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What are designer drugs?
Designer drugs are drugs that are created in concealed locations and/or homemade labs. A designer drug is created or by changing or blending the properties of a series of drugs that comes from a plant, such as cocaine, morphine or marijuana, and mixing with materials you can buy over the counter. The resulting drug(s) typically have new, different and oftentimes unknown effects on the brain and behavior.
What are some examples of these designer drugs?
There are a number of designer drugs that have been around for a long time, including ecstasy, ketamine, LSD and methamphetamine. In recent years, new drugs have cropped up and have been causing a lot of concern because they're legal in most states and relatively easy to obtain. Some examples of these drugs include spice and bath salts, which are able to evade law enforcement because they're marketed for uses other than human consumption. For example, spice, which mimics the effects of marijuana, is marketed as incense, while bath salts, which produce a cocaine-like high, are typically sold as plant food or insect repellant.
How are these drugs taken?
Designer drugs are taken the same way other types of illicit drugs are taken: They can be taken orally, snorted, smoked or injected.
What are their effects?
Different types of designer drugs produce different effects, both wanted and unwanted. Depending upon the drug taken, a user may experience feelings of exhilaration, prolonged periods of wakefulness, decreased appetite, sleepiness or extreme relaxation. Unwanted effects might include hallucinations, panic attacks, aggressive behavior or feelings of paranoia. In addition, there may be physical effects like nausea, significant changes in blood pressure, seizures, slurred speech and blackouts. These drugs can even cause death.
Why are they dangerous?
Since many designer drugs are created in illegal labs, their ingredients and potency vary greatly, making it impossible to fully understand their effects and what's actually in them. The dangers of many of the drugs that have been around for a long time are widely understood, but the newer drugs are particularly dangerous as we're still learning what they do to users, which can make it difficult to treat patients who have abused them.
How do you treat patients who've abused these drugs?
Treating patients who have abused designer drugs is difficult because we don't know what exactly the patient has taken, so we usually treat the symptoms. For example, if a patient is experiencing hallucinations, an antipsychotic medication may be prescribed; if a patient is suffering from panic attacks, an antianxiety medication might be given. In addition, depending upon the severity of symptoms, we'll keep the patient hospitalized for observation to ensure there is no risk for self-harm or harm to others.
Treatment for Designer Drugs
Sharp Healthcare offers a variety of programs to treat alcohol and drug dependency in San Diego. For those seeking treatment, Sharp Grossmont Hospital, Sharp McDonald Center, and Sharp Mesa Vista offer options to those looking for help.
For More Information
To learn more about Sharp's alcohol and drug dependency services or to find a Sharp-affiliated doctor, search for a San Diego addiction specialist or call 1-800-82-SHARP (1-800-827-4277), Monday through Friday, 8 am to 6 pm. To find general information about mental health, visit Mental Health Disorders in Adult Health or read the Mental Health News archive.