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What Are Designer Drugs?

While researching some of the most commonly abused intoxicating and mind-altering substances, you might find yourself asking "what are designer drugs?" Essentially, designer drugs are substances that are synthetically created in such a way that they can mimic the common effects of some of the existing drugs.

Read on to learn more about designer drugs, what they are, how they work, their dangers, and the various types of these substances available on the streets today:

Understanding Designer Drugs

Whenever the word "drugs" crops up, you might get many different thoughts in your mind. For starters, you could think of the strung-out addicts who waste their lives and abilities by engaging in substance abuse. Alternatively, you may also conjure up pictures of the shady characters who sell these addictive substances on the streets and in dark alleys.

When you hear the word ''drugs,'' a variety of thoughts may come to mind. You may think of strung-out addicts wasting their lives away. You might conjure up images of shady characters handing over substances in dark alleys. On the other hand, you might think of prescription drugs monitored by physicians and handed out carefully. But how much do you know about designer drugs? Typically anything labeled as "designer" is considered to be elite, sophisticated, and prestigious. However, designer drugs are nothing of the sort.

Designer drug is a commonly used term, but few actually have an understanding of what the word actually means. So what are designer drugs and just how harmful are they?

Essentially, a designer drug is a substance that has been created to try and escape the penalties imposed by pre-existing drug control and prevention laws. As such, the producers often modify existing drugs by changing their molecular structures. However, others will simply create or find new drugs with a different chemical structure but ones which produce the same effects as illegal drugs.

But why are they called drugs? This is primarily on account of the different changes that manufacturers make to their chemical structures. As such, these drugs are specifically altered or designed.

In many cases, designer drugs tend to be synthetic. They are also illegal substances that have been produced by underground chemists before being sold on the street, over the dark web, and on the black market.

These drugs are also popular among users who are still in their late adolescent years - although even young adults in their 20s and early 30s also use these substances. They are also widely available at dance parties, raves, and clubs.

Designer Drug Dangers

Irrespective of the type of designer drug that you might want to use, you should know that they are dangerous. In particular, they may cause severe effects in the long term - including but not limited to respiratory failure, memory loss, insanity, and sudden death.

Manufacturers often cook up these drugs in illegal drugs. Most of them are stimulants, relaxants, psychedelics, and psychoactive drugs. To ensure that they produce similar effects to natural substances - illegal drugs in particular - the manufacturers often create them synthetically. This means that they are likely to come with a variety of harmful effects particularly because they are not legally regulated by bodies such as the FDA (or the Food and Drug Administration).


Unfortunately, most designer drugs are not controlled by the government. As such, they are not strictly illegal. When the DEA (or the Drug Enforcement Agency) makes a known drug illegal, manufacturers create similar drugs with similar effects.

However, just because a drug is not illegal does not mean that it is safe for you. In the case of designer drugs, most of them contain highly toxic chemicals that are not regulated by the government. Therefore, you wouldn't be able to tell what is in a particular drug.

Even so, some of the ingredients that illicit producers of designer drugs add to their formulations include:

  • Ammonia
  • Antifreeze
  • Bleach
  • Cough syrup
  • Heavy metals
  • Pesticides

Further, since these drugs have not been tested - as they are not regulated by the government, you wouldn't be able to tell if they are dangerous or not. It would also be difficult for you to know the adverse effects that these drugs might cause.

Even so, NIDA (abbreviation for the National Institute on Drug Abuse) reports that the makers of designer drugs often use buyers as their human test subjects. This is not right but they consider it necessary to do such tests - much in the same way that prescription and OTC medications go through years of stringent human and animal testing.

Drug testing is a process that relies on years of intense research and evaluation. However, it is not performed on designer drugs - because the producers are often just looking to make a quick profit.

