Facts About Synthetic Drugs: Overview
Use and addiction to synthetic drugs is rising at an alarming rate. Many of these dangerous substances are available for legal purchase through paraphernalia shops even though Federal, State and local governments are working hard to make it illegal for them to be made, sold or purchased. Between 2010 and 2011, the rate of synthetic drug-related emergency room visits increased by nearly 230 percent.
Many of the synthetic drugs available today have only been around for a few years, and it’s common for parents and family members concerned about a loved one to have never even heard of the drug being abused. This can add to the concern and confusion as you try to help a loved one or yourself overcome addiction with little knowledge about the synthetic drug of choice. When you feel overwhelmed by a lack of information and knowledge, it’s understandable that these feelings can lead to hopelessness. But as you learn more about synthetic drug addiction you’ll find there is hope for recovery, and you’ll see the important role professional treatment plays in your future or your loved one’s future.
Types of Drugs That Are Synthetic Drugs
Synthetic or designer drugs are made primarily to allow the manufacturers and sellers get past laws and regulations prohibiting controlled substances. Most synthetic drugs, such as synthetic marijuana (also known as Spice, K2), bath salts and Ecstasy, are created in laboratories and are made to mimic naturally occurring drugs or provide an alternative that doesn’t cause the same side effects. Many people, teens and young adults especially, believe that using these drugs is safe because they can be purchased in a store or gas station. But synthetic drugs are anything but safe, leading to severe health consequences, addiction, and death.
The Growing Phenomenon of Man-made Drugs
As of late 2011, it was reported that one out of every nine high school students had tried synthetic marijuana. Because the substances are often sold in convenience stores as potpourri or incense for smoking, it’s likely most teens aren’t aware of how dangerous the substance actually is. Ironically, most high school students believe tobacco and alcohol to be dangerous and usage of these substances has decreased. The reduction in teen and young adult use of tobacco and alcohol comes, in part, from the increase in awareness due to education and public service announcements. Unfortunately, users of synthetic drugs believe the substances to be harmless. The problem with synthetic drugs such as Spice is that by the time the user is aware of any potential problems, it’s often too late to do anything about it. Regular use of synthetic marijuana or bath salts eventually leads to addiction.
Legislation Regarding Synthetic Drugs
Currently, 42 states have banned the sale of synthetic drugs and the Drug Enforcement Administration has been working for the past few years to ban specific ingredients used to create the drugs. But manufacturers of the substances quickly change to new ingredients to get around the laws. Federal officials have become so alarmed by the increased use in synthetic drugs and the violent situations that have occurred as the result of their use that they proposed five acts to Congress during 2011 in an effort to get synthetic drugs banned nationwide. In June 2012, the US Senate and House of Representatives worked to create a proposal which would add 26 different synthetic drugs to the Controlled Substances Act, which was originally created in 1970.
Symptoms, Signs & Consequences of Addiction to Synthetic Drugs
The facts about synthetic drugs are widely available now that their prevalence is more well known. It is also important to be able to know the symptoms, signs and consequences of synthetic drug addictions. During the early stages of synthetic drug abuse and addiction, it’s possible for you or your loved one to keep the addiction a secret. But as the disease progresses, hiding it will become more difficult and require greater levels of deceit and deception. Sadly, most addicts become very accomplished at hiding or lying about their drug use, but eventually the point is reached where covering up drug abuse is no longer possible.
As the addiction advances, the symptoms, signs, and consequences will become more pronounced. Despite the fact that synthetic drug abuse is destroying you or your loved one’s health, relationships, and life, it will be difficult or undesirable to stop. The synthetic drug of choice will have taken over at this point and bargaining, threatening, and pleading does not make a difference.
Learning more about the signs, symptoms and consequences of continued synthetic drug abuse can assist you in your endeavors to seek help for yourself or a loved one. The knowledge you gain helps you to become more aware of what signs and symptoms to watch for and how to handle interactions with a loved one to avoid enabling behaviors. Even though your loved one may not be receptive to talking about his or her drug problem, discussing it in a non-threatening way can pave the way toward eventual acceptance of the need for help.
