Synthetic Drugs Treatment

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Over the course of the past several years, the U.S. as a whole has been heavily impacted by the distribution and misuse of synthetic drugs, also known as designer drugs. These are synthetic, man-made substances which are manufactured to mimic the psychoactive effects of naturally occurring substances like marijuana, or the psychedelic effects of illegal drugs like ecstasy or PCP. These drugs can be easily purchased at gas stations and convenience stores across the country, labeled “not for human consumption” to avoid U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulation. They are often misguidedly labeled things like “bath salts,” “potpourri,” or “herbal incense,” and are typically affordable and extremely easy to obtain regardless of age. Because the majority of synthetic drugs across the country are untested, it can be difficult to predict how they will affect the individual. Many people who use synthetic drugs experience a range of serious physical and psychological symptoms, including angry or violent outbursts, erratic behavior, extreme paranoia, and psychosis. If you or someone you love has been using synthetic drugs in any capacity, seeking help from a professional medical detox center is an important first step on the road to recovery. Princeton Detox & Recovery Center is available to help. 

What are Synthetic Drugs?

Some drugs are naturally occurring, like alcohol, marijuana and opiates that are derived directly from opium, like heroin. Other drugs are synthetic, meaning that they were produced in a laboratory from a combination of chemicals. Many synthetic drugs are produced for valid medical reasons — the vast majority of prescription drugs are synthetic. However, there are also many illicit synthetic drugs which are manufactured illegally and used recreationally. In many cases, these illegally produced drugs are intended to mimic the effects of naturally occurring drugs. For example “Spice” or “K2” is the synthetic version of marijuana. While synthetic drugs are extremely dangerous and can permanently damage mental and physical health, it has proven difficult to regulate these substances because they are frequently produced in small-scale home laboratories. Despite the danger involved in taking synthetic drugs, individuals are often drawn to their cost-effectiveness and widespread accessibility. Most synthetic drugs are highly addictive, and those who have been suffering at the hands of a synthetic drug addiction often benefit immensely from attending an inpatient drug detox.

There are three main types of synthetic drugs.

Synthetic Stimulants

The majority of synthetic stimulants contain chemicals that produce effects somewhat similar to the effects of cocaine (which is a naturally occurring drug). Some examples are bath salts, ecstasy or molly. Because synthetic stimulants are so impure and are frequently cut with a variety of harsh chemicals, their effects are typically unknown to the user until after they have been consumed. Drugs like bath salts have been known to cause erratic and violent behavior and taking such drugs (more often than not) will lead to arrest and serious legal issues.

 Synthetic Cannabinoids

Synthetic cannabinoids mimic the active ingredient in marijuana – THC. Most synthetic cannabinoids consist of five different chemical compounds which are sprayed directly onto dried leaves and crushed, mimicking the appearance if marijuana. This synthetic substance is often marketed as being a “safe” alternative – nothing could be farther from the truth. Because there are well over 100 known forms of synthetic cannabinoid, the user never really knows what kind of high (and what kind of health-related complications) are in store.

Synthetic Hallucinogenic Drugs

There are synthetic versions of LSD and PCP, two psychoactive drugs that lead to hallucinations and other severe psychological consequences. Synthetic LSD is known to lead to severe paranoia and delusions, and can result in erratic behavior and lasting consequences related to mental health. Synthetic PCP provides an intense out-of-body high that leads to feelings of disassociation and can result in permanent psychosis.

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Synthetic Drug Side Effects

Those who manufacture synthetic drugs have a very specific target. They target youth and young adults who might not have easy access to the “real thing.” In fact, the majority of synthetic drug users are between the ages of 12 and 17. If you have a teenager who has been acting erratically and you suspect that drug abuse is involved you may want to check for the signs and symptoms of synthetic drug use. 

Signs and symptoms of synthetic drug use might include:

  • Erratic behavior. 
  • Major and frequent shifts in mood. 
  • Increased aggression and angry or violent outbursts. 
  • Dissociation from reality. 
  • Hallucinations or delusions. 
  • Extreme anxiety and paranoia. 
  • Depressed mood and self-harm or suicidal ideation. 
  • Heart palpitations or racing heartbeat.
  • Dramatically increased body temperature. 
  • Seizures. 

The use of synthetic drugs is also common amongst inmates. Synthetic drugs can be easily manufactured within prison walls and there is little chance they will show up on drug tests. The lack of visibility when it comes to drug testing also appeals to another demographic. Synthetic drug manufacturers very frequently target recovering addicts. Individuals in early recovery might view synthetic versions of their drug of choice as safer alternatives to the real thing. They might convince themselves that ingesting the synthetic version of drugs like cocaine, heroin or methamphetamine isn’t the same as taking the real thing because it won’t actually count as a relapse. The truth is that taking synthetic drugs is definitely a relapse and that many synthetic drugs are even more addictive than their naturally occurring counterparts.

