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What are Designer Drugs

What are Designer Drugs

Designer drugs are substances that have been altered in a laboratory to mimic other drugs, but with new and often more powerful effects on the brain and body. These drugs are thought to be safer alternatives to street drugs, however, they are actually just as dangerous if not worse.

Designer drugs are engineered to recreate or simulate the effects of traditional drugs such as cocaine, ecstasy, marijuana, and amphetamines. However, do not fall under the same regulations.

Furthermore, the biggest issue is that the manufacturers who are producing these designer drugs are constantly tweaking the structure of their products. Thus, amplifying the effects and making them much more dangerous.

Types of Designer Drugs

Below are different types of designer drugs, as well as the dangerous side effects they bring to potential users.

MDMA (Molly)

MDMA, or 3,4 methylenedioxy-methamphetamine, is a designer drug that alters mood, as well as perception. Also, MDMA, or better known in the club scene as Molly, is similar to stimulants and hallucinogens. Thus, giving users a feeling of increased energy, pleasure, euphoria, and distorted sensory and time perception.

Some of the side effects of MDMA are:

  • Nausea
  • Muscle cramping
  • Involuntary teeth clenching
  • Blurred vision
  • Chills
  • Sweating
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Depression
  • Trouble concentrating

Synthetic Cathinones (Bath Salts)

Synthetic cathinones, more commonly known as bath salts, are designer drugs that resemble everyday items such as baking soda or Epsom salt. This human-made stimulant is chemically related to cathinone, which is a substance found in the khat plant. Additionally, the khat plant contains the alkaloid cathinone, better known as a stimulant. Thus,  causing excitement, loss of appetite, and euphoria.

Furthermore, the drug was displayed as “bath salts,” plant food, or cleaning products plastered with the “not for human consumption” sign to be sold legally in the early 2000s.

The effects that bath salts have on users are similar to other psychostimulants, thus, mimicking the hallucinogenic and euphoric highs of methamphetamine and cocaine.

Some of the side effects of synthetic cathinones include:

  • Paranoia—extreme as well as unreasonable distrust of others
  • Hallucinations—experiencing sensations and images that seem real but are not
  • Increased friendliness
  • Increased sex drive
  • Panic attacks
  • Excited delirium—extreme agitation as well as violent behavior
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Tremors
  • Problems sleeping


Not only is Flakka a designer drug, but it is in the same class of drugs as bath salts. This designer stimulant was developed around 2004 and continues to be used today due to its low cost, easy access, legal status, perceived safety by users, and availability on the Internet.

The effects of flakka are similar to other designer drugs such as bath salts and synthetic cathinones.

Some of the effects include:

  • Paranoia
  • Hyperalertness
  • Poor judgment
  • Derealization
  • Delusions
  • Delirium
  • Increased heart rate
  • Hyperthermia
  • Breakdown of muscle fiber
  • Improved strength
  • Disinhibition
  • Hyperstimulation
  • Unpredictable behavior patterns
  • Recklessness
  • Unprovoked aggression
  • Psychomotor agitation

Synthetic Cannabinoids (Spice, K2)

Spice or K2 is created by chemicals that are then sprayed on dried plants and smoked, much like marijuana. However, the chemistry is very different and always changing. Like the other designer drugs, spice is not for human consumption and has caused users to experience several acute, as well as long-term health effects.

The effects of Spice on users include:

  • Headaches
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Agitation
  • Altered mental status
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Vomiting
  • Violent behavior
  • Suicidal thoughts

U-47700 (U4, Pink, Pinky)

U-47700, also known as Pink or Pinky, is a potent synthetic opioid drug developed to produce effects similar to morphine and heroin. This designer opioid can be mixed with heroin, as well as other drugs to amplify the effects they have on users. However, it can also increase the risk of overdose.

Some side effects of U-47700 include:

  • Drastic mood changes
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Persistent itchiness
  • Stomach conditions (vomiting, constipation, etc.)
  • Addiction and drug dependency
  • Overdose and death

Get Help Today

If you or someone you know has tried any of these designer drugs and is unable to break free from their addiction, contact the Harm Reduction Center. At Harm, we know how dangerous and addictive these drugs can be. For this reason, we offer different treatment options to best help you or a loved one make the first steps towards recovery. Not only do we create individualized treatment options, but we will walk with you each step of the way. Contact us today.