Drug Interactions

Among the dangers of using designer drugs is that they interact with other intoxicating and mind-altering substances like marijuana, prescription medications, and alcohol - among others. In many cases, these drug interactions tend to be extremely dangerous. For instance, mixing designer drugs with other drugs can cause:

  • Anxiety
  • Blackouts
  • Coma
  • Confusion
  • Convulsions
  • Death
  • Heart failure
  • Insanity
  • Memory loss
  • Overdose
  • Paranoia
  • Respiratory failure

Some designer drugs can also cause a prescription medication to be less effective than it otherwise would have been. These drugs can also affect how anticonvulsants, antibiotics, and necessary medications such as blood pressure drugs and insulin work. These drug reactions can also lead to sudden death especially if you do not use them carefully.

Addiction To Designer Drugs

The manufacture of designer drugs is primarily a business that is supposedly profitable. Unfortunately, manufacturers continue producing these drugs in excess amounts because when people use and develop an addiction to them it means that they are able to make greater sales.

That said, most of the designer drugs you might find on the marketplace tend to be highly addictive. When you abuse them, therefore, they will take over the natural pleasure receptors in your brain and lead to both psychological and physical dependence and addiction.

As we mentioned earlier, designer drugs are not regulated by government agencies. As such, you won't have any warning about their addictive and habit-forming potential.

As a direct result, most of the people who abuse designer drugs never even realize just how harmful and addictive they can be until it is just about too late to do anything other than check into a drug rehabilitation and addiction treatment center.

Therefore, you should be cautious about these intoxicating and mind-altering substances - primarily because the people who manufacture them are not interested in informing you about the dangers of using such drugs.

The General Public, Independent Chemists, And Researchers

However, this is not to say that everyone who manufactures designer drugs does not have your best interests at heart. In particular, some of these drugs were made in medical laboratories as part of a research study. In many cases, however, the drugs found their way on the streets. After that, independent chemists started copying their chemical composition and eventually produced more of the drugs for sale to the general public.

Even so, you still need to realize that nearly every designer drug on the market comes with unpredictable and highly dangerous and toxic side effects. Most of them are also quite powerful and extremely addictive.

As we mentioned above, if you combine a designer drug with another intoxicating and mind-altering substance like alcohol, you are also likely to suffer extremely adverse effects - including but not limited to organ failure and sudden death.

Common Designer Drugs

Today, there are many different types of these drugs. As such, we are unable to list all of them in the section below. Additionally, since there are so many of these drugs, it is difficult to get comprehensive information about each specific drug. The common thing about all of them is that they are extremely habit forming and addictive and they tend to have effects that are more or less the same.

That said, the following are some of the types of designer substances that you might find on the market/street today:

a) Designer Opioids

  • a- methylfentanyl, a drug that is popular among heroin users and which is known on the streets as China White
  • 3- methylfentanyl: this drug is extremely potent; it was allegedly used by the Russian military as a chemical weapon during the Moscow theatre crisis

b) Designer Hallucinogens

  • DPT: This drug is similar to DMT
  • 5-MeO-AMT: A drug that is often sold as LSD
  • 2C-T-7, a common designer drug in Japan and Netherlands, where it is commonly referred to as Blue Mystic
  • 2C-B: This drug is similar to MDMA or ecstasy

c) Designer Stimulants

  • TFMPP: A legal drug that is used as an alternative to ecstasy
  • MDPV: MDPV is commonly known as bath salts and it is increasingly becoming popular among substance users and abusers
  • Dimethocaine: A drug that comes with 1/10 of the potency of the drug cocaine

d) Designer Sedatives

  • Methylmethaqualone (or MMQ): MMQ is similar to Quaaludes; it was highly popular in the late 90s particularly in Germany
  • 1,4-butanediol: Also known as One Coma Four, this drug is similar in chemical structure to GHB; it has been linked to many cases of overdose and sudden death

e) Designer Cannabinoids

  • JWH-018: This drug is similar to cannabis; however, it is linked to a variety of adverse psychological effects
  • HU-210: A drug that is said to be more potent than the THC component found in natural marijuana/cannabis; it is also found in Spice
  • CP 47,497: This drug was produced in the late 80s by Pfizer but was only popular for about 3 to 5 years; it contains Spice as its main psychoactive ingredient, a herbal incense that is similar to marijuana/cannabis

f) Designer Steroids

  • Tetrahydrogestrinone: Also known as The Clear or THG, this designer drug is classified as an anabolic steroid; it is so potent that users often just need to add a couple of drops to their tongue to achieve its psychedelic effects; it also comes with such a wide variety of adverse side effects that the US government made it illegal in 2005
  • Desoxymethyltestosterone: This drug is also known as DMT (not related to dimethyltryptamine) or Madol; it is an anabolic steroid that was manufactured in 2010 in the United States

