What Makes Synthetic Drugs So Dangerous?

Synthetic Drugs are dangerous

The term “synthetic drug” has become more popular over the past few years, with growing awareness of the fact that new drugs are being developed in labs around the world, sometimes for illegal profit, and at other times for benign research, misused and sold on the black market. Synthetic drugs differ from the more common illicit substances that the public is commonly aware of, like marijuana, cocaine, and heroin. However, the distinction is neither immediately apparent, nor is it emphasized enough.

Understanding the dangers of synthetic drugs – and what they are – can help you identify them, report them, and warn your friends and family to stay away from them. While all drugs are dangerous in their own way, there are certain factors that specifically make synthetic drugs much more potent.

What is a Synthetic Drug?

Synthetic drugs, as opposed to other psychoactive and addictive drugs, are specifically designed to function like other drugs while evading the law. These so-called designer drugs are built in laboratories from an assortment of entirely legal and mundane chemicals available globally as research material. Because of their synthetic nature, they are often far more potent than their “natural” or original counterparts and come with a bevy of extremely dangerous side effects.

The biggest danger in synthetic drugs is the fact that they are often complete unknowns. These are drugs built to be chemically like popular illicit drugs whose side effects are known, sold under the guise of being a legal alternative. Legal, because due to the speed at which these drugs are developed and sold, it is difficult to catch up and regulate each iteration.

Instead, awareness is needed. Not only are these drugs dangerous in general, but their nature as knockoffs makes them dangerous to addicts with preexisting drug use, and an intimate knowledge of their own limits and tolerance. Because these drugs are often more potent than their counterparts, synthetic drugs have caused countless ER visits and several tragic overdose deaths – a figure that is unfortunately rising, in no small part due to these drugs.

Synthetic drugs have existed for decades, termed after the fact that they are completely synthesized in a laboratory without the use of “natural” ingredients. To process cocaine, you need to harvest the coca plant. To make heroin, you need poppy. To sell cannabis, you need a cannabis plant. Alcohol is made from fields of hops, barley, grapes and more. But drugs like fentanyl, LSD, MDMA, and synthetic cannabinoids can be made anywhere with the right equipment and the right chemical compounds, cutting out the logistics of growing and transporting plant matter for drug production – a fact that allows synthetic drugs to grow unhinged across the world, aided by faster delivery systems and online black markets.  

Commonly Known Synthetic Drugs and Their Effects

Synthetic drugs come in many forms, but the most popular have been around for years. These include:

Methamphetamine: Known also as meth or crystal meth, this drug mimics the euphoric and empowering effects of amphetamines, together with numerous side effects including tooth decay, skin irritation, open sores, and rapid cognitive decline.

Synthetic Cannabinoids: While these drugs bind to the same receptors as THC, a drug that is debatably harmful, synthetic cannabinoids are much more powerful than their natural counterparts and can cause severe side effects such as nausea, hallucinations, psychosis, and organ damage.

Synthetic Cathinones: Known also as “bath salts”, these drugs are powerful hallucinogens and highly addictive, mimicking the psychoactive compound present in the Middle Eastern khat plant. An amphetamine-like substance in these drugs gives the same feeling of euphoria as ecstasy and meth, furthering its addictiveness. It acts as a stimulant.

LSD: While not addictive and rarely the cause of an overdose, LSD is potentially dangerous due to its nature as a powerful hallucinogen, and it is a synthetic drug, accidentally conceived by Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann in the 30s. It is illegal due to its nature as a powerful mind-altering substance, rather than severe side-effects or addictive properties.

Krokodil: A notorious albeit rare drug used in Eastern Europe and more recently in the US, Krokodil is a mixture of several substances for the explicit purpose of a very powerful high, at the cost of poisoning, tissue necrosis (tissue death), and death. Known as desomorphine, it is made by mixing codeine with household items including paint thinner and petrol.

