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Designer Drugs

When we think of the term “designer” we may think of something special and unique. Designer jeans are billed as more special and better than off-brand jeans, for instance. Designer drugs are labeled as such because they are manufactured, on purpose, in a laboratory. They aren’t new either. LSD, a drug that is a natural chemical found in certain fungi, was synthesized (or designed) in the early part of the 20th century, according to a history published by the Center for Substance Abuse Research.

While the constituent found in fungi is natural, LSD is a designer drug because it has since been synthesized for its mind-altering properties. Forty years ago, in the 1970s, LSD use was fairly widespread throughout the drug subculture.

Today, designer drugs, also known as “club drugs,” offer more variety, as well as the same inherent risks to one’s health and well-being. Each drug has its own unique effects, however, the exact effects of any designer drug vary; it’s like a game of Russian roulette. Because the drugs are created in underground laboratories without any regulation or standards of manufacturer, an individual who consumes designer drugs may very well be taking their life in their own hands with every dose.

Ecstasy Is a Popular Designer Drug Among Youth

According to a survey conducted nationally by the University of Michigan, 7.2 percent of high school seniors in 2012 reported that they have abused ecstasy in their lifetime. While this number dropped nearly 1 percent from the previous year, it is still a significant number. Ecstasy, or MDMA, has hallucinogenic effects and is a stimulant. Some individuals take it to enhance their ability to stay “up” and participate in all-night or multi-day-long dance parties, known as “raves.”  More recently, use of the drug has been reported in more mainstream settings, such as private parties and college dorms.

Ecstasy is very seldom pure methylenedioxymehamphatamine. In many cases, it is mixed with other ingredients, including over-the-counter medications and caffeine, as well as other designer drugs. The manufacturers of the drugs are less concerned with putting out a great product than they are in the overall profit they are able to produce by taking advantage of the subculture.

What is Ketamine?

While ketamine does have some medicinal applications for humans, it is used as a sedative for large animals. Unlike some other designer drugs, ketamine is generally obtained for sale on the street by diverting actual, legal shipments, rather than manufactured in clandestine labs, according the experts at CESAR. The drug has been used to cut ecstasy, as well as by itself for its hallucinogenic properties.

GHB, in past years, was sold over the counter in health food stores as a supplement to the chemical which occurs naturally in the human body. Synthesized originally to enhance physical strength and performance, it is now used illegally for recreational purposes. This drug, known as “liquid ecstasy,” is a central nervous system depressant. When combined with other drugs, particularly alcohol, the physical effects and dangers of the drug are enhanced exponentially. This can lead to severe medical problems, up to and including death.

What is GHB?

There are many symptoms of drug abuse and addiction. It is not always easy to make a determination of whether someone is abusing designer drugs, but there are some hints that can cause enough to concern to open a dialog with the individual, or to arrange for a young person to see a family physician for a thorough checkup.

For instance, someone who is abusing GHB may sleep more often than they used to. An individual who is unable to describe where they’ve been or what has occurred during a recent party or other social gathering may have abused Rohypnol, which causes a condition known as anterograde amnesia. Someone who is abusing ketamine may seem completely detached from reality and have a very low attention or memory span.

Is It Possible to Tell if a Person Is Abusing Designer Drugs?

Overall, the signs to look for in adults or young people who may be abusing drugs include:

  • A lack of interest in activities that used to bring enjoyment, such as hobbies or family gatherings
  • An inability to maintain a previous level of accomplishment at work or school (falling grades, attendance or other job-related factors)
  • A change in weight or personal hygiene habits
  • Refusing to bring their new circle of friends in contact with existing family and friends
  • Changes in attitude and ability to get along with family or friends who confront them about possible drug use

Are Designer Drugs Addictive?

There are several components that make up addiction. As described by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, the guide used by mental health professionals to consistently diagnose mental conditions, substance dependence and addiction, is made up of the following aspects:

  • The presence of tolerance – or the need to consume more of a substance to get the desired effects
  • The presence of withdrawal symptoms when the drug is not available or consumed
  • An inability to control how much of a drug one consumes or for how long
  • An inability to stop using a drug even though one has tried
  • Spending a large amount of one’s time seeking out the drug, using the drug, or recovering from the abuse of the drug
  • Choosing to use drugs over other activities, including work or social gatherings where drugs are not present
  • An inability to stop using drugs even though they are having negative impacts on one’s life in general and health in particular

Because everyone is different, not every person who suffers from addiction will exhibit all of these symptoms. An individual may have developed an addiction to designer drugs and still be capable of holding down a job, for instance. Another individual may still place the social needs of their friends and family ahead of their drug use even though, by definition and the presence of other criteria, they are suffering from addiction.

Designer drugs have been shown to bring about withdrawal effects and tolerance, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Therefore those who engage in the abuse of these drugs place themselves at risk for addiction.

If Designer Drugs Are Addictive Why Doesn’t Everyone Who Takes Them Develop the Disease?

The National Institute on Drug Abuse has spent many years and millions of dollars researching what the disease of addiction is and how it affects various people. Unfortunately, the research process is ongoing. There is currently no way to determine who will and who will not develop addiction when they abuse drugs. What they have determined is that anyone and everyone can develop the disease.

There are several risk factors that have been identified over the years. Some of these risk factors include whether or not the individual has a family history of abuse or whether the individual suffers from a preexisting mental condition, such as anxiety or depression. The age at which a person begins to use drugs is another factor that is involved in addiction.

The important thing to remember is that addiction is a treatable condition. Like other chronic diseases, such as hypertension or diabetes, with the right therapy, it is possible to keep addiction from overwhelming one’s life. If you suspect that someone close to you needs help to eliminate designer drug abuse from their life, please contact us right away for more information.

Learn about the history of designer drug use >>