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Synthetic Drug Overdose Rates Rising

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Synthetic Drug Overdose Rates Rising


Synthetic drugs like K2 and spice are not just a flash-in-the-pan trend – nor are they harmless. The rate of overdose caused by the use and abuse of synthetic substances is on the rise, and it’s a problem that doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon. 


According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), synthetic drugs were first identified in the US in 2008; only two different kinds were identified in 2009. In 2012, however, 51 new versions of synthetic cannabinoids and 31 new types of synthetic cathinones were identified. Additionally, another 76 versions of synthetic substances were seized on the black market in 2012, bringing the total number of new types of the drug to 158. 


It’s clear that underground chemists are ramping up their production of these dangerous chemicals, not backing down, and the loss of life that is a result of use of these substances is racking up as well.


Are Synthetic Drugs Legal?


Too many people believe that these substances are safe and legal – in fact, many are marketed as a “legal high” based on the fact that the substance may contain chemicals that have not yet been classified as illegal. However, the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act permanently classified 26 known synthetic substances as Schedule I drugs and allowed the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to increase the length of time that they can place a new substance on the emergency ban list from 18 months to 36 months. Within a few weeks of seizure, each new synthetic substance seized and identified by the DEA is banned in an effort to protect potential future users. 


Why Are Synthetic Drugs Dangerous?


Though many believe that synthetic drugs are similar to LSD or marijuana in effect, they are far more sinister. The chemicals sprayed on plant material are designed to mimic the effects of marijuana. Because chemists are constantly attempting to keep one step ahead of law enforcement by continually changing the exact chemical makeup of the synthetic substance, the results vary from batch to batch significantly – thus, their effects vary as well. 


It is this variance that contributes to the danger inherent to abusing the drug too – users cannot know exactly what they are using every time they purchase a new batch. Last month’s innocuous K2 dose amount may constitute an overdose in this month’s batch of the drug, and users have no way of knowing where the drug is coming from or what it contains since it isn’t regulated in any way. 


Who Is Using Synthetic Drugs?


Teens and young adults are among the most frequent users of synthetic drugs. According to the ONDCP, synthetic substances are second only to marijuana when it comes to the top illegal drugs of abuse among teens. 


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