MDMA: Also known as Molly or Ecstasy, MDMA is a “euphoric stimulant” much like cathinones, popularized through rave culture and dance festivals for years – and in other circles, more recently. Abundantly available as colorful tabs and tablets, MDMA is a common party drug, known for altering perception, and causing long-term negative side effects such as depression and addiction. Like LSD, the medical and psychological potential for MDMA is under research, but recreational use of the drug is very dangerous.

One or two positive experiences with these drugs does not negate their dangers. Side effects are a possibility, rather than a guarantee, but they are often more severe and more common with synthetic drugs due to manufacturing mistakes, bad mixes, and other elements of human error. Synthetic cannabinoids, for example, are mixed and sprayed onto desiccated plant material. Sometimes, this spotty application can result in plant pieces with a much higher – and much more dangerous – concentration of the active drug.

Why Synthetic Drugs are a Growing Issue

Synthetic drugs like meth, LSD and ecstasy have been around for decades, but the recent explosion in their use and popularity has several factors. For one, they’re part of a growing trend among teens. MDMA, and to a lesser degree, synthetic cannabinoids and cathinones, have become popular at parties and gatherings. Furthermore, meth production has increased as the number of meth users continues to grow. It’s a matter of supply and demand.

Beyond that, these drugs are relatively easy to produce from a logistical standpoint and by continuously changing their makeup, labs can keep them dubiously legal, marketing them as harmless household items like jewelry cleaners or potpourri, while catering to a clientele that knows where to find these drugs.

Over the last decade, synthetic drugs have left in their wake countless deaths, long-term injuries, hospitalizations, poisonings and even comas. Staying away from them is an important priority for parents and teens alike.

All Drugs Have Potential for Abuse

There is little doubt about the dangers of synthetic drugs – we’ve gone over their death tolls and injury statistics, the potential side effects and the growing popularity – but it’s important to remember that this does not make other illicit drugs any better, or substantially safer. A “clean” cocaine or heroin addiction is going to land you in the ER and kill you at a statistically slower pace, but regardless of what you’re addicted to, not seeking treatment means accepting the risk of death from every high.

That, and with the flooding of synthetic drugs in the market, many “plant-grown” drugs are being sold laced with synthetic drugs and cut with dangerous and cheap fillers to drive up profitability. Street-level heroin in particular has often been notably laced with fentanyl, a far more potent synthetic opioid. If mixed badly, one hit can cause an overdose.

Stories about new and powerful drugs don’t make the other ones any less dangerous, and it’s important to remember that all addictive drugs can easily lead a person to a life of struggle and possible overdose.

Addiction to Synthetic Drugs Can Be Treated

An addiction to these types of drugs is more dangerous because we don’t really know what it might entail. While unpredictable side effects, violent physical reactions, poisonings and even comas caused by badly mixed drugs are part of a growing list of worries, the long-term effects of many synthetic drugs are virtually unknowable, especially drugs like synthetic cannabinoids and cathinones, because studies were never organized to research just how the body reacts to long-term use. Speculation includes potential heavy metal poisoning due to the heavy metal content in drugs like K2/Spice, among other dangers.

Yet aside from these factors, an addiction to synthetic drugs is similar to an addiction to other illicit substances – which means it can be treated in much the same way. While the risk of death or overdose from a relapse is higher with synthetic drugs, treatment does exist – and an addiction to these new drugs can be overcome. Sober living homes can help individuals completely distance themselves from these substances and take the time they need for their bodies and minds to recover.

Outside of treatment, family involvement and a strong support system  of friends is important to maintain abstinence and stay strong in the face of stress. It may take months or years to cravings to completely subside, but as with other addictions, it does get easier with time and accumulated experience.


What Makes Opioids Addictive?

makes opioids addictive | Transcend Texas

There are few drugs that are as devastating or addictive as heroin – and that’s truer today than ever before. As our country is facing a massive opioid problem, we must understand what opioids are, which opioids are most dangerous, what makes opioids addictive, and why they’re central to the problem that’s taken so many lives in the past few decades.

