.

Kratom is a drug gaining immense popularity and is being ordered online and through local herbal shops.  Kratom tropical deciduous and evergreen tree in the coffee family that has mood-lifting properties however with heavy usage can cause hallucinations and psychosis. The reactions to the drug vary dramatically and little is known about the dangers of using the drug long term.  Palm Beach County has considered banning the substance however Kratum is still very legal in most of the United States. For now, the DEA lists Kratum as a “drug of concern” due to its abuse potential. Many countries like Thailand have banned the use of Kratum.

Overall, these “legal substitutes” seem to be risky alternatives and because they are legal, many assume that they are “safer” or more “natural” compared to the illegal drugs they are substituting. New policies continue to be implemented that ban these new psychoactive substances and it will continue get harder to have access to these drugs. Safety should always be the number one concern and just because these drugs are legal does not mean they are safe. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135 

New ‘N-Bomb’ is a Deadly Synthetic Drug

New ‘N-Bomb’ is a Deadly Synthetic Drug

Author: Justin Mckibben

Synthetic drugs are nothing new, and as they continue to rise in popularity due to easy accessibility and being falsely marketed as ‘safe’ alternatives to other illegal drugs like marijuana and LSD, they also have a tendency to elude authorities due to chemicals that are not easily detected in standard drug screenings. They often even change their chemicals in the slightest to slip through loop holes in the law, and one of those synthetics dubbed ‘N-Bomb’ has proven over the last few years to be a deadly mix.

Keeping a Body Count

The infamous ‘N-Bomb’ was originally noticed back in 2010, and even since then researchers from the DEA have credited the chemical with catastrophic consequences, implicating the substance in at least 19 deaths in the United States between March of 2012 and November of 2014. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) declared N-Bomb a Schedule I substance back in November of last year, and still take note of its presence and its danger.

The United National Office on Drugs and Crime has reported that originally the NBOMe’s were developed for the specific medical purpose to map serotonin receptors in the brain. Now these chemicals are one of the most recurrently abused designer psychoactive substances.

Dr. Donna Seger, professor of clinical medicine and medical director of the Tennessee Poison Center, said in a statement.

“This is a dangerous drug, it is potentially deadly, and parents, law enforcement, first responders, and physicians need to be aware of its existence and its effects. The recreational use of synthetic (designer) psychoactive substances with stimulant, euphoric, and/or hallucinogenic properties has risen dramatically in recent years.”

While it is frequently called N-Bomb on the street, it is commonly marketed as “legal” or “natural” LSD. The drug is actually sold over the counter because the makers are constantly changing the formula to throw off police. While is has been connected with abuse since 2010, is a relatively new synthetic drug from the NBOMe class of psychedelic substances.

Drug Details and Poisoning Symptoms

N-Bomb is sold in a very similar fashion as actual LSD one the street. It can be found in forms such as:

  • Blotter paper
  • Liquid
  • Powder

Patients suffering from poisoning related to N-Bomb often display a lot of aggression and violence, and so when being treated they often require heavy sedation to calm them as well as external cooling measures to treat hyperthermia, or overheating of the body. In reality the extent of treating anyone who has had to be hospitalized for synthetic drug use is managing agitation and preventing organ damage.

According to Dr. Seger, the complete lack of quality control on these kinds of street drugs and the odds of misjudging a dose for a user can easily lead to poisoning from the substance. Seger also went on to list some of the symptoms of toxicity such as:

  • Hypertension
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Hyperthermia
  • Dilated pupils
  • Agitation
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Delirium
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Renal failure or coma

Fighting the Synthetic Epidemic

Authorities have been cracking down on the sale and trafficking of more traditional recreational substances, such as marijuana, heroin and cocaine. The prescription drug problem and opiate epidemic has seemingly led to a larger demand for synthetic drugs in some areas. However with the entire perception of the war on drugs shifting, there is some action being taken to address the synthetic drug issue.

May 2014 the DEA announced that it would begin cracking down on synthetic drugs in 25 states. This new found motivation to face the problem head on came up due to particular health problems believed to be a direct cause of the revolving door of ingredients used in the production of synthetic as a way for makers to avoid penalty of law.