Symptoms of Synthetic Drug Abuse
The signs and symptoms of synthetic drug abuse and addiction typically manifest themselves in behavioral changes. You or your loved one will feel restless, agitated, and may experience a lack of appetite or inability to sleep. Abuse of synthetic marijuana or bath salts can lead your loved one to become violent and emotional. Should this occur, it’s vital to call 911 to protect yourself and your loved one from harm. Paranoia and hallucinations prevent the user from being able to think rationally, and he or she will be unable to react in a logical way when attempts are made to calm him or her down. If your loved one has recently started using a synthetic drug, the out-of-character behavior that results is a clear indicator that something is wrong.
Physical Health Effects of Synthetic Drug Addiction
Synthetic drugs cause effects that are similar to that of cocaine and marijuana. Depending upon how frequently your loved one uses it, the effects can last for several hours. Excessive sweating, mood swings, a high level of energy, and insomnia are some of the physical effects caused by synthetic drug use, but the physical symptoms don’t stop there. These highly addictive substances also cause rapid heartbeat, kidney failure, and blood circulation issues. Those who are addicted to synthetic drugs often harm themselves through self-mutilation, violent acts, and suicide.
Emotional Effects of Synthetic Drug Addiction
The emotional health impact of synthetic drug addiction puts the user and those around him or her at risk. These drugs cause hallucinations, paranoia, and have led many users to become uncharacteristically violent. Although synthetic drug users generally start off with a euphoric feeling, those feelings can quickly turn to feelings of depression, irritation, and rage. These negative emotions have led some users of Spice or bath salts to attack others, resulting in injury or death. The mental effects of synthetic drug addiction are very scary. As the loved one of someone who’s using them, seeking help and treatment can be life-saving for you and the user.
Impact of Abuse and Addiction on Relationships
Synthetic drug abuse and addiction is hard on relationships. The deceit, deceptive behaviors, and out-of-character behaviors cause loved ones to feel confused, then worried and scared. The stress of dealing with ongoing addiction takes its toll on many families. As is the case with many other types of substance abuse addiction, addiction to synthetic drugs can cause irreparable damage in your family and contribute toward separation and divorce.
Socio-Economic Impact of Addiction
In general, synthetic drugs are relatively affordable compared to their street drug counterparts. But, since most of the users of these drugs are teens and young adults, there still exists a socio-economic impact. Like other drug users, your loved one or child may resort to stealing money out of your wallet or selling items from home to get the money needed to continue buying drugs. Aside from the dangerous health consequences involved, continuing to use synthetic drugs sets young adults up for a difficult future as their performance at work or school fails to the point that they are no longer able to continue on. Eventually, the next opportunity to use the synthetic drug of his or her choice becomes the central focus of your loved one’s life at the expense of everything that used to matter.
Dangers of Continued Use Without Treatment
People of all ages use synthetic drugs, but approximately 60 percent of users are under the age of 25 years old. No one wants a loved one who’s at the beginning of their life to lose it, especially for reasons that can be avoided. Continued addiction and abuse of synthetic drugs such as K2, Spice, and bath salts can lead to death by overdose and it may result in a violent act in which someone else is killed and your loved one ends up incarcerated. There are no positive outcomes involved in continued use of these drugs without treatment. Rehabilitation through appropriate and effective treatment provides the best hope for you or your loved one to become healthy again through recovery from synthetic drug addiction.
Treatment & Rehabilitation
can lead to recovery from synthetic drug addiction
Treatment and rehabilitation for addiction to a synthetic drug varies according to the drug that’s been abused. Some forms of synthetic drugs require a greater length of time for recovery, as well as a more intensive rehabilitation program. But all forms of synthetic drug addiction can benefit from a professional treatment program. In fact, the unique needs of those addicted to synthetic drugs commonly require a rehab program that addresses their specific needs.
When you or a loved one take part in a synthetic drug treatment program, you can be assured that health and safety will be safeguarded throughout the entire program. Treatment provided by trained medical personnel and counselors creates an environment that allows you or your loved one to work through the recovery process without the potential health threats you might face when trying to quit alone. The cravings experienced when withdrawing from synthetic drugs make it impossible for many addicts to stop by themselves. But a professional treatment program provides a safe, supportive environment that helps you or your loved one work through withdrawals and detoxification while progressing toward recovery and a life of sobriety.