Opioids have innocent beginnings. All opioids can chemically be traced to the poppy flower, either as part of their production or as a chemical analog to opium.

Opium comes from the sap of the poppy plant. Opiates are opium derivates, including codeine, morphine and heroin. Opioids include all drugs that act on opioid receptors in the brain, including synthetic opioids which are commonly used in pharmaceutical drugs.

The poppy and its milky latex juice have been a potent painkiller for humans since the dawn of civilization. The Sumerians, the world’s oldest and earliest complex civilization, first cultivated and used opium over five thousand years ago.

Since then, science has helped us refine and further narrow down the chemical compound that gives opium its addictive and pleasurable properties that makes opioids addictive. Even as a natural plant product, opium was a dangerous force for addiction. Its history is equal parts good and bad, as a revolutionary tool in medicine and a catalyst in wars, conflicts and cultural crises like the Opium Wars.

The Silk Road expanded the distribution of opium to the rest of the world’s empires, kingdoms and civilizations – as it has done even recently. And ever since, opium and its derivatives have been used to kill pain, and dull the senses. How exactly the drug achieves this is part of how all addictions begin – by entering the bloodstream, and interacting with special receptors in the cells of your central nervous system that makes opioids addictive.


How Addiction Works

Addiction has several mechanisms, and it’s hard to pinpoint one mechanism as being the sole reason for a person’s condition. While neurological changes are always present, they’re not only the result of foreign substances. Behaviors, such as gambling and gaming, can illicit an addictive response. Emotions play a part in how addiction develops as well. But for the most part, addiction is related to the brain, and how we perceive pleasure.

So, in a way, addiction is a flaw in how we think and feel, one that can be exploited through our reward system. Drugs like opioids are especially effective at exploiting this system. The chemicals in opium products enter the bloodstream and make their way to the brain, where they bind with proteins called opioid receptors. The receptors induce a feeling of euphoria. While doing so, they severely dull pain. The appeal is obvious – but beyond that appeal, the brain can very quickly develop a reaction to opioids.

Opioids’ painkilling effects aren’t solely to blame for their addictiveness. Acetaminophen, also known as Tylenol, isn’t addictive – but it blocks pain. The same goes for ibuprofen (Advil). There’s more to it in an opioid.


The Science Of What Makes Opioids Addictive

Opioids are addictive because they exploit the brain’s reward system. We’re complex creatures, but in many ways, we’re also quite simple. We seek pleasure, through things like sex, food, and even attention. These things trigger the release of dopamine in our brain, and make us happy. This creates a cycle that incentivizes us to keep looking for ways to pursue the things that make us happy. Though part of what makes opioids addictive, that’s not quite enough to create an addiction. Most people like sex, and donuts, and hugs from their loved ones. But most people aren’t addicted to these things.

Drugs like opioids also create a system of tolerance and withdrawal. Because the euphoria triggered by opioids is not part of the brain’s natural reward response, your cells develop a tolerance to the drug. However, the memory of the pleasure of those first few hits remains, and it drives you to take a higher dosage. Stopping, on the other hand, triggers withdrawal, which is an adverse reaction to a lack of opioids in the system caused by your body “normalizing” your usage of opioids.

Withdrawal can be painful, and both physiologically and psychologically difficult to deal with. But tolerance also puts your addiction on a timer, increasing the dangers you might go through to find more opioids, and increasing the risk of an overdose death.

What makes opioids addictive is because they’re extremely potent. Drugs like heroin and fentanyl are very, very addictive, and very, very deadly. They’re also a natural step in progression for someone addicted to prescription opioids, like oxycodone, which is less potent than heroin.


America’s Opioid Problem

The growth of opioids as a problem in America originated in a combined effort from many healthcare organizations to combat chronic pain through an increased prescription and sale of powerful controlled painkillers. This over-prescription led to America being the world’s biggest consumers of opioids – and it led to an excess of nonmedical use, and the beginning of a new wave of opioid addiction cases and overdoses.

