What Are Synthetic Drugs?

Synthetic drugs are a broad range of psychoactive substances that have a high potential for abuse. They are called’ synthetic’ drugs because they are man-made and not found in nature. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, synthetic drugs were involved in over 30,000 deaths in the U.S in 2018 alone.

In line with the National Conference of State Legislatures, all 50 U.S states have made synthetic cannabinoids and cathinones illegal in an attempt to reduce the harm these drugs are causing to so many Americans. However, it is difficult to curb the level of abuse as illegal manufacturers consistently find loopholes in the legislature by slightly altering the chemical ingredients of the substances they are making.

Synthetics are often made to replicate other popular drugs of choice, such as cannabis, MDMA, and cocaine. Synthetics can cause much harm to a user’s physical and mental health. One of the biggest dangers associated with these drugs is that they are not regulated. They are made up of many chemical ingredients that are often not safe for human consumption.

Common synthetic drugs include:

  • Synthetic cannabinoids (Spice, K2)
  • Synthetic stimulants (MCAT)
  • Synthetic hallucinogens (N-Bomb)
  • Synthetic cathinones (Bath salts)
  • Synthetic opioids (Fentanyl)

According to the Clinical Radiology & Imaging Journal, some synthetic drugs have been found to cause suicidal ideation, which makes treatment for addiction urgent. At Excel Treatment Center, we understand that addiction left untreated can have a devastating impact on individuals and families. The need for treatment is urgent because addiction is a progressive condition, and in the case of synthetic drug abuse, it can lead to death.

synthetic drug bottles

Are Synthetic Drugs Addictive?

Anything that has the power to change how we feel has the potential to become addictive. Synthetic drugs create significant changes in our brain chemistry and depending on the substance, can lead to feelings of relaxation, euphoria, or increased energy. However, these drugs can also harm our health. The pleasurable effects are few and short-lived, and some of the more adverse effects include chest pain, panic, seizures, and heart failure.

The more we use, the more our brains become accustomed to the presence of these unregulated chemicals. Over time, the changes in brain chemistry that result from synthetic drug use can cause lasting psychological damage.

These drugs also evoke the release of abnormally large amounts of naturally occurring brain chemicals like dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. The brain needs these chemicals to function properly. When released in excess and for a prolonged period, the brain gets used to higher volumes of these chemicals and eventually fails to release them in sufficient amounts unless we keep using our drug of choice.

According to Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics, other factors that contribute to addiction are genetic and environmental. Research indicates that you are more likely to suffer from addiction if you have an immediate relative suffering from a substance use disorder.

Environmental factors play a significant role in addiction development, particularly in our early years. If, as a child, we witness substance misuse in the home, this behavior can appear normal. As a result, we may be less sensitive to the dangers associated with drug use.

Addiction can happen to anyone, regardless of your age, gender, and social and cultural background. At Excel, we understand that addiction can be all-consuming and gets progressively worse without appropriate treatment. Treatment at Excel is based on the latest scientific understanding of addiction, as well as non-judgmental, compassionate care and support for all clients. Synthetic drugs are hazardous, and intervention is necessary before health complications become irreversible.

The Dangers of Synthetic Drugs

The four main categories of synthetic drugs mentioned above each come with their own health risks. When it comes to synthetic drugs, any form of use is abuse.

Synthetic cannabinoids are known to cause:

  • Seizures
  • Damage to the central nervous system (CNS)
  • Trance-like states
  • Agitation
  • Violence

Other than the short-term high and euphoria that users achieve from these drugs, they can also cause:

  • Lowered inhibitions
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Panic
  • Heart and nervous system problems
  • Weakened immune system
  • Paranoia
  • Psychosis

Synthetic hallucinogens are created to mimic the effects of common psychedelic drugs like LSD and ketamine. These synthetics are known to cause hallucinations and a distorted perception of space and time.

Other effects of synthetic hallucinogens include:

  • Intense euphoria
  • Dissociation, detachment from reality
  • Confusion, disorientation
  • Panic
  • Poor judgment, irrational behavior
  • Tendencies to self-harm

Synthetic cathinones have been known to cause extreme aggression and paranoia in users.

