A synthetic drug, also referred to as a designer drug, is a chemical intended to imitate the properties and effects of a known hallucinogen or narcotic and may have unknown side effects or cause an adverse reaction. These drugs are created in order to evade restrictions against illegal substances.
No. Under state law, it is a crime to manufacture, deliver or possess a synthetic drug.
Synthetic cannabinoids are commonly referred to as K2, Kush, spice, synthetic marijuana and fake weed. They are a mix of plant matter sprayed with chemicals in sometimes dangerously high proportions, falsely marketed as “legal highs” and smoked like marijuana.
Synthetic cannabinoids are relatively inexpensive and sold in convenience stores, smoke shops, novelty stores, on the internet and on the street.
Many of the products are sold in colorful packets with names that appeal to adolescents and young adults. Manufacturers label the packages as “not for human consumption” and market the products as incense or potpourri to mask the intended purpose and to avoid regulatory oversight of the manufacturing process. For examples, see photos at the bottom of this page.
Synthetic cannabinoids are illegal, dangerous, highly addictive and potentially deadly. One of the original chemists who designed synthetic cannabis for research purposes, John Huffman, Ph.D., likened recreational use of synthetic drugs to playing Russian roulette. The contents and effects of synthetic cannabinoids are unpredictable due to a constantly changing variety of chemicals used in manufacturing processes devoid of quality controls and government regulatory oversight.
Synthetic cannabinoids are man-made chemicals produced in underground labs, often in China, and then shipped to the United States in powder or crystal form. They are then mixed with acetone and sprayed onto plant material manually before packaging. Ingredients are usually not listed on the packages sold, so there’s no telling which of the hundreds of different synthetic cannabinoid variants are inside the bags. That great unknown makes it very difficult for health professionals to diagnose and treat patients in emergency cases who have ingested synthetic drugs.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 60 percent of individuals admitted to an emergency department for their reported synthetic cannabinoid use are between 12 and 20 years of age, with 40 percent in the 18-20 age group and 20 percent in the 12-17 age bracket. The drugs have gained popularity in Texas and across the country, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers. In 2015, it received nearly 8,000 calls regarding synthetic cannabinoids.
Yes. From January 1, 2016, through the end of November 2016, Texas registered the second most number of synthetic cannabinoid-related calls (266) to poison control centers in the U.S. In Houston, emergency responders blamed synthetic cannabinoids for around 1,400 of the 3,000 overdose calls they handled over a ten-month period, including a mass overdose of 16 people in one afternoon in Hermann Park.
In 2016, the Consumer Protection Division (CPD) of the Texas Attorney General’s office sent 200 warning letters to smoke shops in the Houston area, notifying them that the agency will aggressively pursue any person or business involved in the sale of dangerous synthetic cannabinoids. To date, the CPD has filed 14 lawsuits to block the sale of synthetic cannabinoids in Texas. Permanent injunctions have been granted in the following cases:
In August 2016, the owners of Spice Boutique were arrested, and over $2 million in cash and gold bars were seized by law enforcement authorities.
Call your local poison center at 1-800-222-1222. Experts can help you decide whether someone can be treated at home, or whether he or she must go to a hospital.
Dial 9-1-1 immediately if someone: