Synthetic Drugs

What are Synthetic Drugs

Synthetic drugs are man-made chemical compounds produced to replicate or alter the effects of illicit “natural”, or organic drugs. Oftentimes these drugs are produced in a factory or laboratory and contain a variety of different chemicals and man-made substances.

Synthetic drugs can be bought legally either online or in stores due to a misrepresentation of their intended purpose. Creators of synthetic drugs label their products as “not for human consumption” to avoid FDA regulations. Users often buy synthetic drugs for the purposes of getting high despite the products themselves being labeled as incense, plant food, or research chemicals.

Due to the ability to buy them legally in stores or online, there is a misconception that synthetic drugs are safe to use. That belief is completely wrong, however. While some synthetic drugs are produced and prescribed by medical professionals to treat a variety of conditions, there is little regulation of synthetic drug production.

Dangerous chemicals can be put inside synthetic drugs without the user ever knowing. The synthetic drug molly was created as a pure form of MDMA, which is the chemical that produces the effects of the drug ecstasy. However, the DEA has claimed that only 13% of all molly seized in the state of New York between 2014 and 2018 actually contained any trace of MDMA.

This is common with synthetic drugs as they are often sold as one thing while the creators alter the chemical compounds of the drugs in order to reduce production cost or enhance their effects. This can lead to a variety of different chemicals being included in drugs without being tested, leading to potentially dangerous side effects.

Types Of Synthetic Drugs

Synthetic Marijuana

Synthetic marijuana is a category of synthetic drug designed to replicate the effects of using THC. There are many different kinds of synthetic marijuana, also known as synthetic cannabinoids, but the two most well known are Spice and K2.

Synthetic marijuana is actually a chemical compound. The manufacturers then often spray the chemicals on dried plant material to allow the user to smoke it. It can also be distributed in a liquid form to use in vape or e-cigarette products.

The effects of using synthetic marijuana are often similar to using real marijuana. These side effects can include a feeling of relaxation, confusion, and altered states of perception and thinking. However, synthetic marijuana can also cause vomiting, elevated heart rate, and violent or self-harming behavior.
Synthetic marijuana is also highly addictive and can cause withdrawal symptoms for those who attempt to stop using the drug. Unlike organic marijuana, users can overdose on synthetic marijuana. Due to the variety and ever-changing chemicals often included in synthetic marijuana, a toxic reaction can occur for people who use too much that can cause serious and potentially permanent damage to one’s heart or kidneys.


MDMA is a synthetic chemical that causes the effects seen in the use of drugs such as molly or ecstasy. MDMA causes an increase in energy and emotion, while also distorting a person’s perception and sense of time. The effects of MDMA are created by increasing the chemicals dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin in a person’s brain.

MDMA is often viewed as a party drug and therefore taken in combination with other illicit substances. MDMA is commonly seen in either capsule or tablet forms. While drugs such as molly are sold as being crystalized tablets of pure MDMA, they are often cut with many other chemicals.

A bad reaction to MDMA can result in a cold sweats, nausea, muscle cramps, and blurred vision. While the effects of MDMA may only last for a matter of hours, the effects of an MDMA “hangover” can last an entire week. The aftereffects of MDMA can include depression, irritability, anxiety, and memory problems.

While results are inconclusive on whether MDMA is addictive or not, it can still be dangerous. A high dosage of pure MDMA can lead to a spike in someone’s body temperature. This rise in body temperature can result in hypothermia and cause long term effects such as liver, heart, or kidney damage and sometimes even death.

Bath Salts

Bath salts are synthetic drugs made to mimic a chemical called cathinone, which is why they are also referred to as synthetic cathinones. Cathinone is a chemical found in the khat plant, local to Eastern Africa. While the leaves of the khat plant can produce mild effects, synthetic cathinones are far stronger.

Bath salts are often sold in a crystal-like powder labeled as “not for human consumption”, though people can smoke, inject, or snort them to get high. The effects of bath salts are often compared to stimulants such as crystal meth or cocaine. However, bath salts are far cheaper and still legal to buy in certain areas which make them a far more widespread issue.

Bath salts are both incredibly addictive and dangerous to use. Studies show that the effects of bath salts are similar to cocaine but can be up to ten times stronger. The effects of using bath salts can include paranoia, delirium, hallucinations, and panic attacks. Overdosing on bath salts can cause chest pain, high blood pressure, kidney failure, or death.


Krokodil is a synthesized opioid made from morphine. The synthesized morphine, also known as desomorphine, is often cut with other substances. These substances can include hydrochloric acid, paint thinner, gasoline, or lighter fluid. It is often viewed as a cheaper alternative to heroin and used in the same ways.

Krokodil is an incredibly dangerous drug. Not only is it highly addictive but causes an array of serious and potentially fatal conditions. After injecting Krokodil, a person’s skin will turn black and scaly around the injection site. Pain and swelling will also occur almost immediately.

In a large part due to the corrosive substances it is cut with, Krokodil is known to cause muscle damage, blood vessel damage, and bone decay. Illnesses such as pneumonia and meningitis are also considered side effects of using the drug. Overdosing on Krokodil can lead to brain damage, blood poisoning, or death.


Flakka is a synthetic cathinone similar to bath salts. At times Flakka is also referred to as “gravel”, due to the rock-like appearance of drug. Similarly to bath salts, Flakka can be eaten, snorted, injected, or vaporized.

Flakka is highly addictive and dangerous. The initial effects of Flakka include a sense of euphoria and stimulation. However, once those effects begin to wear off and users take another dose to extend the effects, feelings of paranoia, delusions, and extreme violent urges can occur. People high on Flakka are often a danger to both themselves and others.

Getting Help For Synthetic Drug Abuse

Anyone suffering from addiction to synthetic drugs should immediately seek help. Despite the belief that synthetic drugs are safer than organic illicit drugs, synthetic drugs are both dangerous and highly addictive. While addiction can never be “cured”, it can be treated.

After following a medical detox program, it is recommended to enroll in a residential treatment center or outpatient addiction program. These programs, along with therapeutic treatment, will help work through the underlying causes of addiction. At Create Recovery in Los Angeles, we can provide individualized care at every stage of recovery, from identifying your goals to addressing every facet of your treatment at the source.