Information on the Synthetics that are Being Sold
by Sue Birkenshaw
The United Nations reports that these new synthetics have been found in nearly every corner of the world. All of North America, most of South America, Australia, much of Southeast Asia, Russia, almost all of Europe, China and scattered parts of Africa have all reported the seizure of these new drugs.
Since there are new drugs being manufactured and sold every few days, it is impossible to provide a complete catalog of synthetics. Below you'll find a listing of some of the drugs that may be on the market in your area. Since there are hundreds of formulas, this list can only include the most common drugs.
You can find more complete lists at these websites:
Main Classes of Synthetics
Some parents may be satisfied understanding simply that a threat exists and how to explain this threat to their children. Other parents may want to understand more about the different types of drugs. The different categories are included here along with common symptoms of their use as far as they are understood at the time of this writing. These drugs are sold at many convenience stores, head shops, party venues, gas stations, and on the internet. There are even reports of drugs being sold from ice cream trucks.
These drugs are reported by the DEA to most often be manufactured in chemical plants in China, India or Pakistan, principally China. One kilogram can be worth a third of a million dollars. The profits that can be made are astronomical.
Synthetic Cathinones have a chemical composition similar to a plant called khat grown in Eastern Africa. It is these drugs that are often found in drugs sold as 'bath salts.' These drugs are readily available online.
Their use is associated with bizarre, homicidal and suicidal behavior. They can cause liver and kidney failure and seizures. Users may become paranoid and may suffer intense, uncontrollable hallucinations. They may become terrified and then turn violent or self-destructive. They are highly addictive.
Users have also reported agitation, insomnia, irritability, seizures, panic attacks, loss of control of body, inability to think clearly, dizziness, suicidal thoughts, delusions and depression. Physically, users suffered chest pains, rapid heart rate, nosebleeds, sweating, nausea and vomiting.
The drugs MDPV and mephedrone (mentioned above, and now illegal in the U.S) were very often found in bath salts when they were first on the market. MDPV (short for "3,4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone") was found to be 10 to 50 times more potent than cocaine. You can see its 'overdose' potential. Flephedone ("4-FMC for 4-fluoromethcathinone") is another drug in this class.
They may be sold in small jars or foil packages that contain a fine white or slightly yellow powder.
Names and packaging
They may be labeled Bliss, Drone, Vanilla Sky, Ivory, Ocean, Eight Ball, White Girl, White Dove or similar names. Instructions may state that they are for a 'stimulating bath.' They may also be sold as plant food, research chemicals or fertilizer. Their packages will usually falsely say "Not for Human Consumption." The drugs may be snorted, smoked, swallowed or injected.
Mephedrone itself has been called M-Cat, Meph, Drone, Miaow, Meow Meow, Subcoca-1, or Bubbles. Methylone may be nicknamed Top Cat.
Synthetic Cannabinoids (cannabinoid meaning "similar to marijuana") are promoted as mimicking the effects of marijuana. Chemically, they have nothing in common with marijuana but they act in the body in similar ways to the complex chemicals in naturally grown pot.
These chemicals are sprayed on herbal material that is then smoked. Damiana is the plant material often used for this purpose. The plant itself contains a mildly stimulating drug that causes euphoria. Most of the chemical formulas are known only by letter-number combinations, for example:
JWH-018, JWH-073, JWH-370
When these formulas are smoked, the effect is usually about four times as strong as smoking marijuana. It starts out slow at first, so a person may be surprised by the potency that arrives later than expected. Adverse effects include agitation, fast heart rate, confusion, dizziness and nausea. At least three cases of chest pain with heart damage have been reported. And stronger, more dangerous effects have been reported.
The drug is sold in foil packages often labeled as K2, K3 Legal, Spice, Spice Gold, Diesel, King Kong, Cloud 9 or any other name the manufacturer thinks up. They may be labeled as incense products.
The 'JWH' in the chemical formulations above refer to research chemist John W. Huffman who developed many of these formulas while searching for drugs to help multiple sclerosis or AIDs patients. After his formulas began to be used illicitly, he stated, "I figured once it got started in Germany it was going to spread. I'm concerned that it could hurt people. I think this was something that was more or less inevitable. It bothers me that people are so stupid as to use this stuff."
