Designer Drug Addiction
In the United States, the word “designer” is often used to indicate luxury. People buy designer clothing, instead of off-the-rack versions, so they can show off their own sense of style and taste. People also pay hundreds for designer breeds of dogs that contain a smidge of one breed and a touch of another, producing something that is considered the best of both breeds. The word “designer” has also recently been appearing in information having to do with addiction, and effective treatments that can be used to combat an addiction. Knowing what the term means can help people who are struggling with a designer drug addiction come to terms with the problem, and seek out appropriate help.
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The term “designer drug” is defined by Mirriam-Webster as, “a synthetic version of a controlled substance… that is produced with a slightly altered molecular structure to avoid classification as an illicit drug.” This definition is subtle, and it might be hard to understand at first, but it truly does a good job of explaining what these drugs are, and why they might be so dangerous.
Drugs like heroin, marijuana and peyote can be addictive and they can cause users a significant amount of distress. Because they are so troubling, they are considered illegal for recreational users all across the country, and when people are arrested for using these drugs, they’re often sent into rehabilitation programs so they can heal. When people enter these treatment programs for addiction, therapists know exactly what the person has been taking, and how that drug typically impacts the human body, as thousands of studies have been performed on these natural drugs through the years, and the composition of the drugs has not changed. Pulling together treatment plans, as a result, is relatively easy.
Designer drugs, by contrast, are much more difficult to deal with. Some aren’t considered illegal, so people who take them might never be pushed into getting the help they need. Others can vary so significantly from batch to batch, as their producers attempt to elude law enforcement, that it’s almost impossible for medical professionals to know what people have been taking when they ask for treatment, and therefore, what they are addicted to. This can make pulling together treatment plans a bit more complicated.
While the designer term could be applied to almost any drug that is created in a laboratory, including prescription medications, most experts use the term exclusively to describe drugs that are similar to existing drugs, but that have a somewhat more complicated chemical structure. Drugs like spice, bath salts and K2 all fit this description quite nicely.
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Addiction is commonly defined as the continuation of usage, even though the person knows the drugs cause harm. People who have never used drugs might assume that people continue to use drugs because they find that the drugs are so pleasurable that they can’t imagine living without them. People who are addicted, however, might know that the drugs don’t cause pleasure, yet they’re compelled to keep using. This might be the case with some designer drugs. As an expert quoted on the subject in an article in Forbes put it, “When I talked to my patients about Spice, every one of them would say the effects were extremely unpleasant and they wanted to stop… But then they’d take it again. That was when I realized the addictiveness of the drug.”
Currently, interviews with experts like this provide the most conclusive proof that at least some of these drugs are addictive. It would be ideal if researchers could conduct experiments and determine exactly how the drugs work on a chemical level, and therefore explain why people feel compelled to take them, but since the makeup of the drugs changes so frequently, these experiments are almost impossible to conduct.
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Effects of Abuse
- Elevated mood
People who take bath salts, by contrast, might develop extreme forms of paranoia, and they may also develop an increased sense of strength and invincibility. These people might be in the grip of a strong hallucination and feel very frightened as a result, and they might be almost impossible to subdue.
While the ingredients can vary from batch to batch, often manufacturers of these drugs make amendments to the chemical structure of natural drugs in order to make their own drugs more powerful. For example, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that the drug spice attaches to the same receptors used by marijuana, but spice molecules attach much more strongly to these receptors, making the drug more powerful.
Some of these designer drugs contain other chemicals that aren’t found in standard drugs of abuse, and people who take in high doses of these toxic chemicals may develop health problems that medical professionals hadn’t predicted. For example, the NIDA reports that bath salts often contain synthetic stimulants that can cause chest pains and increased blood pressure. People who are addicted to the drugs may do severe damage to their physical health as a result of their continued ingestion of these substances.
People who abuse designer drugs may take extremely high doses of the drugs in order to feel the positive sensations associated with drug use. Their bodies may become acclimated to specific ingredients in the drugs, meaning that a standard dose of the drugs seems to cause no effects at all. As a result, people who are addicted to designer drugs may take staggeringly large amounts of the drugs they are addicted to, and they may face the real risk of overdose as a result. Even people who aren’t taking high doses of designer drugs can overdose if they receive a package of the drugs that contains more powerful ingredients than those they are accustomed to. For these reasons, people all across the country have been overdosing on designer drugs. For example, according to a study published in JAMA, 16 fatal overdose cases in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania in 1988 could be traced back to one form of designer drug. As this study makes clear, overdose is a very real risk in people who experiment with designer drugs and become addicted to them as a result.
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Signs of Abuse
- Stop going to work or school, in order to use drugs
- Spend household money on drugs
- Become defensive about drug use and abuse
- Choose friends who are also drug users
- Become isolated from family members
- Seem sad, depressed or angry
Family members may feel helpless when they see these signs in the people they love, but treatment for addiction really can make a difference. In fact, many people can and do recover each year after being addicted to designer drugs. While researchers might not know much about how designer drugs work or why they are addictive, they do know quite a bit about how addictions to all substances can be successfully treated. The key is to help the person understand how the abuse got started, and what can be done in the future to keep the habits from returning. Counseling plays a key role in this process, as do support group meetings. Addictions to designer drugs may be new, and they may be frightening, but they can be overcome. Please call us as Axis to find out more about how rehab works, and how we craft programs to help designer drug addicts succeed in recovery.
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