Going Through the Withdrawal Phase
During the initial phase of treatment, you or your loved one will be able to reach a point of becoming free of synthetic drugs. Since the body and mind become addicted to these substances, believing continued use is necessary to function normally, it’s common for withdrawal symptoms to occur. Cravings for the drugs and a desire to obtain the state of euphoria make it difficult for you or your loved one to quit alone, but the safe, caring environment of a substance abuse treatment center with a program for synthetic drugs can help you or your loved one through the withdrawal process with comfort and safety.
Synthetic Drug Detoxification
The detoxification phase of treatment can vary depending upon the person, the drug they’ve been using, and how long they’ve been dependent on it. During this phase of treatment, you or your loved one will receive thorough medical care to help your body become drug-free in the healthiest way. Throughout the process, treatment facility personnel will monitor your progress to ensure a successful, healthy, and safe detoxification.
Additional Synthetic Drug Addiction Treatment Components
Once you or your loved one complete the detox phase of treatment, the next phase of treatment will help build and strengthen the foundation for a life of sobriety. Various types of therapy, including individual, group, and family counseling, are important parts of each day and help you or your loved one understand how synthetic drug addiction has affected you and your family, and assist you in accepting responsibility. Through this process, accountability can be built, preparing you to learn how to cope with stress and causes so you can remain drug-free. To achieve this, there will be daily opportunities to take part in groups that teach important life skills that provide tools for dealing with challenges in life without resorting to drug use as a coping mechanism.
The Importance of Aftercare
Many treatment centers offer a comprehensive treatment program because they understand that the needs of the recovering addict are ongoing. Similar to others with chronic diseases, as you or your loved one transition into a life of sobriety, an aftercare program and lifestyle that encourages a drug-free life will have to be maintained. The support of family members, counselors, and friends who encourage you in your new lifestyle can play an instrumental role in helping you remain drug free. As you or your loved one take part in aftercare groups or therapy groups, more life skills will be gained to help cope with stress and life’s challenges without reverting to drug use to make it through them.
Young adults and teens recovering from synthetic drug addiction face the importance of learning to deal with peer pressure to avoid relapse. Although older adult drug users must also steer clear of the wrong crowd, younger adults and school-aged teens tend to face a greater amount of pressure from peers encouraging them to be part of the crowd. As you or your loved one continues to adjust to life as a sober person, it’s important to be an active part of a recovering addiction support group and take part in any relapse prevention programs that support the new lifestyle. Family members can learn how to support the recovering addict and work toward healing relationships by participating in counseling sessions and groups for family members.
Synthetic Drug Addiction
in the news helps increase awareness
Sometimes people don’t pay attention to news stories about drug use and addiction because they feel it’s not something they’ll ever have to deal with. Synthetic or designer drugs are often not considered to really be drugs and, as a result, people don’t realize how serious the consequences of using them can be. But synthetic marijuana and bath salts have ruined or damaged the lives of many.
In recent years including 2012, news stories have drawn greater attention to concerns surrounding the use of Spice and bath salts. In January 2012, 12 cadets attending the Coast Guard Academy saw their futures go down the drain when they were expelled for using fake marijuana. In June 2012, William “Billy the Exterminator” Bretherton and his wife were arrested for possession of synthetic marijuana. Reports of individuals and entire families being killed by someone high on synthetic drugs have drawn a great deal of attention.
As a result of the growing number of concerns and incidences involving synthetic drugs, more teens, parents, and organizations are becoming involved in increasing awareness of the dangers of using or selling these drugs. Recently, 22 high school students from New London, Connecticut went around to convenience and gas stations in their town imploring owners to stop selling the drugs, as well as drug paraphernalia. The examples and efforts of groups such as these can help increase awareness and education about the dangers of synthetic drug use and addiction.
There is Hope
The suffering and sadness you and your loved ones are experiencing as a result of synthetic drug addiction does not have to become a lifelong situation. Reaching out to someone who can help you or reaching out on a loved one’s behalf can be the best decision you make in a long time. Accepting the need for help and asking for it can be a difficult thing to do, but the possibilities it brings for health, hope, and happiness make it all worthwhile. A life of health and happiness is something everyone deserves; you or your loved one can regain such hope through treatment, recovery, and living a sober life.