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Synthetic Drugs: The Deadly and Unpredictable Man-Made Drugs

What Are Synthetic Drugs?

Synthetic drugs, also referred to as “club drugs” or “party drugs,” are man-made designer drugs that are manufactured in clandestine laboratories. They are made to mimic the effects of other addictive drugs and marketed to users as a “safe high.” These drugs include substances like bath salts and Spice (or K2).

Despite the fact that they are supposed to be “safer” than other illegal drugs, the strength and type of ingredients used to make synthetic drugs are often unknown, making them even more dangerous than the drugs they are designed to mimic.

Like many other drugs, synthetic drug abuse can easily lead to addiction, which affects all aspects of life, including a person’s physical, psychological and social well-being.synthetic drugs

Signs and Symptoms of Synthetic Drug Addiction

If you are concerned that you or a loved one is addicted to synthetic drugs, some signs of addiction you should watch for include:

  • Being unable to control synthetic drug usage habits
  • Being extremely secretive about activities or whereabouts
  • Neglecting responsibilities at work, school or home
  • Needing more of the synthetic drug to achieve the same effect (developing a tolerance)
  • Continuing to use synthetic drugs despite the fact that it’s causing harm
  • Experiencing consistent riffs in relationships at work, school, and home

Side Effects of Synthetic Drugs

Synthetic drugs are especially dangerous because manufacturers don’t disclose the ingredients that were used to make them. These substances and their active ingredients have not been approved for human consumption, and as a result, the people consuming them have no idea what they are putting into their bodies and may suffer dangerous and unpredictable side effects.

There are many different types of synthetic drugs available (a number that continues to increase rapidly) so the symptoms of abuse and addiction may vary and are often difficult to pinpoint.

Short-term and long-term health problems caused by synthetic drug abuse may include:

  • Chest pain
  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Increased risk of heart attack

Synthetic drug addiction can also lead to psychological problems, such as:

  • Psychotic behavior
  • Self-harming behavior
  • Homicidal behavior
  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks

A variety of social problems may also come as a result of synthetic drug addiction, including:

  • Unemployment
  • Financial problems
  • Legal trouble
  • Violence in the home

Overcoming spice of K2 addiction is possible.
Medical detox and rehab can provide tools and resources to get sober.
Start your recovery today by calling (512) 605-2955.


Statistics and Facts About Synthetic Drugs

  • Between 2010 and 2014, more than 300 synthetic designer drugs with names such as Spice, N-bombe, and K2, have flooded into the United States.1
  • Many synthetic drugs are manufactured in foreign countries without regard to any safety standards typically required by the FDA. They are smuggled into the U.S.2
  • 60 percent of people admitted to an Emergency Department for Spice use are between the ages of 12 and 20.3
  • Most people who abuse bath salts are between the ages of 20 and 29 years old.3
  • Synthetic drugs are much more dangerous than the drugs they are designed to mimic, as they are manufactured with untested, unregulated, and unknown chemicals.4
  • Poison control centers received more than 6,949 calls about synthetic cannabinoids in 2015, compared to 3,680 calls in 2014 and 2,667 calls in 2013.5
  • More than half of opioid overdose deaths are caused by synthetic drugs.6
  • Synthetic opioids were responsible for more than 27,000 overdose deaths in the U.S. in the 12 months prior to November 2017.6
  • Synthetic opioids caused 20,000 overdose deaths in 2016.6
  • Deaths from synthetic opioids like fentanyl (not including methadone), rose 72 percent from 2014 to 2015.7
  • As of May 2018, the synthetic drug fentanyl is the most common drug involved in fatal overdoses.7

Commonly Abused Synthetic Drugs

  • Synthetic marijuana (K2/Spice)
  • Fentanyl
  • Bath Salts

Synthetic Marijuana/K2/Spice Addiction

K2 or Spice is synthetic marijuana that consists of a plant material mixture that is sprayed with synthetic cannabinoids, similar to THC. The chemical makeup of synthetic cannabinoids is often very inconsistent and can cause severe side effects as a result.

Although synthetic marijuana is often marketed as being a safe and legal alternative to illegal marijuana, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that their effects may be much more powerful, unpredictable, and even life-threatening in some cases.

There is limited research on the effects of synthetic marijuana on the brain, but researchers do know that synthetic cannabinoids do create a stronger effect than marijuana and users could be at increased risk as a result. In fact, the DEA banned 18 different synthetic compounds used in K2 or Spice because they have no medical benefit and are very likely to be abused.

Synthetic marijuana often looks like potpourri and consists of dried plant materials. Oftentimes the drug will be packaged in foil packages marketed as “incense” or “fake weed” or packaged in liquid form in a plastic bottle. K2 and Spice are two common brand names, but today hundreds of other brand names exist, including Kronic, Black Mamba, and Kush, among many others.

