Oftentimes the substances most readily associated with addiction are ones like alcohol, marijuana, opiates, and others that have been or become particularly common. However, there are many other mind-altering substances besides these more common street drugs. In particular, we’re talking about synthetic drugs. These synthetic substances are created out of extremely dangerous, unpredictable substances by individuals who are specifically trying to develop more substances for abuse. Also frequently referred to as designer drugs, synthetic drugs can be just as addictive as many other street drugs. When a person becomes addicted to a synthetic drug, his or her recovery must begin with a synthetic drug detox.
After abusing a synthetic drug consistently over a period of time, an individual inadvertently becomes physically dependent on the substances, which means that he or she will experience physiological discomfort during those times when he or she is unable to obtain more of the substance. These physical and psychological effects are referred to as withdrawal symptoms. For the individual to successfully overcome withdrawal symptoms, he or she must receive treatment for synthetic drug addiction, beginning with a complete a synthetic drug detox. The most basic purpose of a synthetic drug detox is to address the physical aspects of addiction so that the addict is able to progress to more advanced stages of rehabilitation without withdrawal inhibiting his or her recovery.
The human body evolved to be extremely resilient, allowing us to survive the various environments and situations in which we may find ourselves. However, if we put our body through more than it’s able to deal with, the body incurs damage that it either can’t overcome or will require an extended period of time to heal. Such is the case with synthetic drug abuse.
After becoming addicted to one of the numerous synthetic drugs that exists, a person needs treatment before he or she is able to return to a state of health and independence from addiction. However, while addiction recovery would seem to be a straightforward process, it’s actually much more complicated than it may seem. Before a person who’s addicted to synthetic drugs can receive treatment for the addiction, he or she can’t receive treatment while experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms. These withdrawal symptoms occur whenever a synthetic drug addict is deprived of synthetic drugs; therefore, a person must find a way to overcome withdrawal symptoms before he or she can progress to the actual treatment stage of addiction. This is the purpose of synthetic drug detoxification treatment.
In particular, synthetic drug detox serves as a sort of physically cleanse. The body must be restored to a state of health wherein the addict isn’t too distracted by withdrawal symptoms to proceed through the numerous treatments that are included as part of a recovery program.
The synthetic drug detox process will vary to some degree from one detox facility to the next depending on the specific forms of treatment and the types of services that the detox facility offers. Generally, the purpose of a detox program is to give a person a place where he or she can be undisturbed by people and places that would otherwise threaten his or her recovery. Since a person would have to deal with substance-abusing friends and the temptation to relapse at home, a detox facility offers that separation, protecting a person from undermining the recovery process.
To understand the specific components of a synthetic detox program, let’s look at some of the specific results of being a synthetic drug addict. When a person becomes addicted to a synthetic drug, it’s because he or she has abused a substance with such regularity that the substance has inhibited many of his or her bodily functions and processes. This means a reduction in one’s immune system, difficult with digestion and respiration, potential damage to the circulatory and nervous systems, and a number of other effects. Since an addict experiences withdrawal symptoms if he or she immediately and abruptly ceases consumption of a chemical substance, a detox program provides a means for the individual to overcome the physical components of addiction in preparation of the more advanced stages of recovery. It’s a period of between one and three weeks — depending on the substance to which the individual is addicted — during which time the addict is encouraged to relax, eat healthy and balanced meals, and oftentimes participate in a number of holistic treatments that help to detoxify his or her body.
Synthetic drugs like spice, mephedrone, bath salts, and flakka — which we will discuss in much more detail below — product withdrawal symptoms that are generally opposite of each drug’s actual effects. Like all mind-altering substances at large, synthetic drugs can be depressants, stimulants, or hallucinogens, but the vast majority of the synthetic drugs that pose the greatest threat today are stimulant drugs that are in a family of substances related to amphetamines like crystal meth. As such, many of the withdrawal symptoms of synthetic drugs are withdrawal symptoms of stimulants.
Stimulants are also one of the most dangerous drugs because of the effects they cause in the brain. They cause a surge of norepinephrine, serotonin, and other neurochemicals, activating in the brain’s reward and pleasure circuits so as to cause feelings of euphoria. Meanwhile, these drugs typically accelerate the central nervous system. When deprived of these drugs, the effects can be quite dire. Individuals who are experience withdrawals from synthetic stimulants exhibit trembling in their limbs and extremities, anxiety, cold chills, increase in appetite, insomnia, severe anxiety, strong cravings, irritability, and paranoia. In general, their withdrawal symptoms tend to product side effects that are opposite the effects a person would experience while under the influence. There’s an overall lack of energy, drowsiness, depression, physical discomfort, pain in the limbs and joints, and a number of other effects.
