Lethally High: Teenagers and Synthetic Drugs

We Help Thousands of Addicts Quit. Who Answers?

Synthetic designer drug sales are rising and our youth are experimenting with the cheap high these products promise to deliver. Unfortunately these unregulated drugs can have grim reaper consequences.

Designer drugs are easily accessible and in some states may even be legal to purchase. They may carry names like, “Scooby Snax,” “Smacked,” and “Blueberry Haze” and be accessible in some convenience stores. In fact, these packages are so well camouflaged with all of the other brightly colored items, they are easy to overlook, but make no mistake, the connoisseur will spot them quickly. Their names may sound harmless and even juvenile, but rest assured they are deadly toxins. With a disclaimer label, “not for human consumption,” synthetic drugs often disguise the real intent of their use.

Synthetic drugs made their debut in the United States around 2008 and have risen in popularity, especially among teens and young adults. In comparison to other substances they are cheap and mimic the effects of popular street drugs. With synthetic weed, users report getting a high sensation similar to marijuana, but unlike pot the true effects of these drugs on the body is unknown. The composition of synthetic drugs are continually being altered to avoid federal laws, making it hard to determine what is actually in these packages. Due to the ever changing composition, there is no true way to investigate the long-term effects. What we do know is these drugs are dangerous and potentially lethal.

Designer drugs started getting national attention with the media for stories like the man in Florida who cannibalized human flesh while on ‘Bath Salts’ and ‘Crazy Clown’ that sent several to the hospital…-Raychelle Lohmann

Designer drugs started getting national attention with the media for stories like the man in Florida who cannibalized human flesh while on “Bath Salts” and “Crazy Clown” that sent several to the hospital foaming at the mouth. And the headlines don’t stop there; there are countless stories of youth experiencing cardiac and respiratory problems, catatonia, comas, psychosis, seizures and yes, even death. One thing is for certain, these products give the user a “trip” alright – a trip to the ER, jail, or worse yet the morgue.

Unfortunately too many teens are trying synthetic drugs. Research shows that 17 percent of teens in the United States have tried designer drugs, and one in nine high school seniors have used synthetic marijuana. In fact, synthetic marijuana placed number four on the list of drugs most often used by teens. In case you are wondering, alcohol ranked number one, marijuana took the next spot, followed by amphetamines, and then the ever-growing popular fake weed. What’s scary is teens don’t know what they are ingesting when they mess with these toxic substances and neither do the experts.

…17 percent of teens in the United States have tried designer drugs, and one in nine high school seniors have used synthetic marijuana.-Raychelle Lohmann

Designer drugs are often manufactured in some underground unsterile laboratory overseas or in someone’s basement just down the street. So who are the experimental guinea pigs? Why our teens of course. In the designer drug industry it’s not about the welfare of our youth, or the quality and research behind the product, rather it’s all about the money. And this multibillion-dollar industry is booming with success. Yet for the parents, it’s about something of so much importance that no monetary value could be placed on it – their child.

With all of the dangers associated with synthetic designer drugs, why on earth are teenagers so attracted to them?

To begin with, unlike many other substances, synthetic drugs often go undetected in drug tests. Second, they are relatively cheap and easy to get. Third, youth often don’t realize nor understand the dangers associated with these drugs. For example, the designer drug manufacturers may claim the product is “all natural” which creates an illusion that it can’t be all that bad for you. Fourth, the products are marketed to them. They are brightly packaged, and smell safe like bubblegum or fruit. Fifth, it is easy to sneak these drugs around and not get caught; especially with parents. Unlike the distinct smell of pot burning, synthetic weed may smell like flowers. They are sold under the guise of potpourri or incense, and that is the aroma they give off as well. Parents, don’t let those shiny little packages deceive you.

How do we control designer drugs?

While the DEA continues to add synthetic chemicals to Schedule I of the Controlled Substance Act, the laws are difficult to enforce because drug manufacturers are continuously altering the chemical compositions to skate around the laws.-Raychelle Lohmann

The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has begun to crack down on the synthetic drug dealerships and sellers. In July of 2012 the U.S. issued a ban against the sale of synthetic cathinones (i.e., bath salts) and cannabinoids (i.e., Spice/K2 – synthetic weed). While the DEA continues to add synthetic chemicals to Schedule I of the Controlled Substance Act, the laws are difficult to enforce because drug manufacturers are continuously altering the chemical compositions to skate around the laws. In truth, the tweaking that can be done to get around the legal system seems to be endless.

Keeping track of all of the evolving chemicals hitting the market proves to be a very difficult job. While authorities may be running behind the “eight ball” to catch up with designer drug manufacturers, parents don’t have to be left in the dark. Of course being proactive is far better than reactive, but if you suspect your teen may be experimenting with drugs please get professional help.

Here are common warning signs that a teen may be using drugs:

  • Changes in behavior
  • Poor hygiene
  • Decline in academic performance
  • Increase in privacy and secrecy
  • Pulling away from friends and family
  • More defiant and uncooperative
  • Spending more time alone

So, back to being proactive. How do we educate our youth about the risks of synthetic drugs? It all starts with a conversation about the dangers associated with drug use, including synthetic substances. It is up to us to take action to protect our youth. According to The Partnership for a Drug Free America about 50 percent of adolescents who learn about the risks associated with drugs at home are less likely to use drugs. They are listening, so let’s keep talking.

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