Synthetic drug addiction is a relatively new problem in the United States. However new the problem, synthetic drug addiction is already affecting large segments of our society. The term “synthetic drug” truly can refer to any drug that is manmade. But when referring to addiction, the term is specific to a group of new designer drugs that are addictive, illegal, and abusable. Having said this, the term “synthetic drug” refers to a drug with properties and effects like that of a previously known narcotic – stimulant, hallucinogen, opiate, sedative – with an altered chemical structure which allows it to avoid government restrictions on said drugs. Synthetic drugs have also been referred to as new psychoactive substances (NPS).

Synthetic drug addiction involves the following drugs, among others:

Synthetic Cathinones (Bath Salts)

Similar to stimulants (amphetamines, cocaine, khat) and hallucinogens (LSD, Ketamine, Ectasy)

  • Khat – Plant that contains cathinone and thus is not truly synthetic
  • Flakka – Alpha-pyrrolidinopenthiphenone
  • Butylone
  • Dimethylcathinone
  • Ethcathinone
  • Ehtylone
  • 3, 4-fluormethcathinone
  • Mephedron
  • Mephedrone
  • Methlenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV)
  • Methylone
  • Pyrovalerone

Synthetic Cannabinoids (Synthetic Marijuana, Herbal Incense)

Similar to marijuana (THC)

  • JWH-018 and JWH-073
  • HU-210
  • Cannabicyclohexanol

Synthetic Opiates

Similar to fentanyl, a commercial opiate (mimics the effects of fentanyl, oxycodone, Oxys, Vicodin, Percocet, heroin)

  • Acetylfentanyl
  • Methylfentanyl
  • Carfentanil
  • Pink – U-47700

As demonstrated above, the non-inclusive list of synthetic drugs is long and more drugs are being created to allow the circumvention of controls that are established by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). The DEA can only place a drug on the controlled substances list after its chemical structure has been identified and its risks and psychoactive nature has been established. Further, to correctly identify any new substance, a valid and reliable laboratory test must be developed.

The development of NPSs have allowed dangerous psychoactive substances that are sometimes legal for a time to be sold cheaply on the streets and even in convenience marts, head shops, tobacco shops, and incense stores. This allows youth to freely access the substances. Since these the novel synthetic drugs are immediately tested for side-effects or proper dosage and are not produced under strict pharmaceutical controls, the consequences of their use have been disastrous. The side-effects, up to and including death, are most often more severe than when using the well-established psychoactive drugs, such as cocaine, amphetamines, marijuana, and opiates.


Many of the synthetic drugs that create addiction do not require a formal inpatient or residential drug detox, but patients are still placed on the detox unit to treat the sever side-effects, such as medical problems, hallucinations, delusions, paranoia and bizarre behavior. After medical and psychiatric stabilization, the treatment of those addicted to synthetic drugs continues in an inpatient or residential drug and alcohol rehab.

The staff at the National Addiction Institute are ready to answer any questions that you have and to assist you in locating a qualified drug detox and inpatient or residential drug and alcohol rehab.