Today, the problem has evolved beyond prescription drugs. Due to stricter regulations, these are harder to find than heroin, which has recently become more popular throughout our 50 states.

Fighting a heroin addiction is famously difficult – but not impossible. There are several misconceptions around heroin, including the idea that it’s so potently addictive that a single hit is enough to hook someone for life.

Not only is that impossible, but it doesn’t make sense given the medical use of powerful opioids like morphine during surgery or after major physical trauma. However, drugs like heroin are still very potent and there is plenty that makes opioids addictive. That said, there is abundant treatment for heroin addiction, and many people are living proof that treatment works.


Seeking Opioid Treatment

There are medical treatments for opioid addiction, including weaning people off heroin with methadone, or through opioid antagonists. But that’s only part of the solution. Opioid treatment also requires the development of a new lifestyle without the drug – and that means living a better, sober life and with new friends.

Men’s and women’s sober living facilities in Houston are perfect for people who struggle to stay clean initially, making them ideal for former heroin addicts, because of the drug’s relapse levels. However, medical rehab is a better first step due to what makes opioids addictive beyond most other drugs, especially to transition through a painful withdrawal phase.

For those who first got hooked to opioids through a medical need for painkillers, the biggest factor in effective treatment is finding an alternative against the pain. This isn’t easy – but alternatives do exist.


Exploring The Long-Term Health Consequences Of Drug Abuse

Consequences Of Drug Abuse | Transcend TX

In the short term, consequences of drug abuse can pose a serious health risk. There are dangers surrounding illegal drug use that don’t even begin to touch any drug’s long list of possible side effects and medical complications – risks such as arrest, dying due to drug-related violence, or getting into an accident due to intoxication.

Even on the legal side, the consequences of drug abuse can be immediate. Too much alcohol or prescription drugs can easily lead to an overdose and a combination of both speeds up the process. There is no shortage of ways to ruin your life with a drug or two, in the short term.

In the long term, drugs pose a considerable health risk both physically and mentally. They leave scars, scars that can take decades to fix, and in some cases the consequences of drug abuse are irreversible. Exactly what happens and how, depends on the drugs you take, and even how and when you take them. However, it is safe to say that anyone struggling with a bona fide addiction will have found themselves in a situation sure to add some weight and volume to their medical files.


How Drug Use Can Affect the Body

The human body can handle quite a bit of stress and pressure. Physically, our joints are up to the task of helping us move an immeasurable amount of weight over the course of our lifetime. Athletic achievements have helped us push the boundaries of what it means to be human, and we’re continuously testing the limits of how far we can push those lines with science.

We live longer today than ever due to medical advancements, and the longer we live, the more problematic living can become. Dementia and arthritis, hearing problems and failing vision. Yet just like any other machine, the rate at which our bodies break down generally depends on just how much wear and tear any given part has sustained.

Someone who spent their days as a computer engineer staring at CRT monitors for decades is more likely to struggle with ocular health problems than someone who worked as a farmer. On the other hand, they may not have the advanced joint and spine problems that come from years of heavy lifting.

The consequences of drug abuse is a little bit like accelerating that wear and tear process on any given affected part of your body, forcing it to break down and reach an old age faster than the rest of you. Heavy drug use hits the liver hard, forces the heart to struggle, and messes with the integrity and health of your brain. It can damage your lungs, your pancreas, and your kidneys. Drug use can waste your muscles and skin. When you take drugs, you’re ingesting a poison – in some cases, the body actively treats it as a toxin such as in the case of alcohol, and in other cases, it simply wears the body down far more than it is meant to be, causing long term health complications unseen in most people in the same age.