Need another reason to hate N-Bomb and other synthetic drug products? Well just in case, another reason the DEA found its inspiration for initiative was reports that revenue from synthetic drug sales and trafficking often end up in the pockets of terrorist and criminal organizations in the Middle East. That is no pocket-change either, because authorities have made over 120 arrests, served around 200 warrants, and seized upward of $20 million in cash over the course of the synthetic drug crackdown. N-Bomb is just one of countless names of substances that are made by mysterious sources for unsavory circumstances that are killing Americans, and their primary consumers are teens and young adults, and it only takes one dose to be a lethal one.

Synthetic drug abuse is not nearly as safe as the marketers and makers would want you to believe, and the true side-effects may be far more hazardous than you ever expected. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135


Fake Drugs Causing Real Deaths

Fake Drugs Causing Real Deaths

Author: Justin Mckibben

This past few years the world has realized that drug abuse is no longer limited to the more conventional and commonplace illicit substances. You know the names marijuana and cocaine, or heroin and meth, but what about the designer drugs? Across the country in spurts we have seen surges of synthetic drugs that gain quick notoriety, with sometimes deadly side effects.

Chemical cocktails created by people trying to get a quick buck for a cheap high they brand and market as ‘safer legal alternatives’ are slowly but surely mixing up more dangerous doses, and it is no surprise that now we are starting to see a more deadly side of the synthetic drug market.

The Death of Grant Hobson

Grant Hobson was a teenager who shortly after placing a chemical-laden stamp on his tongue with the intention of a typical psychedelic ‘trip’ was pronounced brain-dead. The 16 year old young man was the latest teenager from Texas’ fast-growing Montgomery County to fall victim to a strain of synthetic LSD being sold locally.

A string of similar tragedies in the county has led officials to push back against the emerging epidemic, and the local law enforcement is throwing their efforts into an investigation for tracking down the source of the deadly drug.

Also increased support for a new bill that would make it easier to regulate the drug state-wide has followed these tragic events that have caused such distress in the area. This new bill aims to punish those pushing it out to the region’s teens, in an effort to nip this issue in the bud.

Other Stories of Dangerous Synthetics

There was also the case of Kenneth Robert Sprankle, who back in December of 2013 attacked police while being under the influence of spice. In St. Petersburg Sprankle was observed wandering around town with an axe he had stolen from a local fire truck, and when the police finally got to him he was charging at them with the axe and an officer fired 5 shots which were fatal.

In Michigan a synthetic drug in liquid form called ‘Cloud 9’ made an appearance in September 2014 that caused quite a bit of concern. Canton Township police in Michigan stated that four students from Salem High School were rushed to the hospital, and were believed to have inhaled or ingested ‘Cloud 9’, while in Fraser there were other reports of students being hospitalized after ingesting the substance.

Surveying the Synthetic Market

Synthetic drugs come in all forms with several different descriptions for different highs. All sorts of these dangerous chemical products are popular among teens, especially since they are being falsely advertised as a potentially safer, legal alternative to their illicit counterparts.

Synthetic marijuana is known by a long list of other names including:

According to resent estimates, synthetic marijuana is the second-most commonly used drug among high school seniors, right behind the real thing. But the pseudo pot’s legal status was being regularly questioned and revisited. The makers and marketers use the loop-hole of labeling these products as “not for human consumption” to try and divert from the fact that people are consuming these chemicals to get high.

Either way the legality doesn’t make it a safer option. Synthetic cannabinoids are actually more potent than the THC found in real marijuana, and the stronger effects have resulted in thousands of poisonings since the drugs hit the market in the early 2000s.

Changing the Drug World

Synthetics and designer drugs are making their way the top of the totem-poll, climbing past their natural counterparts as the substance of choice among drug abusers, especially younger users. This could actually contribute to the many big changes going on in the drug world concerning both the market, the war on drugs, and the treatment of addiction.

With the world being exposed to how dangerous and deadly these substances can be, we may see even more reform in the way these drugs are classified and regulated, how harm reduction is introduced into the equation, and how raising awareness and developing treatment for synthetic drug abuse and addiction could evolve.