To use K2 or Spice, most people smoke it in joints, pipes, or prepare it in an herbal tea. Some users may also mix it with marijuana or purchase a liquid form of it and smoke it with e-cigarettes.synthetic marjuana

Slang for Synthetic Marijuana

The following terms are street names or slang for synthetic marijuana:

  • K2
  • Black Mamba
  • Legal Weed
  • Genie
  • Scooby Snax
  • Bliss
  • Blaze

Synthetic Marijuana Abuse

Spice is the second most commonly abused illegal drug among high schoolers, with the most common being marijuana. According to the 2012 Monitoring the Future Survey, 11 percent of American high school seniors used synthetic marijuana during the past year. In addition, 11,406 emergency room visits in 2010 were associated with synthetic marijuana, 75 percent of which were among adolescents and young adults ages 12-29. The majority of these ER visits involved males (77.5 percent).

Synthetic marijuana doesn’t show up on most drug tests, making it an attractive option for those seeking to use drugs without getting caught.

Many people who abuse K2/Spice may not realize how harmful it is because the packaging can be very misleading. But under federal law, it is illegal to buy, sell, distribute, and possess synthetic marijuana. While law enforcement continually tries to regulate the ingredients used to make this drug, manufacturers quickly alter the chemical structure of synthetic marijuana to outpace law enforcement and continue selling it.

Synthetic Marijuana addiction does not have to define you.
Call Nova Recovery Center today (512) 605-2955 to learn more about medical detox, 90-day rehab, and sober living programs for sustained sobriety.


Side Effects of K2/Spice Abuse

Since the chemical makeup of synthetic cannabinoids used to manufacture K2 and Spice (among other brands of synthetic marijuana) are not always known, the physical effects of these drugs can be very unpredictable and dangerous.

Immediate short-term effects of K2/Spice abuse may include:

  • spice addiction symptomsElevated mood
  • Relaxation
  • Altered perception
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Convulsions
  • Vomiting
  • Agitation
  • Confusion
  • Anxiety
  • Hallucinations
  • Violent behavior
  • Suicidal thoughts

Long-term effects of K2/Spice abuse may include:

  • Forgetfulness
  • Confusion
  • Paralysis
  • Respiratory problems
  • Kidney damage
  • Seizures
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Death

Risk Factors and Signs of K2/Spice Addiction

Just like with any other powerful drug, individuals may become addicted to synthetic marijuana. Spice addiction can affect all types of people from different walks of life, but there are certain risk factors that increase a person’s likelihood of becoming addicted to synthetic marijuana. These include:

  • Abuse or neglect during childhood
  • Experiencing some other type of trauma
  • Personal history of substance abuse or mental illness
  • Family history of substance abuse or mental illness
  • Being male (statistics show synthetic marijuana abuse is more common among males)
  • Being young (statistics show synthetic marijuana abuse is more common among youth)

If an individual is addicted to K2/Spice, he or she may display some or all of the following signs:

  1. Being unable to stop K2 or Spice use despite its negative physical, psychological, and social effects.
  2. Having withdrawal symptoms when all use of synthetic marijuana is stopped.
  3. Developing a tolerance (needing more synthetic marijuana to achieve the same effects).
  4. Having strong cravings for synthetic marijuana.
  5. Using synthetic marijuana in dangerous or life-threatening situations.

K2/Spice Withdrawal Symptoms and Detox

Detox is a very important part of recovery from K2 or Spice addiction. Before a person can overcome their addiction to synthetic marijuana, they must first achieve a state of sobriety. This can be very difficult, as the physical effects of synthetic marijuana withdrawal are often very uncomfortable.

Common withdrawal symptoms of synthetic marijuana include:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Headaches
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Tremors
  • Palpitation
  • Irritability
  • Sweating
  • Fever
  • Intense cravings
  • Anxiety

A medically assisted detox program can help individuals who are detoxing from synthetic marijuana manage their uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, so they can achieve a stable and sober state.

Medically assisted drug detox also incorporates individual and group therapy to address the psychological effects of withdrawal and helps prepare clients for entry into a long-term treatment program that utilizes behavioral therapy to combat addiction.

K2/Spice Withdrawal Timeline: How Long Does Spice Withdrawal Last?

The timeline for K2 or Spice withdrawal will vary based on a number of factors, including:

  • What type of synthetic cannabinoid was used
  • The method of use
  • The frequency and dose of each use
  • Co-occurring alcohol and drug addictions
  • Co-occurring mental disorders

There is limited research on detoxification from synthetic marijuana, but researchers do know that withdrawal symptoms may begin as quickly as 15 minutes after the last dose. In some cases, people may not experience withdrawal symptoms for 1-3 days after the last dose.