Synthetic Drug Overdose

It is possible to overdose on synthetic drugs, seeing as many of the chemical compounds marketed as “safe” alternatives to substances like marijuana and ecstasy can cause severe psychological symptoms, which may lead to impulsive and reckless behaviors, which in turn lead to accidental injury or fatality. If you or someone you love has been using synthetic drugs, help is available. Contact us today to learn more.

Synthetic Drug Withdrawal

Withdrawing from synthetic drugs can be highly uncomfortable, which is why those who have been struggling with synthetic drug use often benefit from attending a medically monitored detox. In the case of synthetic drug use, a combination of psychiatric and medical care is often necessary for physical and mental stabilization. 

Many chemical substances cause intense and uncomfortable physical symptoms and relatively mild psychological symptoms (like insomnia and mood swings) during the detox stage. Synthetic drugs, on the contrary, can cause serious psychological symptoms, ranging from suicidal ideation to major depression and panic attacks. At Princeton Detox & Recovery Center we have licensed psychiatrists on-site who work hard to help alleviate the more severe psychological symptoms of synthetic drug detox.

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Synthetic Drug Detox

What does the synthetic drug detox process look like?

The severity of withdrawal symptoms depends on several factors, including:

  • The presence of an underlying mental illness or chronic health condition.
  • How frequently synthetic drugs were being used.
  • What type of synthetic drug was being used.
  • Whether or not synthetic drugs were being combined with another chemical substance.
  • The age, body weight, and gender of the client.

Signs and symptoms of synthetic drug withdrawal vary significantly, but often include:

  • Insomnia.
  • Anxiety and panic attacks.
  • Depression and suicidal ideation.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Confusion.
  • Paranoia.
  • Persistent headache.
  • A loss of appetite, which might lead to temporary weight loss.
  • Agitation and irritability.
  • Intense drug cravings.

In most cases, the more severe symptoms of synthetic drug withdrawal resolve within a week. However, in more extreme cases, symptoms could last for several weeks — and psychological symptoms might persist for months.

Synthetic Drug Treatment

At Princeton Detox & Recovery Center we offer a number of addiction treatment services geared towards providing each client with comprehensive clinical care. Many detox centers focus exclusively on physical stabilization. While our main priority is providing clients with a safe, pain-free synthetic drug withdrawal, we focus on providing them with the tools and resources they need to stay sober once detox concludes.

The addiction treatment services we offer include:

24-hour care from licensed medical professionals

We have physicians on staff who provide each of our detox residents with ongoing care and support. Their goal is to make the physical symptoms of synthetic drug withdrawal as tolerable as possible using non-narcotic medications.

Nutrition Services

We offer three nutritious, chef-prepared meals every day, as well as healthy snacks and nutritional guidance. We believe that eating well is a big part of comprehensive recovery, and that adequate nutrition helps speed along the detox process.

Therapeutic Services

At Princeton Detox we believe that therapeutic intervention should start from the very moment the recovery journey begins. We offer daily group therapy sessions and regular one-on-one therapy sessions with our licensed therapists.

Introduction To The 12 Step Method Of Addiction Recovery

We offer daily 12 step meetings so that our detox residents can get accustomed to the formatting and benefits of programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous.

Post-treatment Planning

Detox is only the very first step. We help each of our residents determine which inpatient treatment option would best suit their personal needs, and we even help develop an aftercare plan to be implemented when inpatient drug rehab comes to an end.

Ongoing Case Management

Upon admission, each resident will be assigned a case manager who will provide ongoing services from detox all the way through inpatient treatment.

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If you or someone you love has been suffering from a synthetic drug use disorder of any severity, Princeton Detox & Recovery Center is available to help. Our medically monitored detox program was designed with client comfort in mind. We provide our clients with a safe, pain-free synthetic drug withdrawal in a therapeutic setting, actively preparing them to take the next appropriate step on their personal recovery journeys. As soon as you make the decision to reach out for help you will be put in contact with one of our experienced and compassionate Treatment Advisors, who will help you determine whether or not our synthetic drug detox program is right for you. If we believe our program is a good fit, we will proceed with a brief pre-assessment and a free, no obligation health insurance benefit check. We accept coverage from most major national health insurance providers as well as most regional providers throughout New Jersey and surrounding areas. To learn more about synthetic drug addiction and treatment or to begin your own personal journey of synthetic drug addiction recovery, contact us today. 

Synthetic Drug FAQs

While synthetic cannabinoids are manufactured to mimic the effects of marijuana, the two substances are very different. Synthetic cannabinoids are man made in a laboratory, and marijuana occurs naturally and has far fewer side effects.

Both synthetic cannabinoids and synthetic cathinones have long-term effects on the brain and the body. The most common long-term effect associated with synthetic drug use is the development of psychiatric symptoms, like depression, severe anxiety, panic attacks, and psychosis.

Amanda Hilzer

Reviewed for accuracy by: our Executive Director:

Amanda Hilzer M.Ed, CAADC, IADAC, ICCS, LCADC, CCS


Amanda graduated from Lehigh University with both an undergraduate degree in Psychology and a Master’s of Education degree in Counseling Psychology and has worked in the field of substance use disorder treatment and mental health treatment as a counselor and as a clinical manager for over 14 years.