Consequences Of Drug Abuse And Different Drug’s Effects

Drugs are bad for you, but there needs to be a little more context to that statement. A single hit of cocaine will not destroy your liver, or rend your heart to pieces, or make you an addict for life. However, the consequences of drug abuse is made dangerous not only by its health effects but by its health effects coupled with the risk of dependency. Yes, excessive sugar can lead to major health problems including heart disease and obesity – but a sugar addiction cannot hold a candle to alcoholism.

Aside from the constant risk of overdose, here is a quick guide to the consequences of drug abuse to be expected from long term drug use, for several different types of drugs.

Alcohol: Long term alcohol usage causes severe liver cirrhosis and fibrosis, heart damage and high blood pressure, and a collection of cancers. Long term intoxication also affects your immune system, leaving you open to disease.

Stimulants: Overuse of stimulants like cocaine and meth lead to heart damage and a much higher potential of heart disease, due to wear and tear. Cocaine usage (and other stimulants) also elevate your risk of a stroke significantly.

Opioids: Long term usage of opioids such as OxyContin and heroin leads to liver damage, and hypoxia (opioids interfere with your breathing, which is their primary cause of death).

Benzodiazepines: Benzodiazepines such as Valium and Xanax can cause brain damage when overused. These drugs are minor tranquilizers, essentially interfering with the way the brain works and causing serious potential harm in the way of diminishing cortical function and overall intelligence.

Inhaled Drugs: Stimulants, tobacco and marijuana alike can all cause serious lung damage over time when inhaled, due to the nature of inhaling anything burnt. Crack cocaine is especially dangerous because of this, combined with its incredible addictiveness. Some tobacco and marijuana users have taken to electronic cigarettes for this very reason, although the jury is still out on what the long-term effects of “vaping” may be.

There is no such thing as a healthy drug. If it’s an object of addiction, then there will always be risk involved, no matter what form it takes. Addiction is a terrible disease.


There Is a Healing Process

For every consequence of an addiction, there is a path to healing. The extent to which you’ll heal, however, depends on the damage and your ability to overcome it. Research shows that drug-related brain damage – such as deteriorating faculties due to meth use – can actively be reversed through a better, healthy lifestyle.

Most liver damage can be reversed with time and a little medical intervention – the liver is an extremely hardy organ. Other organs can improve with the right diet and lifestyle, but it will always depend on the damage that has already been done. Some people will always be at a higher risk of certain diseases later in life than others due to their drug use, such as heart disease or cancer.

Beyond the physical, part of overcoming addiction means finding a way to be at peace with the consequences of drug abuse. And with time, you can be.


The Benefits Of Sobriety In Your Life

Benefits Of Sobriety | Transcend Texas

Sobriety isn’t just a blessing – it’s something to earn, and be proud of. There are plenty of reasons to choose the benefits of sobriety over the haziness of addiction, aside from being physically healthier and more likely to keep you living to a ripe old age.

Sobriety isn’t just about not using anymore – it’s about being content with life, and having clarity in life. In this sense, clarity and this feeling of contentment refer to being in a place in your life where you’re happy with the way things are. Before you reach this point, you may still be in the emotionally turbulent area of early recovery. Sometimes, people quit drinking and remain “dry drunks”, struggling with many of the same emotions of anger and cynicism without any of the “benefits” of being drunk.

Obtaining the benefits of sobriety is more than just a matter of time – it takes demanding work. Some people must rededicate themselves to what’s most important in their life, after first discovering what that is. Others must transform themselves in a meaningful way, seeking out a new kind of person within themselves by discovering new things, making new friends and enjoying new experiences. And yet others realize that their life is great without drugs, and all they really needed to do was make amends and resolve old grudges.

If you need any motivation to get you to make the leap towards lasting sobriety, then look no further – here are a few benefits of sobriety that you’re unlikely to ever get while addicted.


The Benefits Of Sobriety – Living Life

The first benefits of sobriety is that you get to enjoy life again – and not just a shell of what it once was, but the fullest definition of life you can imagine. Life is bad and good, up and down, hot and cold. It’s hard and it’s easy, and it’s harder for some and easier for others. But it’s always interesting, different and full of opportunities to meet new people and take entirely new directions towards different paths.

