“We have everything from anxiety to rapid heartbeats. In some of the severe cases, we’ve had several patients unconscious, actively seizing, with decreased respiratory rates.”
–Chief David Gerboth of San Diego Fire & Rescue
This is Part 3 of a three-part series.
An increasing number of San Diego drug addiction rehab facilities and emergency rooms are seeing patients for an addiction to so-called “synthetic drugs”– man-made chemical compounds designed as drugs of abuse, yet formulated in ways that circumvent California’s loss. In Part 2 we discussed how manufacturers are able to do this. In part 3 we discuss the Withdrawal and Warning Signs.
Over 28,000 emergency room visits were tied to the abuse of synthetic drugs in 2011.
Synthetic cathinones – These stimulants imitate the effects of the Khat plant, a bush that grows in East Africa and Southern Arabia. Abusers chew Khat leaves for their stimulating, mildly euphoric effect.
Synthetic cathinones are known by their more-recognizable name, “bath salts”, although there is absolutely no relation between the bathing product and the drug of abuse. They may also be sold as other innocent-sounding products such as “plant food”, “cell phone screen cleaner”, or “jewelry brightener”.
Brand names for synthetic cathinone may include such labels as:
- White Lightning
- Vanilla Sky
- And many other such names
Synthetic cathinones appear as white or brown crystalline powders, and like other stimulants, they are injected, smoke, eaten, or snorted for their effects.
Bath salts have a reputation among inexperienced addicts as a safer, less-expensive alternative to methamphetamines or cocaine, but they are in fact extremely dangerous, producing harmful effects such as:
- Extreme paranoia
- Terrifying hallucinations
- Debilitating panic attacks
- Violent or even homicidal behavior
Withdrawing from Synthetic Drugs
Contrary to their misleading reputation, synthetic drugs are very addictive and can trigger intense drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms when discontinued:
- Painful headaches
- Increased anxiety
- Unpredictable mood swings and irritability
- Deep depression
These symptoms of withdrawal begin as early as two days after the last synthetic drug use, and peak in severity between days 4 through 7. While highly unpleasant, the symptoms are not particularly physically dangerous, and will typically begin to ease within two or three weeks.
These synthetic drugs were created to imitate the effects of other drugs, but they are chemically different, so currently, there are no available medications that are specifically designed to ease any associated withdrawal symptoms.
Warning Signs of Synthetic Drug Abuse
It is impossible for any drug test to accurately determine if a person has been abusing synthetic drugs, because there are so many different formulations. Therefore, anyone concerned that their loved one may be using synthetic drugs must rely on signs and symptoms such as:
- Mood swings/manic euphoria
- Profuse sweating/overheating
- Confusion/inability to focus or concentrate
- Incoherent speech
- Rapid heartbeat/chest pain/heart attack
- Aggression/homicidal tendencies
- Seizures, perhaps even to the point of being life-threatening
There is help available if you or someone you know is using synthetic drugs. Lasting Recovery offers the most comprehensive treatment for drug addiction rehab in San Diego. Contact us today to speak to a licensed and experienced addiction recovery specialist.