Synthetic drug abuse is not nearly as safe as the marketers and makers would want you to believe, and the true side-effects may be far more hazardous than you ever expected. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

Spice of Life: Synthetic Epidemic?

Spice of Life: Synthetic Epidemic?


Author: Justin Mckibben

The strange chemical concoctions that have been created and marketed as ‘safe’ marijuana alternatives have become more popular and apparently, more dangerous due to the stories piling up about overdoses and other health problems involved with these toxic blends of mystery herbs and chemicals. So is the spice of life playing out be in be part of a larger problem with a potential synthetic epidemic?

What Is ‘Spice”

These synthetic drugs go by several names to redirect attention and disguise new formulas of this hazardous illicit drug. Names including:

  • Geeked Up
  • Smacked
  • Biohazard
  • Cloud Nine
  • Scooby Doo

These and other aliases for synthetic marijuana or ‘Spice’ all cost only around five dollars apiece. That’s just 5 bucks for a bag that has enough of whatever mystery mix in it to get more than a few people intoxicated, or would you say poisoned. Of course the different packages are decorated in a way to appeal to young people.

One of the biggest problems that has been presented by this whole situation is that even though synthetic cannabinoids are technically illegal in most states, the constant manipulation of the molecule that mimics the effects of THC keeps it so that by the time the authorities have time to weed out the new threat, they can simply re-label and re-market it. And even worse is that is has been made available in head shops and in gas stations.

The Power is in The Poison

Poison control centers throughout America are no stranger to ‘Spice’ or any of the current variations of the stuff, because in the last two years there have been about 8,000 “exposures” with help requested after someone smoked K2, or Spice, or Mr. Nice Guy.

JWH-018, JWH-073, and HU-210 are just a handful of the countless chemicals found in the colorful sachets, and many of these are believed to cause seizures, psychotic episodes, tremors, and hallucinations. 

Thankfully there have been some strides made to change the tide in the fight to stop the mass production and young consumption of these drugs. The DEA has managed to classify some of these chemical components and drugs as Schedule 1 narcotics. This new rating means they have no medical purpose and are only ever used for drug abuse.

Again the war has not yet been won, because of outlaw chemists often based in areas like China, twist the molecules in an effort to stay ahead of legislators, just to keep the stuff on gas station shelves. The molecule used as an active ingredient changes along with the law, the leaves in the bags are merely a carrier for it, which makes it easier to create and conceal from the law.

What is the easiest way to track the spread of K2? Emergency room visits. 11,400 people were admitted because of K2 nationwide in 2012.

Facing Statistics

Spice is often marketed as potpourri and because it does not come up as cannabis on a drug test is has become increasingly popular. There are special tests for its metabolites in urine, but they are expensive and used infrequently.

Places from prisons to your local high schools are swamped with the drug. Especially in the last ten years the substance was monetized, starting the war between legislators and chemists, but the concept of synthetizing marijuana has been around for years.

Having said all this about the numbers game, one very interesting conclusion became apparent in regards to that same tracking of where and how K2 damage has spread through hospitals. Looking at the problem state by state, it becomes immediately obvious where it no longer exists, and the irony of this should not be lost of anyone. Two states basically have no more problems with K2. Care to guess who? That would be Washington and Colorado, where marijuana has been legalized for recreational use.

Some people would take that as a sign that legalizing marijuana is the lesser of two evils in a situation such as this when facing the devastation that could come from a potential synthetic epidemic. Either way the damage is being done consistently by these K2drug manufacturers who have cornered the market with a very cunning and crooked business tactic.

In every aspect of this drug the makers are manipulating the consumer. From hiding the real danger behind it, to calling it a safer and legal alternative to another popular drug, to appealing to younger crowds, and even reaching older crowds. This may not be an easy fight to get through, but it is a fight that needs to be fought for the safety of the community. The first step may be to fight to get these drugs out of our gas station shelves and away from our schools. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135


D.C. Declares Synthetic Pot a Schedule I Drug

D.C. Declares Synthetic Pot a Schedule I Drug

Author: Justin Mckibben

Synthetic marijuana goes by Spice, among many other names, and has become a growing concern for communities and health care officials as the harmful products have been distributed in gas stations, smoke shops and corner stores across the country. Law makers and law enforcement in many areas have put some effort into trying to put an end to the spread of the ‘fake weed’ usage, and in Washington, D.C. officials have taken a bold stance in attempt to cast out synthetic marijuana use by labeling it as a Schedule I drug.

