The Synthetic Drug All Parents Should Know About

Hospitalizations related to synthetic drug use are on the rise. 

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With easy accessibility, cheap prices, and colorful packaging, synthetic drugs are popular among teenagers. These drugs often have deceptive names and are marketed as household items such as incense, potpourri, or jewelry cleaner. Despite its unpredictable side effects, a synthetic drug called “flakka” has recently gained popularity and should definitely be on your radar. Flakka can be as addictive as "bath salts," according to a new study.

Flakka, also called “gravel,” is a stimulant similar to cocaine and meth. It floods the brain with the feel-good hormone dopamine, which helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. The drug can cause hyperstimulation, paranoia, and hallucinations that can lead to violent delusions and self-injury, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Although flakka has been temporarily banned by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, it can still be purchased online for as little as five dollars. This means it's right in teens' price range. The stimulant can be snorted, injected, eaten, or vaporized in an e-cigarette or other vaping device. But what many users don't realize is that it can quickly lead to anxiety, paranoia, and delusions.

Scientists at the Scripps Research Institute found that flakka is as addictive as MDVP, commonly known as bath salts. Bath salts are considered “one of the worst-ever drugs in terms of addiction potential,” according to the press release. 

If you’ve never heard of synthetic drugs, you should know that there are two main types: synthetic cannabinoids and synthetic cathinones. Synthetic cannabinoids, or “synthetic marijuana,” are manmade chemicals that are meant to mimic the high of marijuana, but often have more unpredictable, dangerous effects. Synthetic cathinones, like flakka, are artificially made chemicals related to amphetamines. Synthetic drugs are often labeled as “not for human consumption” to hide their actual purpose. 

The popularity of synthetic drugs is skyrocketing. In fact, the American Association of Poison Control Centers recently issued a warning about them. In January, there were 359 hospitalizations due to synthetic marijuana, with 273 cases in February and 269 in March. By April, this number escalated to more than 1,500 hospitalizations, including several deaths.

Often, teenagers do not know the side effects of these drugs or fully understand what they are. They may mistakenly believe that they are safe because they can legally purchase some of them. Talk to your teens about the dangers of synthetic drugs.

To open up the conversation, share our true teen story "Scary Spice" with them. It may also be useful to familiarize yourself with what the packaging of these drugs looks like