More On Designer Drugs

To further explain the answer to the "what are designer drugs?" question, you can be sure that these drugs are psychoactive substances that were originally discovered - either on purpose or accidentally - through the experimentation on and research of the activity, effects, and structure of existing mind-altering and intoxicating substances. Today, they are commonly manufactured in illicit locations and homemade laboratories.

In many cases, designer drugs mimic the common effects of such well-known illegal drugs like cannabis, morphine, and cocaine. The producers often use chemically that they can buy legally.

Even so, their chemical structures are often altered in such a way that they can produce additional adverse effects - including but not limited to psychosis, addiction, and death.

Some of the most popular forms of these drugs include foxy methoxy (a designer hallucinogen), spice (a synthetic cannabinoid), and mephedrone (a designer stimulant drug).

Today, they are often sold with innocent-sounding names. As such, you might find them in the form of incense, potpourri, jewelry cleaner, plant food, bath salts, and synthetic marijuana. Their manufacturers do this to avoid detecting by law enforcement agencies and officials.

In most cases, they are labeled as being unsafe for human consumption. This is why they are not legally regulated by the government in the same way that other drugs like cannabis and prescription medications would be. This is in spite of the fact that they often tend to be significantly stronger and are less understood than other illegal drugs.

Some users also refer to designer drugs as club drugs. This is because they are common on the party scene, at raves, parties, concerts, nightclubs, and bars. They are also popular among partygoers - most of whom are in their teens and young adulthood.

Designer Drug Effects

But what are the effects of designer drugs? Depending on the type of synthetic drug you took, you are likely to experience the following effects:

  • Prolonged periods of extreme wakefulness - or lack of sleep
  • Feelings of exhilaration
  • Feelings of detachment
  • Extreme relaxation
  • Decreased appetite
  • Amnesia

However, these drugs also come with a variety of unwanted effects, including but not limited to:

  • Aggressive behavior
  • Blackouts
  • Changes in blood pressure
  • Coma
  • Death
  • Feelings of paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Nausea
  • Panic attacks
  • Seizures
  • Slurred speech

Signs Of Designer Drug Abuse

If you have been abusing designer drugs, it is highly likely that you may start displaying some of the signs that are common among people who use other intoxicating and mind-altering substances like street drugs and alcohol. These signs and symptoms of designer drug abuse include, but are not always limited to:

  • Changes in behavior
  • Changes in personal appearance and hygiene
  • Confused behavior
  • Decline in performance and responsibility taking at work, school, and home
  • Defensiveness about drug use
  • Delusional behavior
  • Designer drug paraphernalia, including but not limited to small plastic bags and discarded glass vials with traces of white and off-white powder, as well as syringes, inhalers, and pipes
  • Disorientation
  • Hallucinations
  • Insomnia
  • Isolation from family and friends
  • Loss of interest in the activities and hobbies that you used to spend most of your time on
  • Nightmares
  • Paranoia
  • Problems with sleeping
  • Problems maintaining personal and professional relationships
  • Restlessness
  • Stealing money and valuables to fund your growing drug habit
  • Unexplained weight gain or loss
  • Visual disturbances

Health Risks Of Abusing Designer Drugs

To further understand just how dangerous designer drugs can be, it is essential that you learn a little about the health risks that they are associated with. In many cases, you might not know the possible contaminants and chemicals that were used to produce these drugs. Further, you are highly unlikely to know their sources. As such, it can be difficult for you to determine their associated medical consequences and adverse health effects or their level of toxicity.

In fact, some producers often mix these drugs with illicit substances and alcohol - a process that further worsens the side effects that are you likely to suffer when you use a designer drug.

