What are Designer Drugs?
With chemistry know-how and a science lab, it’s possible for a person looking to make a buck to turn an illegal high into one that’s borderline lawful. Designer drugs are substances that people alter at the molecular level to mimic their banned counterparts. While the concept isn’t new, they’ve grown in popularity.
Examples of Designer Drugs
Some of the most popular designer drugs include ketamine, ecstasy, methamphetamine and LSD. Others go by names like Molly, 2C-E, 2C-I, or 3C-bromo-dragonfly. Many designer drugs, however, don’t have an official name and their names may differ by geographic region.
Designer Drugs List:
- Anabolic steroids
- Piperazine-based substances
- Sexual enhancement substances
It’s common for some of the drugs to produce common effects despite their structural differences. Or, they may have similar structures, but different effects, making designer drugs unpredictable and dangerous.
To evade law enforcement, many drug manufacturers market their products under the guise of a different item. For example, some may label substances that mimic the effects of marijuana as “spices” or “incense.” Others may use terms “insect repellant” or “plant food” for drugs that produce a cocaine-like high.
The History of Designer Drugs
The manufacturing of designer drugs isn’t a new phenomenon. In the United States, the practice began in the 1920s, after the International Opium Convention, which banned morphine and heroin.
During the 1960s and 1970s, several synthetic hallucinogens entered the market, like the DOM tablets sold in San Francisco, LSD and PCP.
The term designer drug was first coined in the 1980s and referred to synthetic opioid drugs. During this decade, ecstasy boomed in popularity. Many of the black market drugs were also based on fentanyl, like MPPP and China White. The potency of the designer drugs led to several accidental overdoses. In some cases, impurities in the drugs caused severe brain damage from a single dose.
During the late 1980s and early 1990s, the manufacturing and distribution of methamphetamine became a public health issue across the U.S. Despite the attention it’s attracted from law enforcement, meth continues to dominate the designer drug market.
When the Internet became a household staple, a new trend in drug abuse emerged—the purchasing of designer drugs online. Manufacturers called the drugs “research chemicals” and sold them in powder form. Today, the type of designer drugs available are no longer limited by patents and scientific literature. Technological advances have helped broaden the range of designer drugs available and the access to them.
The Danger behind Designer Drugs
In addition to the wide range of substances sold, designer drug manufacturers brazenly market their products. With the rampant practice of intentionally mislabeling the substances to fly under the radar, it’s simple for drug seekers to get the wrong information.
Another danger is in the manner in which many of the substances are sold—as powders. The powders require precise measurements down to the microgram or hundredth of a milligram. Eyeballing a measurement or reading a scale inaccurately can taint a whole batch, making it more dangerous than it already is.
While doctors are familiar with the effects of the more popular forms of designer drugs, the effects of the newer concoctions are unknown. This makes it more difficult to treat patients who abuse the drugs or are suffering an adverse reaction because physicians don’t know what they’ve taken and what to expect.
While there is no immediate solution to the designer drug problem in the U.S., there is an effective, long-term solution if you want to take control of your life and health. The first step is asking for help.
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If you or someone you know is in need of help for addiction, please call to connect with a treatment center at 866-644-7911 and receive help and guidance.