Designer drugs are created to mimic the effects of illicit substances while being structurally different enough to avoid being classified as illegal. In most cases, designer drugs cannot be detected by traditional drug tests. Bath salts are a popular example of these lab-made drugs. The unregulated nature of designer drugs makes them incredibly dangerous.

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), “These are highly dangerous substances, and FDA determined that these substances, sold on the street as substitutes for other controlled substances, in addition to producing euphoria and hallucinations, were responsible for other behavioral and toxic effects that are typical of cannabinoids and [central nervous system] stimulants.” Exclusive Hawaii Rehab uses evidence-based methods to treat addiction to designer drugs and the root cause of addiction.

What Are Designer Drugs?

Designer drugs are substances created in a lab to emulate illegal addictive substances while being chemically distinct enough to fall outside current drug laws. Lab-made drugs are highly addictive and cause dangerous side effects. In some cases, they are mixed with other addictive substances to increase the profit for people manufacturing street drugs.

Many different lab-created drugs exist. Some of the most common include:

  • Illicit synthetic cathinones (e.g., Bath Salts)
  • Synthetic cannabinoids (e.g., Spice)
  • Synthetic hallucinogens (e.g., N-Bomb)
  • Synthetic opioid (e.g., Nitazene or “ISO”)

People choose to use designer drugs for many reasons. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “People may ingest illicit synthetic cathinones intentionally—sometimes as cheaper or more accessible alternatives to other drugs—or unintentionally, as contaminants in other drugs.” The lower prices, lack of consistent laws preventing use, and increased accessibility make lab-made drugs a popular alternative for individuals at a high risk of developing dependency or addiction.

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Risk Factors for Designer Drug Dependency and Addiction

Designer drugs are not detectable by most drug tests, making them popular among individuals who are regularly tested due to their careers. According to Addiction Science and Clinical Practice, “Young adults are the primary users, but trends are changing rapidly; use has become popular among members of the military.” College-aged individuals are more likely to develop dependency or addiction to lab-created drugs. 

Some other risk factors include:

  • Family history of substance use disorder (SUD) or mental health issues
  • Individuals looking for an escape from their life
  • Untreated trauma
  • Unhealthy home environments, including domestic abuse or neglect
  • Peer pressure

Young adults are more likely to use designer drugs to explore substance abuse without putting themself at risk of legal repercussions. However, many young people are unaware of the highly addictive nature of these drugs or the potentially lethal side effects.

Warning Signs of Designer Drug Abuse

Designer drugs are often used alongside alcohol or other substances. The overlapping effects may make it more difficult for friends and family to identify if a loved one has become dependent or addicted to lab-made drugs.

Some of the warning signs of designer drug use include:

  • Frequent mood swings
  • Unusual aggression
  • Psychosis
  • Disordered thought or speech patterns
  • Slowed breathing
  • Lethargy
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Depressive symptoms
  • Paranoid thoughts and behaviors

Some people may experience more severe cognitive, physical, and behavioral symptoms and side effects if they have co-occurring physical or psychological health issues.

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Our deeply-caring staff and the surrounding natural beauty offer an unparalleled healing experience.

Potential Side Effects of Chronic Designer Drug Abuse

Every designer drug has different potential side effects. For example, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), “The adverse effects of synthetic cannabinoids include severe agitation, anxiety, nausea, vomiting, tachycardia (racing heartbeat), elevated blood pressure, tremors, seizures, hallucinations, paranoid behavior, and unresponsiveness . . . Death after use of synthetic cannabinoids has also been reported.” In addition, misusing any mind-altering substance increases a person’s risk of developing mental health disorders and more severe symptoms of SUD.

A few general side effects of chronic designer drug use include:

  • Bleeding disorder (coagulopathy) caused by rodent pesticides mixed into drugs
  • Hallucinogen-persisting perception disorder
  • Necrotic ulcers
  • Septum perforation
  • Increased risk of drug interactions

Younger individuals who misuse designer drugs often engage in risk-taking behaviors, including driving under the influence, and may experience higher rates of severe accidents or injuries. According to the Archives of Toxicology, “The neurological and psychological changes that are associated with designer drugs can impair safe driving, and driving under the influence can severely jeopardize traffic safety.” Young adults who frequently misuse designer drugs have an increased risk of developing long-term health issues, including permanent cognitive problems.

Treatment Options at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab

Exclusive Hawaii Rehab uses the following treatments and services to help people recover from SUD related to designer drugs:

  • Adventure therapy
  • Activity therapy
  • Art therapy
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Behavior modification
  • Accelerated resolution therapy,
  • Creative healing
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)
  • Experiential therapy
  • Exposure and response prevention
  • Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR)
  • Music therapy
  • Play therapy
  • Relapse prevention
  • Natural medicine
  • Nutritional coaching

All treatment programs are tailored to the unique needs of each client. The care team at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab uses evidence-based methods to help clients identify the root cause of issues relating to substance misuse. Clients are guided through establishing healthy routines and developing essential coping skills. The clinical team uses a whole-person approach to care to ensure clients receive the most effective treatments and support services.