Using designer drugs, therefore, can encourage you to engage in risky behavior. It can also decrease your inhibitions. As a direct result, you might start driving while intoxicated, having unprotected sexual intercourse, and eventually suffer accidental injuries and contract diseases that you might otherwise have been able to protect yourself from.

Most of these drugs are also so different from other mainstream psychotic substances that it is impossible to detect them through regular drug screen tests like urinalysis. As a result, it is difficult to measure the level of intoxication to a designer drug.

Due to these factors and more, most designer drugs produce dangerous effects like:

  • Coma
  • Death
  • Fatal respiratory problems
  • Heart failure
  • High blood pressure
  • Hyperthermia (or overheating)
  • Mood changes
  • Physical dependence
  • Psychological addiction
  • Psychotic behavior
  • Seizures
  • Sleep disturbances

Withdrawal Symptoms

As we mentioned earlier, most designer drugs are manufactured in illegal labs. As a direct result, their potency and ingredients tend to vary greatly. Therefore, it is close to impossible to find out what they contain or the effects that they are likely to cause to your body.

However, some of the withdrawal symptoms that have been identified among people who have stopped using designer drugs or who have significantly reduced the doses they are accustomed to include:

  • A rapid heart rate
  • Addiction
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Cold sweats
  • Depression
  • Drug cravings
  • High blood pressure
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Physical dependence
  • Sweating
  • Tremors
  • Vomiting

Treatment For Designer Drug Abuse And Addiction

In the same way, there is limited information in medical, scientific, and research about the treatments available for people who have been abusing designer drugs and developed tolerance, dependence, and addiction to them.

Treatment for designer drug abuse and addiction is also difficult because addiction rehabilitation experts often do not know the exact substances that their patients have taken. As a result, they are often only able to treat the adverse symptoms that these patients display.

In many cases, however, such addiction treatment often starts with a detoxification process during which patients receive medical care, support, monitoring, and maintenance around the clock. After they stop displaying the withdrawal symptoms of substance abuse, they also receive therapy and counseling - both individual and group counseling. This form of drug rehabilitation is often designed to get to the root of substance abuse and protect the patients from relapsing back to their old habits in the future.

In particular, psychological therapy and counseling is key to helping the patients understand how they started abusing designer drugs, the reasons for such substance abuse, and the steps they can take to ensure that they do not relapse in the future. This form of treatment is crucial in this process - although it is sometimes combined with support group meetings.

The Dangers Of Synthetic Designer Drugs

In the past few years, designer drugs - or synthetic substances - have been gaining popularity in the country. This is because many people assume that these drugs are grown naturally (organically) and that they are safe to use. As such, they tend to overlook some of the dangers that come with using and abusing these substances.

Every year, new versions of illegal drugs and designer substances are produced in China and other countries before being imported illegally into the United States. In many cases, these drugs contain substances that have not been tested on animals or people.

Some people also assume that designer drugs are safe to use because they are not strictly illegal. However, you should know that some states have been taking steps to ban the substances that are found in most of these drugs.

To escape such legislation and monitoring, the manufacturers of designer drugs often start using dangerous - albeit equally dangerous and harmful substances - to alter the chemical substances of existing drugs that have been illegalized. This makes it comparatively difficult for drug enforcement officials and agencies to keep up.

That said, you need to know that most of the chemicals found in designer synthetic drugs are extremely poisonous. Using them, therefore, can cause severe harm to your body and mind.

This is one of the main reasons why the number of visits to emergency rooms have been increasing all across the United States - particularly as a result of the unpredictable adverse effects of abusing designer drugs.

Even so, many people continue using these substances, particularly teenagers and young adults. This is primarily because these drugs tend to be relatively cheap and available over the internet, in the black market, on the street, and in many stores.

But what are the dangers of abusing designer drugs? In effect, although there are different types of designer drugs, the most common types of these substances include synthetic cannabinoids and synthetic stimulants.

a) Synthetic Cannabinoids

Synthetic marijuana is the most commonly used designer cannabinoid. However, this label is misleading because synthetic marijuana tends to be more potent and dangerous than natural marijuana. As a direct result, using it can cause you to respond differently and unpredictably.

