The Year in Synthetic Drugs

From the “Bath Salts” Cannibal to a dramatic spike in Spice-related ER visits, 2012 was the year synthetics earned a place in the drug pantheon.synthetic drugs

This is the year of the knockoff. A witch’s brew of new synthetic drugs, most of them stimulants, peddled as either bath salts or “spice” concoctions, has offered users new forms of Russian Roulette, and has irrevocably changed the face of international drug dealing. 2012 was also the year hysteria took over. Myths began to accumulate, and everywhere you looked, somebody was supposedly doing something psychotic due to the new synthetics. Who can forget Rudy Eugene, Florida’s Causeway Cannibal, the bizarre face-eating man on bath salts? The attack left law enforcement officials wondering how a drug could drive Eugene to strip off his clothes, attack a homeless man, and chew pieces of flesh from the man’s face.

Well, it wasn’t bath salts, as it turned out. But never mind. As Fixcolumnist Maia Szalavitz wrote: “Despite the fact that Eugene had no synthetic drugs in his system, it’s likely that his case will still be used for years as an example of what bath salts can make people do.” But drug users saw it differently. After all, how deadly could bath salts really be, hanging there on the rack beside the Slim Jims, the 5-hour energy drinks, and the caffeine tabs at the local Bag-and-Drag minimart?

By 2012, amphetamine-type stimulants, including synthetic bath salt derivatives, had become more popular worldwide than either cocaine or heroin, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). This international eclipsing of the plant-based “hard drugs” of the past represents a major paradigm shift in the landscape of the illegal drug trade. The stunning market growth of synthetic stimulants is not hard to understand. Bath salt drug products soared in popularity throughout 2012 due largely to the belief among users that the drugs were: 1) quasi-legal, 2) non-addictive, 3) relatively safe, and 4) invisible to drug tests. Read More…

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