Synthetic cocaine derivatives, chemically similar to cocaine, are readily available and legal in most countries. Like cocaine, they have some anesthetic properties. There are two forms of this drug that have been reported to be abused:
- 3-(p-fluorobenzoyloxy)tropane, usually referred to as pFBT
They are available from websites and head shops, labeled as research chemicals, legal highs, plant food or other misleading names.
They act as stimulants. They can cause high blood pressure and speeded heart rate. They are reported to cause anxiety and temporary psychosis when they are abused. They are normally snorted/sniffed.
Names for the drug
Dimethocaine has been sold as Mind Melt, Amplified and Mint Mania.
Ketamine has long been used as an animal tranquilizer. It was previously used as a human anesthetic but this use was nearly completely discontinued because of unpleasant side effects such as agitation and hallucinations.
Ketamine may be stolen from veterinary practices or brought into the US from other countries. It causes sedation, dissociation (disconnection of one's awareness of self and one's own thoughts), and hallucinations. It may be available in pill, powder or injectable liquid form and may be smoked, sniffed or injected. Injections may be done into a vein or into a muscle.
The drug is somewhat similar chemically to PCP. It may also be added to leafy substances so it can be smoked. Liquid ketamine can also be dropped directly in the eyes, placed on the skin or dropped in an open glass or soda can.
Ketamine is normally abused by young people who are already living a very risky life, with other drugs being abused, abnormal sleeping hours and unhealthy sexual practices. It is common for the injectable form to be shared which can lead to the transmission of diseases such as hepatitis or HIV. In some parts of the world, ketamine is often combined with Ecstasy.
This drug may be abused in a club setting or in isolation. Ketamine users may continue to dose until they reach a state of complete dissociation from their bodies and environments, a state referred to as the "k-hole." Such persons can be found lying on the floor or sidewalk staring up, seemingly unresponsive (but in there somewhere).
A small dose of ketamine may just act as a sedative.
Ketamine has the particular quality of causing bladder damage or destruction when heavily used. Some users suffer great pain while urinating and must have surgery to repair or even remove their bladders after heavy abuse.
Names for the drug
Ketaved, Ketaset, Vetamine, Vetalar, Ketalar
Vitamin K, Special K, Kitty, Super K, Kit Kat, Jet, K, Lady K, Super acid, Cat Valium
Ketamine may be a white powder, small round pills or bottles of injectable liquid labeled with brand names as above.
Phenethylamines are strong stimulants with hallucinogenic effects.
Drugs in this class include
MDMA or Ecstasy, perhaps the best known drug in this class of synthetics. It is in extensive use at concerts, music festivals, nightclubs and dance clubs. It creates a heightened perception of music and light, which is why music venues have dramatic light shows and hand out small lighted objects to attendees. There is an illusion of closeness to other people and increased skin sensation, but the stimulating effect of the drug also increases the heart rate and respiration and sends the body temperature soaring. Many people have suffered from paranoia or panic attacks while high on the drug and some have died from overheating after dancing for hours and becoming dehydrated. It also has the effect when coming down of causing the jaw muscles to cramp. Ecstasy users sometimes can be identified from the baby 'pacifiers' they hold in their mouths to prevent their teeth from grinding.
MDMA/Ecstasy is usually sold as a colored pill, often stamped with the impression of a logo. These pills may be sold in a blister pack or as individual pills.
Bromo-DragonFLY was given this nickname because the shape of the molecule resembles a dragonfly. The first adverse effects seen in Sweden in 2008 resulted in liver failure, kidney failure and constriction of the blood vessels to the extremities requiring amputation of much of one hand and two toes. This may have been the result of an unintentional overdose but the user had no memory of what happened the night he took the drug.
The difference between what is considered a 'safe' dose and a fatal dose is very, very small. In 2003, the owner of a research chemical company in Denmark consumed some of his own drug and died of an overdose. The drug was mistakenly labeled as 2C-B-FLY but was actually the much stronger Bromo-DragonFLY. Similar deaths occurred in Oklahoma and Minnesota in 2011, along with additional injuries.
