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What Are Designer Drugs?

Designer drugs, or club drugs, are illegal and dangerous. They are synthetic drugs created in underground or illegal labs and sold on the street. As such, these man-made drugs can produce unpredictable results for the user. There are many different designer drugs on the street,  the most popular including:

  • Methamphetamine, which is also known as crystal meth, jib, crank or speed
  • Methylenedioxymethamphetamine, which is also called MDMA, Ecstasy, Adam, X or XTC
  • Gamma hydroxybutyrate, also known as GHB or G
  • Ketamine, also called K, Special K or Vitamin K
  • LSD, or acid

How Designer Drugs Are Different

Designer drugs are different than plant derived drugs such as heroin and marijuana because no one knows exactly what chemicals they include. No batch of a drug is the same as another. Unpredictable and dangerous results occur because the ingredients and potency of the drugs are unclear. For example, ecstasy might contain ephedrine, which is used to treat allergies, ketamine, a general anesthetic and methamphetamine, which is an illicit drug. Mix them together and the effects are unknown and dangerous for the user. These drugs are often used in combination of other drugs or alcohol, which adds another layer of uncertainty.

Who Takes Designer Drugs?

Designer drugs are most often used at dance parties and clubs. They are called club drugs, which is a direct result of where they are used. Youth and young adults are the most frequent users of designer drugs. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, more than 10 million Americans have used methamphetamine or crystal meth. The same group reports that 11 million Americans have taken MDMA at least once.

Designer Drug Effects

Different designer drugs deliver different physical and psychological effects. The predominant drugs have the following effects on the user:

  • Crystal meth is a stimulant that causes a high-energy rush when the brain releases a surge of dopamine. Dopamine is a normal hormone, which is released during pleasurable events.
  • Ecstasy or MDMA has stimulant and sensory effects. It produces a feeling of general well-being and emotional closeness when the brain releases a surge of serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine.
  • Gamma hydroxybutyrate causes relaxation and sleep. Some users say that the feelings are a combination of alcohol and ecstasy effect.
  • Ketamine, usually a general anesthetic, produces an out-of-body experience in most instances

The general dangers of designer drugs include:

  • Death
  • Addiction
  • Cardiac and respiratory failure
  • Stroke
  • High or low blood pressure
  • Aggression
  • Suicidal behavior
  • Extreme jaw clenching
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Paranoia
  • Extreme dehydration
  • Blackouts

The only way to avoid the serious dangers of designer drugs is to not use them. While they are dangerous and addictive, the long-term effects of them remain unknown.

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