It’s bad enough when people use or abuse illegal drugs, but in recent years, a more dangerous crop of synthetic drugs has made its way to the streets. According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, 158 new synthetic substances were identified in 2012.

Synthetic Drugs

Some of the most popular synthetic substances to hit the market include bath salts (hallucinogens and stimulants) Smiles (hallucinogen), and synthetic marijuana, which goes by the names K2 or Spice.

All of these illegal substances are dangerous in their own right, but because they are not created in a proper laboratory like prescription medications, there is no control over the manufacture, and they can differ from brand to brand or in each individual strain.

Users often experiment with one of these at a concert or party without any adverse effects the first time. This leads them to believe it was harmless and they try it again. But the next time they might get something completely different. Even though it goes by the same name, it may be completely different.

Synthetic cannabinoids were first discovered in 2008. After that time, emergency room and poison control center visits and calls have increased significantly. The infographic below provides a timeline from 2008 to 2012. It can also be found at

Dangers of Synthetic Drugs

Part of the problem for users stems from the fact that many of these drugs are sold legally as plant food, incense, and household cleaners. This leads people to believe, if it’s legal, it must be safe, right?

Many of the users of synthetic drugs are high school students and young adults who have no fear of the dangers of any drugs and are willing to experiment. Among high school seniors, synthetic marijuana is the second most used drug, after marijuana.

What are the Side Effects of Synthetic Marijuana?

  • Anxiety
  • Increased heart rate
  • Agitation
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • High blood pressure
  • Chest pain
  • Serious injury
  • Death

Bath Salts and synthetic hallucinogens can be even more dangerous than K2 or Spice. These can be easily purchased by anyone at gas stations and convenient stores. They change names and formulas so frequently, law enforcement has a difficult time keeping up and outlawing them.

In 2012, poison control calls for bath salts finally passed those for synthetic marijuana. Legislation and illegalization has been coming, but it’s often to slow to keep up with the demand and the shift in formulas.

What are the Dangers of Synthetic Hallucinogens and Stimulants?

  • Confusion
  • Agitation
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Hallucinations
  • Psychosis
  • Chest pain
  • Racing heart
  • Serious injury
  • Death

Information and education about the dangers of using synthetic drugs is happening now across the country but it isn’t enough. High school students and young adults need to know how harmful synthetic drugs can be, and even though they might be legal, it doesn’t make them safe.