While synthetic drugs have been on the market for several decades, especially with the psychedelics of the sixties, a different type of synthetic drug has exploded in popularity in the last few years. These drugs are designed to mimic the effects of other drugs, or at least appear to. Law enforcement has been struggling to keep up with the influx of synthetic drug use, but until a study was done by NYU, no one really knew exactly how many people are abusing the dangerous drugs and what demographic is most at risk for these types of substances.
The study, which was conducted in association with New York University’s Center for Drug Use and HIV Research (CDUHR) and published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, found that white males who were older and lived in cities were the ones who used synthetic drugs most often. There was also a very high percentage of them who had used other drugs previously or in conjunction with the synthetics.
One major problem that officials are up against is that the face of the synthetic drug market is constantly changing. Called novel psychoactive substances (NPS), the drugs are simply made up of various chemicals that can be slightly altered to create the same effect. This means that when the FDA makes a certain list of ingredients illegal, manufacturers can simply change the recipe a little bit and continue peddling their concoctions.
“Hundreds of new psychoactive drugs have come out in recent years and some of them can be very dangerous. 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,” explained Joseph J. Palamar, one of the researchers on the study.
This specific study was designed to determine how many of the available synthetic drugs were actually being abused. There were a total of 57 different drugs listed in the survey; however researchers believe that there were many more that were left off the list. Palamar and his colleagues also believe that the overall use of these synthetic drugs is actually under reported.