Beating an addiction will free you up to the possibilities of dealing with many other problems in your life. Struggling with a terrible job you despise? Find another one. You don’t have to throw all caution to the wind and go after your dream at the expense of everyone you love, but ignoring the toxic aspects of your life is what led you to addiction in the first place. Sobriety teaches you to remove yourself from these situations, and put yourself and everyone else in a better place.


You’ll Make Better Memories

If there’s anything that addiction does well, it’s addle the brain. Methamphetamine and alcohol are some of the worst culprits – one causes brain damage while the other is prone to causing blackouts and memory loss. For many people struggling with alcoholism, not remembering most nights is normal. To keep up appearances, alcoholics will sometimes try and figure out what it is they might have done by making careful statements and watching subtle cues to figure out what happened.

When you’re sober, you not only remember your nights (and days, and mornings), but you remember them more clearly than ever. You’ll also make better memories; memories of enjoying a night out with friends without copious amounts of alcohol or other substances, and you’ll know exactly where you were the night before instead of waking up in a stranger’s apartment.

When was the last time you went to a social occasion that didn’t involve drinking, at night? When was the last time you took a walk outside and looked over the night sky, and the skyline? When was the last time a day felt like its full 24 hours and not a few hours with sharp cuts and memory loss in-between?

Not everyone struggling with addiction will have severe memory issues, but enough people do – and the differences can be staggering. The benefits of sobriety aren’t just about emotional clarity, but it’ll help you see things more clearly, and remember things as they were.


You’ll Relearn What It Means To Feel

When you’re addicted, it can be hard to feel “the right way.” Addiction not only clouds your judgment and messes around with your sense of pleasure, but it acts as a constant buffer against real emotion. Many people use drugs to deal with powerful and painful thoughts – when you first quit, those thoughts burst out of you like a cracked dam, and the result can be catastrophic at first, then enlightening, and then catastrophic again. Some people experience severe mood imbalances when going through recovery – others just plummet into depression, or maintain a manic disposition.

But once all that is over and the benefits of sobriety fully kick in, you’ll remember what it means to feel again – to feel sadness, joy, anger and all the other emotions at appropriate levels and at appropriate times. Life is meant to be experienced with all aspects of its spectrum, and when you cut out parts of it – such as numbing yourself through the constant artificial pleasures of addiction – the consequences to your sense of emotion are severe. Undoing that damage will give you an entirely new outlook on life – and it can help you fall in love with sobriety even more than ever before.


You’ll Understand What It Means To Cope In A Healthy Way

We all need to find ways to cope with stress – that is a natural part of life, and in many ways, it’s a necessary component of mental healthcare. Today, we need to be upfront with people about the realities of mental health issues and their link to extreme stress, and we need to offer solutions that don’t involve therapy and medicine – specifically, coping strategies that people can use to regulate their stress levels and prevent the onset of severe symptoms and conditions, including addiction.

The first thing you need to do is cut out all the unnecessary sources of stress. This may mean cutting back on work responsibilities, moving someplace quieter, or ending a relationship with a particularly toxic individual. When you have done all, you can in that regard, it’s time to learn to cope with what’s left.

Addiction is a coping mechanism, but it is known as a maladaptive coping mechanism – instead of helping you deal with your problems constructively, it makes them worse. Art on the other hand can be an adaptive coping mechanism – instead of making things worse, it allows you to both relieve stress and adapt to the situation in a way that teaches you to be less stressful. The key with finding a healthy coping mechanism is to find a balance between stress and peace. You need your challenges and difficulties, but you also need to catch a break. Too much of one or the other can lead to mental health problems.

Being sober teaches you to control your stress levels through stress management tips and tools – and this helps you prevent relapses, and further eliminate the need for any drugs in your life.