DEA Crackdown On Synthetic Drugs


Synthetic drugs, such as bath salts and synthetic marijuana, are a growing concern in the United States, with use on the rise. In an attempt to combat the problem, a bipartisan bill was introduced that would add over 200 compounds commonly used in the production of synthetic drugs to the Schedule I drug list. What’s more, recent crackdowns on synthetic drugs by federal agencies has resulted in more than a hundred arrests across the country, the Associated Press reports.

Since July, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and other state and federal agents have arrested 151 people for crimes involving synthetic drugs in 16 states. The DEA’s “Project Synergy” seized over $15 million in cash and assets from synthetic drug manufacturers and purveyors, according to the article. Synthetic drugs are inexpensive and are often undetectable by common drug tests, making the products popular. These types of drugs are unpredictable, and the side-effects can require medical attention.

Popular synthetic drug names include:

  • Spice
  • K2
  • Flakka
  • Ivory Wave
  • Vanilla Sky

“These drugs are, in my judgment, more serious than the drugs that are on the Controlled Substance Act, more dangerous,” said bill co-sponsor Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat who represents Washington, D.C. “These are right out in the open. They’re disguised in colored wrapping with snappy names to appeal to young people and children in particular. They are cheap. Much cheaper than the dangerous drugs like cocaine and heroin. They’re sold everywhere. And drugs that are sold everywhere are presumed to be safe. They are openly marketed as an alternative to dangerous drugs and they have bizarre effects.”


If you are or a loved one is abusing synthetic drugs, please contact Harmony Foundation to begin the journey of recovery. Harmony is a state-of-the-art, affordable, residential addiction treatment program located in the Rocky Mountains.

Addiction and recovery news provided by Harmony Foundation.

Synthetic Drug Use On The Rise


Lawmakers are being hit from every direction when it comes to substance abuse: the opioid epidemic, relaxed attitudes on marijuana, and synthetic drug use. As the nation moves closer to an election year, many are wondering how these issues are going to be handled – especially when it comes to opioids and synthetic drugs. In recent months, a number of plans and measures have been announced to address prescription opioids and heroin; however, there has been significantly less talk about synthetic drug use.

While synthetic drug use is a new problem, relatively speaking, tackling use of these insidious drugs is of the utmost importance. New research suggests that synthetic drug use is on the rise among certain demographics, News-Medical reports. Researchers from New York University Langone Medical Center analyzed self-reported use of 57 different new drugs. The findings come from data in the National Survey of Drug Use and Health which indicated that synthetic drug use increased from 2009 to 2013 among teenagers and young adults ages 12 to 34.

Synthetic drug use was most common among:

  • Males
  • Whites
  • City Dwellers
  • People with Lower Incomes

“This is the first study reporting on use of a variety of new drugs in a nationally representative U.S. sample,” lead researcher Joseph J. Palamar, PhD, MPH, said in a news release. “However, we’re pretty confident that use of new drugs was severely underreported, as the research subjects were not asked about most of these drugs specifically.”

Palamar adds the older research indicates that synthetic marijuana and bath salt use is being used at higher rates, according to the article. Future surveys need to ask about synthetic drug use.

“Hundreds of new psychoactive drugs have come out in recent years and some of them can be very dangerous,” he said. “We need health surveys to ask about use of new drugs, in addition to traditional drugs such as marijuana and cocaine, in order to quickly pick up on potential drug epidemics.”

The findings are published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence.


If you are or a loved one is abusing synthetic drugs, please contact Harmony Foundation to begin the journey of recovery. Harmony is a state-of-the-art, affordable, residential addiction treatment program located in the Rocky Mountains.

Addiction and recovery news provided by Harmony Foundation.

Dangerous Synthetic Drug Flakka Growing in Popularity

Over the last few years concerns have been mounting about dangerous synthetic drugs being used across the country. The most common synthetic drugs come in the form of bath salts or herbal plant matter sprayed with powerful chemicals designed to mimic the effects of traditional narcotics.

Synthetic marijuana is perhaps the most popular amongst teenagers and young adults, sold under brands names like Spice and K2. Officials have had a difficult time policing these drugs because the manufactures quickly alter the chemical makeup as soon as the government issues a ban.

The latest synthetic drug to gain popularity is known as “flakka” (alpha-PVP), a synthetic stimulant drug of the cathinone class – a cousin of the chemical used on the widely used bath salts (MDPV). While flakka cases have been confined to Florida, officials are not finding the insidious drug in other states, The Wall Street Journal reports. Flakka is known to cause delusions and aggression, and can be addictive.

