Designer Drugs: What They Are and Why Their Use Is Growing: Part III

A lack of scientific literature describing designer drug substances easily leads to unpredictable effects upon human use and no real guidelines on how to treat overdose cases in the medical environment. Of course, this means no safety evaluation or regulation in the course of manufacturing, even in the cases where the drug is still legal. To complicate matters, some designer drugs are manufactured from a pool of ingredients rather than a set composition every time, which makes it impossible to accurately test for drug use in the case of a medical emergency that might be an overdose. This also makes it impossible to conduct any real scientific experimentation that might lead to more information about these drugs, leaving the world largely in the dark about their composition and the causes of their effects.

An Example of Under-Regulation Becoming Dangerous

One particular area of interest is Spice, which is dangerous specifically because it’s so unregulated and so much more potent than its counterpart, marijuana. Spice has largely fallen off the radar of the media, particularly in light of other designer substances that have come about in the last year. Despite this, and despite its recent criminalization in the United States, Spice remains a problem in many parts of the country because it has been freely traded for so long without repercussions. Unfortunately, because it’s been illegal for just a short period of time, Spice and its parallels are still relatively easy and inexpensive to find, albeit not in convenience stores where it used to found. It is still sold and traded online under an “incense” subtitle.

The health effects of synthetic marijuana remain poorly understood, but it seems clear that the strength of the compounds ensures that every dose is much stronger than marijuana users will be expecting, leading to unpleasant experiences at best and frightening health problems at worst. Sources have indicated that at its weakest, the compounds in Spice are a hundred times more potent than THC in marijuana. At its strongest, Spice can be eight hundred times more potent than marijuana, which is where the lack of regulation becomes truly dangerous. Where marijuana may cause mild dilation of blood vessels and few other physical effects, Spice causes extreme panic attacks, acute anxiety episodes, skyrocketing blood pressure and seizures, and can cause long-term health damage that isn’t likely with regular marijuana use.

The Lack of Scientific Research on Designer Drugs

One of the biggest problems associated with the designer drug trend is that there hasn’t been time to test most of the substances that make up each one. The drugs are designed in a hurry by chemists who want to produce and sell a substance without facing the legal repercussions of selling illegal opiates or other banned drugs. They’re also popular among their users, who are primarily teenagers and young adults—an age group without a lot of independence or money, making the cheap and easy-to-acquire drugs tantalizing. Young adults are more likely to abuse drugs than other age groups, and are more likely to suffer in other areas of life if the abuse continues. For this reason, it makes sense that some amount of scientific research should be done to figure out ways to treat overdose and dependency on designer drugs. While regulation is only imposed on legal substances, understanding why each compound is dangerous will make it more possible to address issues and misconceptions. Many young people use designer drugs—particularly Spice—because they perceive them as safe, and we already know that isn’t the case at all. More research and education may be ways to curb the rapid growth of designer drugs, especially in the teenage-to-young adult age group.

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