Besides being very potent, the effects of this drug may last as long as three days. Confusion, heart problems, seizures and hallucinations often result.
May be sold as a white or off-white powder in a small plastic bag, labeled "not for food, drug, household or cosmetic use."
This is a new form of phenethylamine that surfaced in 2012 and was associated with multiple deaths. It is also known as 2C-1. Use results in aural and visual hallucinations and self-destructive activity.
Other formulas of phenethylamine are known only by number-letter designation, for example:
Tryptamines are hallucinogens, that is, they cause hallucinations. Tryptamines are synthetic substances with effects similar to psilocybin (the 'magic mushroom'). Many substances in this category are not included on any specific list of outlawed drugs. Their use leads to a hallucinatory state with distortions of sight, sound and time. The user will be unable to make sensible, rational judgments and thus is more likely to be injured. He may suffer amnesia but this may subside. Panic attacks are common. A person with underlying mental conditions is particularly at risk of damage from these drugs. Effects may last 12 to 24 hours. Unpleasant effects can include anxiety, restlessness, muscle tension to the point of muscle tissue breakdown, jaw tightness, confusion, nausea and vomiting.
They are often packaged as a light colored powder in small plastic packs labeled as "research chemicals." They are readily available online. Young people ordering these drugs online may try to intercept all the mail coming to the home to grab the drugs before anyone else sees them. Or they may have them delivered to a friend's house.
Drugs in this class include
- Alpha-O (5-MeO-DMT)
- Foxy-methoxy (5-MeO-DPT)
- AMT (Alpha-methyltryptamine)
Piperazines were originally developed as an antidepressant. The formula was abandoned because of problems associated with its use. These drugs are stimulants often sold as "party pills" or herbal products. There is nothing herbal about them. They are just chemicals produced in a lab. They are very common in the US and Europe. Piperazines may be found combined with amphetamine, cocaine, ketamine or Ecstasy. These pills are often sold in blister packs with party images on them. Pills being sold as Ecstasy may actually contain a mix of these drugs plus caffeine and other substances.
Piperazines may also be found in powders sold as bath salts. In this case, they will usually be found as a white or nearly white powder in a small glass or plastic jar.
Drugs in this class include
- BZP (1-Benzylpiperazine) - one of the best known of these drugs. May be called Legal X, Pep X or A2.
- A similar drug referred to as mCPP has been found as an ingredient in up to half the illicit tablet market in Europe.
- TFMPP is 1-(3-trifluoromethyl-phenyl)piperazine.
Signs of abuse
Signs of abuse: (May vary by specific drug) Poor appetite, headaches, tremors, stomach pains, mood swings, confusion, irritability, insomnia, fatigue, irritability, anxiety, dizziness, fear of losing control, panic attacks, shivering, sensitivity to light and noise. Grand mal seizures have resulted from BZP use. A few people who have used BZP or other piperzines have died, but in every one of those cases, there were other drugs present as well.
New Psychoactive Drugs (NPS) — Plant-Based Drugs with Similar Effects or Similar Chemistry
While the following drugs are derived from plant sources and so are not purely 'synthetic,' the United Nations includes all the drugs described in this document in one class: New Psychoactive Substances or NPS. 'Psychoactive' means that a drug has a significant effect on a person's mind. Because of the similarity of effect, sales and use of these plant-derived drugs, they are included here.
Kratom is a drug that comes from the leaf of a Southeast Asian tree. In small doses it is a stimulant. In high doses, it is a sedative. It is currently legal but it is also ADDICTIVE.
This is a plant native to Mexico that contains a strong hallucinogen. Its effects are very short in duration but can be rather violent. It is usually smoked by one person in the company of a 'sitter' or someone who 'watches out' for the drug user as there is normally a short period of intense mania or psychosis.
A plant native to Eastern Africa. The leaves are chewed for their stimulating effects. The chemical Cathinone is derived from these leaves. Some of the dangerous synthetic drugs on the market are designed to be similar to this drug.