Officials in South Florida have found that alpha-PVP has replaced crack cocaine due to cheap prices and ease of purchase online from China, according to Capt. Dana Swisher of the Fort Lauderdale Police Department. He says, “Our concern is that we’re going to start getting people into the game that weren’t necessarily potential sellers and distributors in the past.”

Many users of flakka, as well as other synthetic drugs, are unaware of just how dangerous they can be. The medical examiner in Broward County, South Florida reports that flakka has been linked to 29 deaths in the past year, according to the article. Other states can expect to see similar instances; officials have already seen cases in Kentucky, Tennessee and Ohio.

The common side effects associated with alpha-PVP use include:

  • Suicidal Thoughts
  • Excited Delirium
  • Hyperstimulation
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations


If you or a loved one is abusing synthetic drugs, please do not hesitate, contact Harmony Foundation to begin the journey of recovery. Harmony is a state-of-the-art, affordable, residential addiction treatment program located in the Rocky Mountains.

Addiction and recovery news provided by Harmony Foundation.

The Lure and Danger of Synthetic Marijuana in Colorado

Marijuana news has been trending since storefronts legally selling marijuana opened on January 1st. Surprisingly the topic of “synthetic marijuana” has resurfaced as well with the New England Journal of Medicine reporting on the use of synthetic marijuana in Colorado yesterday.

During a one month period last year in Colorado, emergency room doctors saw a surge of patients that, according to Dr. Andrew Monte with the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Denver, “were coming in with a very severe clinical illness.” Many had severe delirium, seizures and trouble breathing.

Monte and others later discovered the illness was linked to synthetic marijuana otherwise known as K2, Spice, Black Mamba, and Crazy Clown. These products sent over 250 patients to the emergency room in Colorado during the month period between August and September last year.

The use of synthetic marijuana in Colorado begs the question of why people would use such a risky drug when they live in a state where marijuana was legalized. The answer is that it comes with a cheaper price tag and easier accessibility than marijuana and the demographic that uses it are often men in their 20s who need to pass drug tests.

While the surge of cases seems to have been isolated to the one-month period last year, Monte believes the cases are underreported and many don’t seek medical attention or they conceal their use of the drug if they do.

The demographic that uses synthetic marijuana to pass drug tests is likely the same demographic that need addiction treatment services as well – because whatever situation led them to have mandatory drug testing wasn’t enough to deter them from drug abuse. This is a main indicator of a substance abuse problem – the continued use of addictive substances despite negative consequences. Unfortunately this happens when the disease of addiction is in the driver’s seat and not the person’s best judgment.

At Harmony’s drug rehab center in Colorado, we help young adults and adults get back in the driver’s seat and beat their addictions. We find it especially important to treat those that are experimenting with dangerous synthetic drugs because the health and mental health consequences, as reported by the New England Journal of Medicine, are immediate and still largely unknown.

Are Bath Salts Addictive?

Over the past few months there have been numerous questions around the issue of bath salts. A new study published by the Behavioral Brain Research Journal answers some of those questions – particularly, are bath salts addictive?

The study revealed that bath salts can be as addictive as cocaine. Scientists tested the drug’s impact on the behavior of mice through a method called “intracranial self-stimulation” (ICSS). This method has been used frequently to test the behaviors surrounding reward in the brain known as reward circuitry or the reward system. When the reward circuit is activated it triggers the release of dopamine, the neurotransmitter that gives one a pleasurable feeling. Addictive drugs stimulate this same response, but to a much greater degree. The reward is much stronger and therefore the behavior to get that reward becomes more pronounced. This is linked to addiction because over time the brain craves the reward associated with an activity, even if the activity – such as drug abuse – makes one’s life unmanageable.

The ICSS is used on mice by training them to run on a wheel in order to be rewarded by stimulating electrodes implanted in their brains. According to Dr. C.J. Malanga of the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, “If you let them, an animal will work to deliver self-stimulation to the exclusion of everything else—it won’t eat, it won’t sleep.”

Scientists have found this is particularly true when the reward is cocaine, because it increases mice’s sensitivity to reward stimulation. The study in the Behavioral Brain Research Journal revealed that the mice’s sensitivity to reward stimulation was just as strong with bath salts as it was with cocaine. This suggests that bath salts can be very addictive and serves to explain why thousands of young adults and teens continue to abuse bath salts despite the gruesome accounts of suicides, violent attacks, murders and arrests.

The good news is that massive efforts to crackdown on bath salts are already underway. A nation-wide ban on bath salts was put into effect on July 9th and just this week 91 arrests were made across 90 cities resulting in the confiscation of 167,000 packets of bath salts and material to make 392,000 more.

If you or a loved one is struggling with synthetic drug abuse, Harmony Foundation’s addiction treatment programs in Colorado can help. 

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