One of the most well-known synthetic drugs is spice, which is essentially a legal substance that users can purchase legally in certain stores. You may also be familiar with K2, which is a specific strain or “brand” of spice that’s also become something of a nickname for synthetic marijuana. Spice, or K2, is typically marketed as an incense, which is why it’s still legal to sell in stores, but savvy substance abusers know that they can smoke the substance like marijuana and experience intoxication. The scary thing is that the active ingredient that’s responsible for the intoxicating effects of spice varies considerably from one type of spice to the next. In fact, there’s a wide variety of different types of spice, each with different chemicals that can produce a range of effects. Some are marijuana-like in their effects and others are almost more stimulant-like, sometimes even causing hallucinations and paranoia.
Bath salts is another very common and extremely problematic synthetic drug. The average layperson assumes that bath salts are the same as the Epsom salts you can purchase for use in the bath, but that’s actually an entirely different product. Whereas spice is at least intended to be more of a depressant, bath salts are actually a stimulant and have been the subject of much controversy due to the violent outbursts that some bath salts users have had, resulting in vicious attacks on others. There’s also flakka, another synthetic stimulant somewhat comparable to bath salts that’s been referred to as “$5 insanity” and which has been attributed as the cause of death of almost thirty people over an eight-month period in the state of Florida. Users of flakka have similar violent outbursts as users of bath salts, accompanied by delusions and paranoia. It’s an extremely dangerous and unpredictable drug that causes a rapid increase in body temperature, further attributing to the volatility of users. In many populated areas, law enforcement has become extremely devoted to eradicating the rising threat of flakka.
But wait, there’s more. A drug called mephedrone is a synthetic psychoactive stimulant that’s comparable in its effects to flakka and bath salts. As a stimulant, it amplifies the body’s process, including mental processes. There have been reports that mephedrone temporarily enhances a person’s mental and cognitive functioning while others have compared mephedrone to MDMA, which is the active ingredient in ecstasy. When it comes down to it, mephedrone is in the amphetamine class of substances — notably the same class as crystal meth — and is a powerful central nervous system stimulant that, in 2009, had become the fourth most-abused illicit drug in the UK and has been gaining traction in the U.S. as well.
Something of a newer synthetic drug is one called methylone, which many are referring to as a “second generation synthetic stimulant” since it’s one of the numerous drugs being created out of found chemicals for the purposes of recreational substance abuse; also known as designer drugs. Also related to amphetamines and drugs like bath salts, methylone is sometimes compared to ecstasy in that it causes a major increase in bodily systems, but users also abuse the drug because of its ability to suppress appetite, produce an intense euphoria, and an increase in sex drive.
As you can see, the effects of synthetic drugs can vary considerably since there are such a wide variety of synthetic drugs. Many of these substances are made from chemical substances that weren’t intended to be consumed by humans, which means that their toxic effects result from their causing severe damaging to the body and its systems. For instance, many of the stimulating and delusional effects of synthetic drugs are occurring due to the toxic effects and brain damage resulting from the synthetic drug abuse. Conversely, there are a variety of withdrawal symptoms a synthetic drug addict will experience when he or she abruptly stops consuming the substance to which he or she is addicted. In particular, the brain’s chemistry is significantly thrown off, resulting in extremely uncharacteristic behaviors and perhaps even thoughts of suicide.
Although there are a number of reasons why addicts are resistant to the recovery process, arguably the most common reason is the fear that addicts have of synthetic drug withdrawal. When people who have become addicted to synthetic drugs are forced to go without the substances to which they’re addicted — typically because the drugs are temporarily unavailable or they’ve been unable to obtain the money necessary to buy more drugs — they soon experience a number adverse effects known as withdrawal symptoms. The unpleasance of these withdrawal symptoms causes them to be desperate to obtain more drugs and makes them fearful of recovery. What they don’t realize is that synthetic drug detox treatment offers addicts treatments that mitigate the severity of withdrawal symptoms, making addicts more comfortable during the detoxification process. As well, round-the-clock medical supervision means that individuals can detox from synthetic drugs safely.
Everyone is different. Each individual comes from his or her own background and has different reasons for behaving in the ways that they behave. Similarly, everyone who becomes addicted to synthetic drugs becomes addicted due to their own, unique circumstances. As such, the treatments needed to overcome synthetic drug addiction differ for every addict. Some people require longer periods of treatment than others while others have better luck in outpatient forms of treatment. But for most addicts, recovery begins with detoxification treatment.
It’s difficult to say how long a person will need to complete a synthetic drug detox, but generally a person will require one to two weeks to complete the detoxification. In some instances, it’s possible that a person may require up to three weeks, at which time he or she can move into the treatment phase of recovery; this involves psychotherapy, group and family counseling sessions, relapse prevention training, and oftentimes even life skills sessions. The importance of detoxification cannot be overstated since detoxification is necessary for a person to overcome physical dependence prior to beginning the treatment phase of recovery.
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