The manufacturers of synthetic marijuana often mix plant matter with toxic chemicals. After being sold, users will typically ingest or smoke the resultant drug to achieve its pleasurable mind-altering effects. Synthetic marijuana is also known as Bliss, Black Mamba, K2, and Spice on the black market and on the streets - among many other names.

The drug usually comes in small and shiny packets that are labeled as potpourri or incense. It is often sold over the internet, at gas stations, and in novelty stores. Either way, the drug is often marketed in such a way that it seems attractive to young people.

Today, it is so popular that about 5% of all interviewed high school seniors have admitted that they used this drug at least once in their lifetimes. Therefore, if you have an adolescent in your family, you might want to talk to them about the dangers of using synthetic cannabinoids - and inform them that even if they are widely sold in stores does not necessarily mean that they are safe.

In particular, the symptoms and adverse effects of using and abusing synthetic cannabinoids tends to vary from one person to another. They also depend on whether you ingested or inhaled these drugs.

That said, some of the adverse reactions that arise as a result of using synthetic cannabinoids include:

  • Delusions
  • Hallucinations
  • Nausea
  • Paranoia
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Violent behavior
  • Violent reactions
  • Vomiting

If you use these drugs in the long term, they may also cause additional effects like paralysis and memory loss. You are also highly likely to experience withdrawal from these designer drugs if you try to reduce the dose your body has become accustomed to or try to quit.

Most of the people who use synthetic cannabinoids have also been described as being zombie-like in their appearance. This is because they tend to struggle piecing together simple thoughts and move slowly.

b) Synthetic Stimulants

If you follow the news, you might have heard about bath salts being increasingly abused across the United States. Although bath salts are synthetic stimulants, there are many other drugs in this category of designer drugs.

As a direct result, it might be difficult for you to recognize most synthetic stimulants from sight. This is because most of the manufacturers of these drugs use deceptive methods and labels to ensure that they are dangerous recreational drugs that were illegally produced. Some of these labels include:

  • Bath salts
  • Cleaners
  • Not for human use or consumption
  • Plant food

On the other hand, the people who abuse synthetic stimulants tend to smoke or inhale the drugs, although some might also ingest them to achieve their resultant pleasurable and intoxicating effects.

That said, these drugs come with a wide variety of dangerous side effects, including but not limited to:

  • Dizziness
  • Hallucinations
  • Headaches
  • Nightmares
  • Stomach problems
  • Violent behavior

If you use these drugs in the long term, they can also lead to liver failure, kidney damage and failure, brain damage, depression, and sudden death. Therefore, if you suspect that you have been engaging in synthetic stimulant abuse, the best thing you can do is check into a drug treatment and rehabilitation center. This is the only way you will be able to get the help you need to overcome your addiction and protect yourself from these adverse effects.

On the other hand, in case you suspect that someone has been abusing synthetic cannabinoids and stimulants - or any other kind of designer drug, you should try and talk to them so that they can get the help they need.

While doing so, explain to them than just because they are able to buy these drugs in stores does not mean that they are safe for their consumption. You can also remind them that most of these designer drugs often contain extremely dangerous products, including but not limited to rat poison.

In the process, tell them that just because they used these substances in the past and did not suffer adverse effects does not necessarily mean that they are safe. Remind them that some people have got into trouble before - as a result of engaging in dangerous, risky, and violent behavior - while others have lost their lives as a result of abusing designer drugs.

In the long run, you should let them know that the pleasurable intoxicating effects of abusing these substances is not worth the harm that they are likely to suffer to their bodies and brains in the long term.

Luckily, mental health and addiction treatment experts are increasingly becoming aware of the adverse effects of abusing designer drugs. To this end, it is now possible for you to get help for your drug abuse and addiction.

With the right information and support, you do not need to continue taking designer drugs just so that you can achieve a quick high of intoxicating and mind-altering effects. Instead, you should consider checking into an addiction treatment and rehabilitation facility so that you can get the help you need to overcome your dependence on these harmful and extremely dangerous drugs.

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