In 2012, experts were downright distraught about the number of people using synthetic marijuana. At that time, 11 percent of high school seniors admitted to the use of synthetic marijuana in a National Institute of Health survey,1 and many more admitted to taking other synthetic drugs including bath salts and research chemicals.

When this study was repeated a year later, only eight percent of students admitted to the use of synthetic marijuana. That’s great news as it seems to suggest that data about the dangers of these drugs is getting out to the public.

But it still seems to indicate that many people are continuing to abuse these substances. When asked to defend their choices, these are just a few of the reasons they might cite.

Remaining Under the Radar

Illicit drugs such as marijuana and methamphetamine produce an easily identifiable smell when they’re smoked. These scents can linger on clothing, carpets, and curtains, and it’s that smell that sometimes allows families to confirm that drug use is taking place.

Illicit drugs like “spice” can be appealing, however, as they’re not associated with one particular type of odor. Some smell like blueberries, some smell like skunks, and some don’t smell like anything at all. When the variety is that wide-reaching, families have a much harder time putting a name to the things they smell, and that could allow the addiction to continue for a much longer period of time.

In addition, law enforcement professionals have screening tests they can use in order to identify the use of:
  • Alcohol
  • Cocaine
  • Heroin
  • Prescription medications
  • Methamphetamine

While there are some companies developing tests to detect the presence of synthetic drugs, these tests aren’t exactly used frequently at the moment. Someone who wants to take drugs and pass a screening test at work may find synthetic drugs to be a better option, as the damage they leave behind might not show up on these tests.


The Dollars and Cents of Going Synthetic

Synthetic drugs are often more expensive than other drugs. For example, the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, Arizona Affiliate suggests that the drug spice is sold for about $30 per gram, which is much more expensive than the cost of standard marijuana products. As a result, it’s safe to say that people who buy these drugs aren’t doing so out of a sense of thriftiness or value. However, these users could be getting a great deal of impact for the enhanced price they’re willing to pay.

Unlike drugs that come from plants, synthetic drugs are created in laboratories. As a result, manufacturers have a great deal of control over the potency of the substances they’re providing for their clients. In many cases, developers will choose to make their products extra appealing by making these drugs remarkably strong.

The theory here is that users will come back to a product that packs a wallop, and synthetic drugs are often hundreds of times stronger than other illicit drugs. For example, an expert quoted in the Huffington Post suggests that synthetic forms of marijuana can be 800 times more powerful than standard forms of the drug.3 For some drug users, this makes synthetic drugs seem like a very good buy.

Easy to Secure Without a Dealer

While synthetic drugs might be expensive, a significant barrier for some users, they’re also quite easy to find and buy. People who want to take in a drug such as heroin must find a dealer, cultivate a relationship and make a purchase out in the open. Also, due to legal or possible moral ramifications, some dealers won’t sell to a younger clientele. Those who want to take synthetic drugs, on the other hand, might need to do little more than walk into a convenience store or so-called head shop and procure the drug of his/her choice.

The Hipness Factor

Some drug users are solitary. They sip their drinks at home or prep and shoot up their drugs in private bathroom stalls. Users like this might never discuss the substances they take, and they might not ever feel the need to discuss how the drugs make them feel. For these users, the activity is intensely private and simply not worth discussing. But there are some drug users who become de-facto marketers for the substances they take. They want their name out there for street credibility.

People who take in synthetic drugs are often compelled to make videos about their experiences, and they post those images on social media sites for others to see.

They might also contribute to online chat discussions or they might write blog posts about their experiences. Each little blip of information out there works like an endorsement for the continued use of drugs. Someone who sees these little bits of data might emerge with the opinion that the drugs are somehow cool or useful, and they might be more likely to use as a result. Since so many images and stories about synthetic drugs are available, they might be considered important or worthwhile drugs, especially to novice users.

Dispelling the Myths

People who use synthetic drugs might believe that they’re making good choices. Deep down, they might even think that they’re being smart and strategic about their health and their long-term happiness. But to be clear, these substances can be very dangerous. The quality and potency of the drugs can vary from one batch to another, meaning that the risk of overdose might always be right around the corner. Emerging legislation could also lead to jail time. As a result, it’s vital for families to hold a talk about addiction now, so they can get the problem treated before something terrible takes place.

An intervention for synthetic drugs can contain some basic facts about the dangers of these drugs, including:
  • The number of deaths attributed to the substance in question
  • The varying potency attributed to the specific drug the person is using
  • State laws regarding that drug
  • Federal laws about all synthetic drugs

But an intervention should also include information about how much the family loves the person and why that person should stop using drugs. This is the kind of information someone with an addiction might not understand, and it’s the sort of data someone like this needs to hear in order to feel strong enough to fight back.

If you’re finding it hard to put the right words together, we’d like to help. In fact, we have an entire directory of professionals who want to help your family to recover. Please call us at 706-914-2327 and our admissions coordinators can connect you with the professionals who can help.


1 The Associated Press. “Fewer Teens Trying Synthetic Drugs, More Think Marijuana Use is OK: Study.” New York Daily News, December 18, 2013.