What Are Designer Drugs?

When the use of fentanyl began to rise in the 1980s, the term “designer drug” was coined to refer to it and other drugs like it. Designer drugs refer to drugs that are manufactured in a laboratory (usually illegally) by manipulating or mimicking the properties of a drug that originates from a plant.

 Some designer drugs were originally discovered by scientists and researchers looking to create drugs for medical use, while others were created for the first time in illegal laboratories.

History of Designer Drugs

Designer drugs’ history can be traced back to the 1920s, when morphine and heroin were banned. A number of alternatives to these drugs began being created and sold. Later, in the 1960s and 70s, psychedelic designer drugs like LSD and alternatives to PCP entered the illegal market.

Typically, opioids and hallucinogens have made up the bulk of designer drugs, but in the 21st century, the range of designer drugs has expanded to include synthetic versions of stimulants, sedatives, and aphrodisiacs.

Examples of Designer Drugs

Ecstasy – Also known on the streets as MDMA or molly, among other names, this popular club drug is made with an extract from the sassafras plant called safrole. The safrole is then combined with many chemicals and crystalized into a fine white powder before being made into pills.

According to the National Toxicology Program, there is sufficient evidence to show that safrole has carcinogenic effects on animals, and likely on humans as well.

LSDLSD, or acid, is a potent hallucinogen made from lysergic acid, which comes from ergot fungus, a type of fungus that commonly grows on rye bread. Some manufacturers may use a type of seed called morning glory seeds in place of the ergot fungus. Many morning glory seeds are sold with a toxic coating to prevent consumption, making this method particularly dangerous.

OpioidsAll opioids, including legal painkillers as well as heroin and morphine, are derived from the opium poppy. Today, opioids are among the most addictive and most deadly drugs in the United States.

Synthetic marijuana – Known as spice or K2, synthetic marijuana is made by soaking herbs in chemicals. As most of the synthetic chemicals used in its production are illegal, the exact ingredients can sometimes vary, causing the effects of spice to be inconsistent.  

Designer drugs are very dangerous and illegal. The risks of both addiction to and overdose from many of these examples are high. If you’re concerned with your use of designer drugs or other substances, there is hope. Many people who abuse designer drugs have gone on to live full and recovered lives.