New synthetic drugs

bath salts1


Over the past 20 years, the drug world has seen the rise of new psychoactive substances, mind-altering drugs that have been synthesized in the laboratory and sold as legal alternatives to illegal drugs like marijuana and cocaine.

Because these drugs are new and have not been rigorously tested, their effects can be erratic and unpredictable.

Some forms of these drugs, including flakka, have already been associated with several episodes of violent, dangerous and even fatal behavior.

Since these drugs are not controlled, they can also combine other unknown and potentially dangerous ingredients.

Additionally, according to the Erowid Center, a non-profit organization that runs several psychoactive drug education projects and recently held a press conference with Washington State House of Representatives Roger Goodman and the assistant professor of population health at New York University Langone Medical Center, Joseph Palamar, drugs are flowing to market so quickly that researchers don’t have time to understand their effects and lawmakers don’t don’t have time to enact legislation before a new modified batch hits the market.

Here are six of the most common types of new synthetic drugs currently being produced:

Cannabis replacement

Synthetic marijuana, otherwise known as “replacement” cannabis, is a laboratory-produced mind-altering drug that aims to mimic the effects of marijuana. The Erowid Center notes that these drugs can be made by pure powders, waxy solids or deposited on herbal mixtures so that they can be smoked.

Many experts say that “synthetic marijuana” is a very misnomer for these drugs, which have also taken on street names like “K2” and “Spice”, because they produce very different effects and can be up to 100 times more potent than traditional marijuana. .

Just like with the main psychoactive ingredient in traditional marijuana, THC, the psychoactive ingredients in synthetic marijuana bind to CB1 receptors in the brain. Because the spice is so much stronger, however, it’s far more likely to cause everything from seizures to psychosis.

A report suggests that replacement cannabinoids have been linked to some 1,000 deaths since 2009.

synthetic marijuana k2 spice brand herbal incense

Wikimedia Commons

Replacement euphoric and empathogenic stimulants

These are psychoactive drugs intended to mimic the effects of amphetamines and hallucinogens; their effects can be somewhat similar to the effects of MDMA, methamphetamine, and cocaine. Some of the more popular forms of these drugs include mephedrone, methylone, “bath salts” and “flakka”, all of which have been linked to serious medical problems.

Flakka, for example, is made from a compound called alpha-PVP, a chemical cousin of cathinone, the amphetamine-like drug found in bath salts.

Here’s the worst: while the active ingredient in bath salts was officially banned in 2011, its new relative, alpha-PVP, was not. This means it is legal in any state without its own ban.

Like cathinone, alpha-PVP is a type of stimulant, colloquially referred to as “higher.” The stems are linked to feelings of euphoria, increased alertness and wakefulness, and increased movement – ​​all symptoms similar to those experienced by people taking other drugs like amphetamines or cocaine.

Since flakka is so new, researchers aren’t sure exactly how it affects the brain or how addictive it is.

For now, they can only guess by looking at how its chemical cousins, like cocaine and amphetamines, work. These drugs cause an increase in two chemicals: the feel-good chemical dopamine (responsible for euphoric feelings) and norepinephrine (which increases heart rate and blood pressure and can make us more alert).

Heavy drinking has been associated with feelings of extreme anxiety, paranoia, hallucinations, and violent behavior.

Alpha-PVP, a powerful stimulant nicknamed Flakka, is shown after being seized by Broward County police in this image released May 28, 2015. REUTERS/Broward Sheriff's Office/Handout via Reuters

Alpha-PVP, a powerful stimulant nicknamed Flakka, seen in an undated photo from the Florida Broward County Sheriff’s Office

Thomson Reuters

Alternative psychedelics

They are synthetic psychoactive substances intended to mimic the effects of traditional psychedelics by inducing an altered state of perception and thought. These types of drugs, called NBOMes and 1P-LSD, are identified by the Erowid Center as having similar effects to classic psychedelics like LSD and magic mushrooms.

Several recent studies suggest that psilocybin, the primary psychoactive ingredient in traditional (and illegal) psychedelic magic mushrooms, essentially works by sprouting new connections in previously disconnected brain regions, temporarily altering the entire organizational framework of the brain.

These new connections are likely what allow users to experience things like seeing sounds or hearing colors. And they might also be responsible for giving magic mushrooms some of their antidepressant qualities.

Representatives of the Erowid Center have stated that the potential effects of these new synthetic psychedelics could be much more severe and unpredictable. Many of these drugs are sold on blotting paper, leading people taking them to believe that they are consuming other drugs commonly dispensed by this method.

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Salt 2C-C-NBOMe

Erowid Center

Replacement dissociatives

Alternative dissociatives are synthetic psychoactive drugs that mimic the effect of hallucinogens by distorting perceptions of sight and sound to produce a sense of detachment from the environment and from oneself. These are effects similar to those induced by drugs like ketamine and PCP.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, dissociatives disrupt the actions of the brain chemical glutamate at certain types of receptors – called N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors – on nerve cells throughout the brain.

Glutamate is an important brain chemical that controls cognition, emotions, and pain perception. Dissociated people can impair vision and hearing, cause anxiety, memory loss, impaired motor skills, numbness, and many other unpredictable symptoms that can last for hours or even days. Long-term use of dissociatives can lead to persistent speech difficulties, memory loss, depression, suicidal thoughts, anxiety and long-term social withdrawal.

However, the Erowid Center says these new drugs, sold as methoxetamine, MXE, MXP and diphenidine, can have even more severe erratic effects.

For this reason, the organization says the drugs should be called “newly available dissociatives” rather than “replacement dissociatives”.


Methoxetamine (3-MeO-2-Oxo-PCE) – a research chemical analogue of ketamine.

Erowid Center

Replacement sedatives

These drugs are synthetic psychoactive substances that mimic the effects of bezodiazepine sedatives like Valium and Xanax, by slowing brain activity.

Benzodiazepines are safe medications for treating insomnia and anxiety disorders, but as the US National Library of Medicine notes, long-term use can lead to daytime sleepiness and a “hangover” feeling. , respiratory problems and can be dangerous when used in combination with alcohol. or with a pregnant woman.

Withdrawal symptoms include insomnia, anxiety and, in extreme cases, death.

The Erowid Center calls these synthetic drugs “newly available sedatives.” Recent examples include etizolam and flubromazolam.


Etizolam tablets

Erowid Center

Alternative opioids

Replacement opioids are meant to mimic the effects of drugs like heroin, oxycodone, opium, or fentanyl. Dozens of these drugs exist, with names like AH-7921, U-4-7-7-0-0 as well as fentanyl analogs like acetyl-fentanyl and butyl-fentanyl, but these versions may have unpredictable and more serious effects than traditional drugs. opioids, notes the Erowid Center.

Heroin affects how we perceive pain and rewards. In the brain, it is transformed into morphine, which binds to molecules on cells located throughout the brain and body called opioid receptors. This explains the feeling of rising euphoria that many people experience when they inject the drug directly into the bloodstream. After the initial rush, the skin becomes red and hot, the arms and legs begin to feel heavy, and thinking slows down.

A heroin overdose can slow and even stop breathing, leading to brain damage or coma.


A vial of fentanyl

Erowid Center

Alvin J. Chase