Synthetic marijuana withdrawal is a very individualized process and therefore, should always take place in a medically monitored environment. Most addicted people will need to complete detox before enrolling in a K2/spice addiction treatment center.

Fentanyl Addiction: About Fentanyl

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid drug and a schedule II prescription drug. It is used by doctors to treat patients with severe pain, post-surgery pain, or chronic pain. Fentanyl is very similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent.

When ingested, fentanyl binds to the opioid receptors in the brain that control pain and emotion, increasing dopamine levels and relieving pain. Fentanyl can also create feelings of intense euphoria and relaxation, which increases the risk for misuse. High doses of opioids like fentanyl can also affect the opioid receptors in the brain that control breathing, which could potentially stop a person’s breathing completely and result in death.

When prescribed by a doctor, fentanyl is typically administered in lozenge form, patches, or via injection. Medicinal brand names for Fentanyl include Actiq, Duragesic, and Sublimaze. Illicit fentanyl that is sold on the streets or online is often produced in illegal laboratories and sold as a powder (sometimes mixed with heroin), tablets, or spiked on blotter paper.

Professional fentanyl addiction treatment or rehab is often necessary to overcome addiction, as it is a very powerful synthetic drug. A fentanyl addiction treatment center may provide the necessary clinical and behavioral treatment for people suffering from fentanyl addiction.fentanyl

Slang for Fentanyl

The following terms are street names or slang for fentanyl:

  • China White
  • China Girl
  • Apache
  • Tango
  • Cash
  • Dance Fever
  • Goodfella

About Fentanyl Abuse

Reports from the DEA show that fentanyl abuse has risen in recent years. According to SAMHSA’s 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 11.8 million people (or 4.4 percent of the total population) have an opioid use disorder. An estimated 228,000 of those people are misusing fentanyl.

Fentanyl is extremely addictive, powerful, and dangerous. Since it is remarkably strong, long-term use of prescribed fentanyl can lead to addiction. Recreational use is just as dangerous, especially if a person is unaware that a drug contains fentanyl. In addition, when sold on the street, fentanyl is frequently mixed with heroin or cocaine which increases its potency and further increases the risk of overdose.

Synthetic opioids like fentanyl are a leading influence in the nation’s ongoing opioid crisis and many people who initially get addicted to prescription pain pills transition from those to more potent opioids like heroin and fentanyl.

Emergency responders can use Naloxone to reverse opioid overdoses and it is listed on the World Health Organization’s Essential Medicines list.

Overcoming fentanyl addiction is possible.
Medical detox and rehab can provide tools and resources to get sober.
Start your recovery today by calling (512) 605-2955.


Physical Effects of Fentanyl Abuse

Immediate short-term effects of fentanyl abuse may include:

  • depressed man Euphoria
  • Relaxation
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Lethargy
  • Shortness of breath
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Overdose

Long-term effects of fentanyl abuse may include:

  • Organ damage
  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Overdose
  • Death

Risk Factors and Signs of Fentanyl Addiction

Several different factors may influence a person’s risk of developing a fentanyl addiction. These include:

  • Genetics
  • Home and social environments
  • Family history of addiction
  • Previous opioid abuse
  • Trauma
  • Being prescribed fentanyl for chronic pain or a certain condition

If you believe that a loved one is addicted to fentanyl, he or she may display some of the following signs and symptoms:

  • Isolating themselves from loved ones
  • Acting lethargic
  • Losing interest in activities that they once enjoyed
  • Experiencing difficulties at work and school
  • Lying, stealing, or engaging in other criminal activities
  • Shallow or labored breathing
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Nausea
  • Drowsiness
  • Disorientation
  • Poor decision-making
  • Paranoia
  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety

Fentanyl Detox Symptoms and Withdrawal

Before a person can enroll in fentanyl rehab, he or she may need to detox first. Stopping fentanyl use suddenly will result in uncomfortable side effects of withdrawal, such as:

  • Sweating
  • Chills
  • Restlessness
  • Stomach cramps
  • Joint and/or muscle pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety

The severity of these symptoms will vary depending on the amount of fentanyl the person was taking before detox, but it is always safest to detox from fentanyl under the supervision of a doctor or at a medical detox center. Often times, to safely achieve a state of sobriety, a person must slowly be weaned off of opioid drugs over a period of time or a doctor must provide opioid-replacement medications, such as methadone.

Medical detox can also help a person achieve sobriety by treating uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms and preparing them for the rehab process by providing individual and group therapy.