What is Spice?

Spice is one of the many forms of synthetic marijuana out there that is comprised of several dangerous chemical, most commonly marketed to the public as a wide variety of herbal mixtures that are supposedly a “safe” and legal alternatives to marijuana. This fake weed is sold under multiple names including:

  • Spice
  • K2
  • Fake Weed
  • Yucatan Fire
  • Skunk
  • Moon Rocks

Synthetic weed products usually contain dried, shredded plant material and chemical additives that are responsible for their psychoactive (mind-altering) effects. But there are serious health risks associated with synthetic marijuana, including but not limited to:

  • Rapid heart rate
  • Vomiting
  • Agitation
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations

New Name for Synthetic

The new Schedule I classification means that synthetic marijuana is now in the same category as heroin and crack cocaine. This should be considered a huge step in the right director by anyone who is farmiliar with Spice and the damage it can do, and the effect it has had due to its popularity among teens. Those caught making, distributing, or importing any form of the drug will face the same criminal charges and imprisonment as with any other Schedule I drug, putting a little more power behind law enforcements punch.

When reached for comment, D.C. Department of Health Director Dr. Joxel Garcia stated,

“These substances are gaining increased prevalence among youth and unsuspecting adults. We must be diligent and proactive if we are to stop the flow of harmful drugs to the marketplace and finding its way to our children.”

Despite the fact that the federal government actually outlawed synthetic marijuana as far back as 2011, versions of Spice, K2 and the like had still been relatively easy for young people to come into contact with, still being sold in secret at many convenience stores and head shops. Part of this was due to the way it was advertised on packaging as “potpourri,” among other code names, and the disclaimer to avoid prosecution strategically labeled ‘Not For Human Consumption’ was another way businesses were trying to work around the legislation. Synthetic marijuana makers have been able to dodge most of these legal issues by using substances in their products that produced a high, but weren’t banned yet by the government.

Even recently new forms of synthetic drugs like the now notorious ‘Cloud 9’ liquid that is used in beverages and vaporizers has started to make headlines for the health risks they create and the tempers they flared when teens were being hospitalized for these synthetic drugs.

K2 Zombie DC

The D.C. Department of Health was widely criticized for its anti-synthetic marijuana campaign known as K2 Zombie DC, complete with the slogan “Danger: Fake Weed + U = Zombie.” The campaign got a lot of blow-back for making the suggestion that synthetic marijuana would produce zombie-like symptoms in users including:

  • Hallucination
  • Paranoia
  • Seizure

They also highlighted the campaign with a series of ridiculously corny zombie costume shots in posters for the initiative.

The Real Cost of Synthetic Cannabis

Connor Eckherdt, a 19-year-old student passed away after smoking synthetic marijuana last July after slipping into a coma with brain swelling. Dr. Andrew Monte was quoted as saying,

“These substances are not benign. You can buy designer drugs of abuse at convenience stores and on the Internet. People may not realize how dangerous these drugs can be—up to 1,000 times stronger binding to cannabis receptors when compared to traditional marijuana.”

This is just one of several stories of High School students and other young people in different states who have suffered some sort of injury or illness due to the effects of synthetic marijuana products. Hopefully other states will take heed to the measures D.C. is taking to try and combat this hazardous trend and follow suit with legislations of their own. No drug made up of chemicals so potent and so dangerous should be considered ‘legal’ or ‘safe’, and more should be done to knip this in the (synthetic) bud.

No matter how many new drugs hit the streets, or how ‘alternative’ or ‘fake’ they claim to be, addiction is real, and the health risks and devastation caused in the lives of the user and those they love most is more real than one might imagine. But there is a way out. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135. We want to help. You are not alone.

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