February 22, 2012

Eric Shepperd

Designer Drugs: From Faux To Fact

While most parents may be used to hearing their kids mention the latest in designer jeans, something else that’s becoming a trend among teens recently are designer drugs. In this case, however, it does not have to do with the brand. Think of designer drugs as being similar to a Chanel knock-off or faux leather — still legally sold but a slightly altered imitation of the real thing.

Designer drugs are essentially synthetic versions of illegal drugs, which are created by modifying their chemical structure in order to sidestep laws against controlled substances while still producing the same desired effects of more dangerous illicit drugs — such as meth, heroin, LSD and cocaine.

The term designer drugs, originally coined by law enforcement during the 1980s, refers to a variety of drugs, including opioids, hallucinogens, dissociatives, stimulants, sedatives, cannabinoids and anabolic steroids. These new designer drugs, or “synthetics,” are most commonly known by teens as “spice” or “K2;” bath salts, which are stimulants, often go by other whimsical names such as “Star Dust.”

The side effects and risks associated with using designer drugs are endless as the chemicals themselves. Problems can stem from the toxicity or instability of the chemicals; the lack of skill of the “chemist;” and, as always, the amount ingested. Not only can these dangerous mixtures affect one’s muscles, nervous system, memory and brain, but as with all drugs, they can ultimately lead to death.

What could be the scariest part of all, these designer drugs come with the warning label “Not for Human Consumption” and yet people still ingest them.

Even more frustrating to those who work in substance abuse prevention is that despite laws put in place this year, including a ban on synthetic marijuana, such as “spice” and “K2” that was put in place by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer and a federal ban on bath salts by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), those who create and sell these drugs continue to modify the molecular structure and go around these bans. The manufacturers even pride themselves on having products that are DEA compliant.

This leads to the question of how to keep kids safe from yet another life-threatening substance. A good overarching message to kids is to avoid putting anything in their bodies that would change their feelings or emotions. Additional messages include letting your children know that it is impossible to know what these drugs contain, who made them or what you are going to get. Also, that getting high, no matter how, carries risks of making unsafe or unhealthy decisions. And finally, just because these synthetic drugs are legal, or labeled legal, doesn’t mean they are safe. Talking with your kids and having that conversation about the dangers of drugs, in addition to simply being involved in their lives by asking what they’re up to and taking an interest in their friends, is the key to help make you children aware of the dangers that are out there and how to avoid them.

You can schedule a synthetic or designer drugs presentation for parents in your community, workplace or school by contacting drugfreeaz.org. You can also view a webinar on synthetic drugs and get more information on helping to reduce the chances that your child will use drugs and alcohol at drugfreeaz.org.