Size Matters-Dose Size That Is… “Designer Drugs”

 Size Matters-Dose Size That Is… “Designer Drugs” 

DoseResponseColorIn the post “Size Matters-Dose Size That Is… Prescription Drugs” we took a look at dosage of prescription drugs as well as the risks of prescription drug abuse and some of the organizations battling this growing problem.

When asked how prescription narcotics were obtained for nonmedical use, 70% of 12th graders said they were given to them by a friend or relative (Monitoring The Future 2011).1National Institute on Drug Abuse

Let us take it a step further and look some of the new psychoactive substances (NPS) also referred to as  “Designer Drugs” that have made their way into the lives of people all over the world. With names like “Spice”, “K2”, “Bath Salts”, “N-Bombs”,  “Benzofury”, and “Molly” they are often marketed as legal alternatives to illicit drugs and can be obtained via the internet or in head shops. These compounds are not subject to quality control measures; can be produced by someone with limited knowledge of the compounds they are working with and are sold with no guidance on dosage. In fact, little is known “at what doses their psychological or physiological effects occur, and how toxic they are”.2

“In addition to potentially harming themselves, synthetic drug abusers are also a risk to others.  Some become violent when under the influence, and abusers who operate motor vehicles after using synthetic drugs likely present similar dangers as those under the influence of other abused substances.”-National Institute on Drug Abuse

Many of the NPS were created as research chemicals to help scientists understand the effects illicit compounds have on the human brain. Since they are synthetic compounds, they are often far more potent than their illicit counterparts. The compounds “Spice or K2” are synthetic cannabinoids and have more intense effects than the active compound in marijuana and produce pronounced feelings of anxiety and paranoia in users.3 Recently the Centers for Disease Control reported an “outbreak” of emergency room visits (over 200) by users of synthetic marijuana with some users being placed into the intensive care unit. These compounds are far from benign and pose a very real risk to users.


  1. Topics in Brief: Prescription Drug Abuse. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). December 2011. Accessed January 27, 2014.
  2. Dangerous Synthetic Drugs. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). September 2013. Accessed January 27, 2014.
  3. Hogue, C. U.S. Criminalizes Designer Drugs. Chemical & Engineering News. American Chemical Society. August 27, 2012. Accessed January 27, 2014.
  4. Notes from the Field: Severe Illness Associated with Reported Use of Synthetic Marijuana — Colorado, August–September 2013. Centers for Disease Control. December 13, 2013. Accessed January 28, 2014

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