Synthetic Drugs – Effects, Dangers and Legality

Synthetic drugs have taken on a new meaning in the 21st century. Previously it was a term used to classify those drugs that were not derived from plant material but instead manufactured entirely in a laboratory like meth, LSD (acid) and ecstasy. These days synthetic drugs, sometimes even referred to a “legal drugs”, are substances that have a similar effect to narcotics but are not considered illegal due to the difference in chemical structure of the active ingredients. Fortunately government agencies across the globe are cracking down on the distribution of these substances by changing legislation thereby making it illegal.

Effects of Synthetic Drugs

Synthetic drugs contain active substances that closely resemble the narcotic ingredients in other illicit substances. These drugs therefore cause a similar euphoria and may also be addictive. It is often packaged as “legal highs” in herbal products with the misconception that it is the natural substances in these concoctions that are causing the euphoria. More importantly though, by altering the chemical structure these drugs can bypass legislation that outlaws its use or classifies these substances as illegal.

Most drugs are either stimulants or depressants on the central nervous system and its effects account for the difference in the “high” from different drugs. It also acts on the reward centers of the brain by causing a flood of neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin and acetylcholine. Therefore these drugs can be just as addictive. It may also have various other effects on other systems of the body and will also have the same potentially lethal effect with overuse.

Dangers of Synthetic Drugs

Synthetic drugs like illegal narcotics are dangerous for various reasons. Firstly it disrupts normal biochemical processes in the body that not only affect brain activity but also heart, lung and kidney function. Depending on individual sensitivity and size of the dose these drugs can be lethal. Furthermore, the manufacture of these drugs are not carefully regulated because it is illegal and manufacturers may be using dangerous toxic substances to “cut” the drug – increasing the quantity by bulking it with less expensive substances.

Since these drugs may vary in composition, the effects cannot be clinically understood in every circumstance and may lead to death even with moderate usage. Synthetic drugs are also added to herbal mixtures to mask the true nature of these substances. Herbal substances have a direct pharmacological effect on the body and the interaction between the active ingredient in the herbs and drugs may be potentially lethal.

Legality of Synthetic Drugs

Synthetic drugs are now being banned in many countries. Previously legislation only identified the active ingredients in known narcotic substances as being illegal to use. Underground pharmacologists were able to bypass this by creating new compounds which had similar effects on the human body. These substances were often not detectable by routine drug tests and could easily be hidden from conventional screening techniques. Furthermore, since it was packaged as a herbal supplement and since many of these herbs are not regulated by the same legislation as pharmacological drugs, it was able to avoid scrutiny altogether. However, with recent changes in legislation, possessing, using or even purchasing these synthetic drugs can now be considered as a crime and one may therefore face prosecution.

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