Fentanyl Withdrawal Timeline

Some people may wonder how long it takes to detox from fentanyl. The duration of fentanyl detox treatment will vary depending on several different factors and the experience may be different for everyone. The following timeline is a general idea of what you can expect during fentanyl detox.

6-12 hours after the last dose: Early symptoms of withdrawal begin to appear. These typically include sweating, runny nose, muscle aches, insomnia, and anxiety.
2 to 4 days after the last dose: Withdrawal symptoms peak and include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and stomach cramps.
5 to 7 days after the last dose: Withdrawal symptoms typically begin to fade during this time and will dissipate by the seventh day. Some symptoms may persist for several weeks after detox is complete.

Synthetic Drug Addiction Treatment Options

Treatment for synthetic drugs should be highly individualized, as a person may not always know exactly what substances he or she has been ingesting regularly. While getting help is vital to overcoming a synthetic drug addiction, there are several factors that will affect the type of treatment you or a loved one should seek. These include:

  • Willingness to accept treatment
  • Motivation for seeking treatment
  • Prior treatment and relapse history
  • Financial circumstances

If you or your loved one is ready to receive treatment, a substance abuse treatment specialist or clinical counselor can help you determine the best type of treatment for your needs, which may include one or several of the following options.

Synthetic Drug Detox

Synthetic drug detoxopioid addiction detox and recovery treatment is the first step to starting a comprehensive treatment plan for synthetic drug addiction. Medically-supervised detox provides the support of on-site medical staff who can ensure clients remain safe and comfortable during detox. Since withdrawal from synthetic drugs can be unpredictable, medical assistance is ideal for managing uncomfortable symptoms and slowly easing clients down into a state of sobriety. During detox, clients may also begin individual and group counseling to address emotional responses to detox and begin planning for ongoing treatment at a rehab facility.

Residential Drug Rehab for Synthetic Drug Addiction

Long-term residential drug rehab at Nova provides at least 90 days of individualized addiction treatment. Each client’s program is led by a multidisciplinary team that works together to provide the most comprehensive care available. Programs consist of 12-step facilitation, blended with a balanced mix of clinical and medical treatment modalities. This results in a well-rounded care plan that addresses all the aspects of an individual’s addiction while meeting their physical, mental and emotional needs.

Synthetic drugs addiction does not have to define you.
Call Nova Recovery Center today (512) 605-2955 to learn more about medical detox, 90-day rehab, and sober living programs for sustained sobriety.


Outpatient Drug Rehab for Synthetic Drug Addiction

intensive outpatientOutpatient drug rehab is a wonderful way to transition out of residential treatment into a supported lifestyle back at home. It’s also ideal for those who may not be able to commit to living in a residential facility for 90 days. Outpatient programs for synthetic drug addiction require that clients meet several times a week at a safe location for group sessions. These group meetings allow members to discuss ongoing issues they are experiencing, gain additional insight and perspectives, and continue working through the principles of the 12-step program as they live them out at home.

Sober Living for Synthetic Drug Addiction

After residential treatment ends, some clients may prefer or need to enroll in a sober living program. These programs provide a safe, sober place for people in recovery to practice their new life skills. With a substance-free, structured environment, these community living homes provide peer support and ongoing counseling to help people remain sober and accountable during early recovery. Sober living programs require that residents follow the rules and regulations of their structured community home while they continue to meet other life obligations like school and work.

Aftercare for Synthetic Drug Addiction

Aftercare programs are designed for clients who have completed a residential treatment program for synthetic drug addiction. Clients in recovery receive clinical and peer support to help them deal with stressful or emotional life circumstances that may be difficult to handle while practicing sobriety in early recovery. Aftercare programs require that clients meet once a week with peer groups, which provides the essential support and encouragement needed to continue a life of sobriety.

These treatment options listed above can be combined to provide a comprehensive synthetic drug addiction program that closes the recovery circle and breaks the hold of addiction in a person’s life.


  1. https://www.cnn.com/2014/12/01/us/synthetic-drugs-investigation/
  2. https://www.justthinktwice.gov/article/facts-about-synthetic-drugs
  3. https://www.drugabuse.gov/about-nida/legislative-activities/testimony-to-congress/2013/dangerous-synthetic-drugs
  4. https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/ondcp/ondcp-fact-sheets/synthetic-drugs-k2-spice-bath-salts
  5. https://drugfree.org/learn/drug-and-alcohol-news/calls-poison-control-centers-synthetic-marijuana-almost-doubled-since-last-year/
  6. https://drugfree.org/learn/drug-and-alcohol-news/half-opioid-overdose-deaths-caused-synthetic-drugs/
  7. https://drugfree.org/learn/drug-and-alcohol-news/fentanyl-now-common-drug-involved-fatal-overdoses/

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