Common effects of these drugs include:

  • Paranoia
  • Violence
  • Psychosis
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Delusional thinking

Synthetic opioids are extremely dangerous and can quickly lead to overdose and death even after a single use.

Common dangers of synthetic opioids include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Impaired judgment
  • Heart failure
  • Coma
  • Death

Synthetic Drug Addiction Treatment

At Excel, we understand that addiction left untreated can have dire consequences. It can even be fatal. Addiction is a progressive condition, meaning without treatment, it gets worse. Addiction can impact every area of your life, from your job to your relationships, and in particular, your physical and psychological health.

At Excel Treatment Center, we offer comprehensive addiction recovery programs to help you or your loved one overcome addiction and prevent it from causing further devastation in your life. Recovery from synthetic drug addiction is possible with the right support. Our highly skilled and supportive recovery experts lead the recovery programs offered at Excel, and you or your loved one will receive the most appropriate, evidence-based treatment for your condition.

What Are the Signs of Synthetic Drug Addiction?

Addiction to synthetic drugs (or ‘legal highs’) can happen suddenly before the individual is even aware there is a problem. When it comes to addiction, it is usually a friend or loved one to notice the signs first.

These include:

  • Increased tolerance to the drug
  • Intense cravings for the drug
  • Continued use of the drug despite apparent adverse effects
  • Physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms when use is stopped
  • Increased depression, anxiety, and irritability
  • Social withdrawal and isolation
  • Insomnia
  • Changes to social groups, only hanging out with people who also use synthetics or other drugs
  • Neglect of personal responsibilities
  • Unusual, brightly colored packaging around the house
  • Absence from school or work
  • Changes in appetite

Why Should You Choose Treatment at Excel Treatment Center?

As with all addictions, treatment for synthetic drug addiction should be client-centered and individually customized, as per guidelines outlined in SAMHSA’s Treatment Improvement Protocols. Synthetic drug addiction treatment can be more complicated than other substance addictions because both clients and clinicians are not always sure which chemicals have been ingested. There are several factors to consider when it comes to effective addiction treatment.

These include:

  • The client’s willingness and readiness to accept and commit to treatment
  • Reason for seeking treatment
  • History of addiction treatment and relapse
  • Financial situation
  • Access to support
  • Environmental factors (sober support, triggers)

Excel Treatment Center can help if you are ready and willing to commit to treatment for synthetic drug addiction. We provide compassionate support from the first point of contact with our team through to aftercare. Our recovery specialists are skilled at determining the best treatment options for you or your loved one, so you can rest assured knowing that the most appropriate, effective, and evidence-based treatment program is provided.

Outpatient Rehab for Synthetic Drug Addiction

Recovery programs at Excel are delivered in an outpatient setting. Outpatient rehab is useful for those who are unable to commit to residential treatment. As part of your outpatient program, you will receive medically supervised detox and withdrawal management services led by our addiction specialists, followed by intensive, evidence-based one-to-one and group therapy sessions several times a week.

The combination of individual and group therapy allows clients to explore and recover from their addiction in two ways. Individual therapy allows for the exploration of private, deeper emotions, thoughts, and feelings with an attuned therapist. Group therapy allows clients to share their experiences and gain insight into the experiences of others.

A crucial element of both types of therapy is learning invaluable life skills, and tools and techniques for self-management when triggers arise. These skills are learned in therapy and applied to life outside of treatment, giving clients the best chance of sustaining their recovery and preventing future relapse.

Comprehensive Aftercare Support

Without sufficient aftercare support, the risk of relapse can be high. Regular therapy and meetings can help clients focus on their commitment to recovery. When these meetings happen less frequently, life can get in the way, and clients may find themselves back to square one.

With the right aftercare, each client is supported in the days, weeks, and months following treatment. This means that recovery has a higher chance of being successful. Sobriety is a life-long commitment. We work diligently and compassionately to equip clients with the skills necessary to support their recovery.

Addiction can be devastating, but recovery is possible. Contact Excel today to find out more about effective treatment, and recovery options for you or your struggling loved one.

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Call: 973-989-7500