What makes synthetics particularly tricky for law enforcement is that these products are usually sold legally. Marketed as completely different substances, only those who truly know the business they’re dealing with will know that the products aren’t what they’re said to be. Some of the common products that synthetics are legally sold as include:
- Plant food
- Jewelry cleaner
- Phone screen cleaner
- Herbal incense
As law enforcement agencies are able to identify one drug, manufacturers alter the chemistry once again. So, while drug enforcement agencies seize shipments in search of a specific chemistry, manufacturers have already produced an entirely different substance. This cat and mouse chase has made it possible for the synthetic drug market to thrive over just a short period of time.
Most of the known synthetics are popular among the youth. That’s because they’re found and sold legally through convenience stores, gas stations, smokes shops, and head shops. They’re also particularly cheap, making them accessible to teenagers willing to experiment with their effects. Unfortunately, this ‘legality’ in combination with the prices of these products lead many teenagers and adolescents to believe that synthetics are a ‘safer’ alternative to hard drugs.
Known as party drugs, synthetics also play a role in the occurrence of rape. Many of these substances can incapacitate an individual or reduce their will and strength to fight an attacker. Used in ‘date rape’, these drugs can be dangerous not only to those who use them, but to unsuspecting teens who are targeted as rape victims.
Many of those who sell these products also include labels that indicate “not for human consumption” which helps to make it even more difficult for law enforcement to identify the products. But while this can help drug dealers conceal the true nature of their product, it poses a major threat to those who use them.
Synthesized illegally in labs mainly in China, there is no standard practice that goes into the production of synthetics. This means that the synthetics that a person uses today might be completely or slightly different in chemistry from synthetics that they buy tomorrow. And this is what also helps ensure that people stay addicted, because tolerances are harder to establish when the chemistry is constantly changing.
That said, the treatment of synthetics can also be a challenge since experts have yet to fully understand how these chemicals impact the brain. And because the composition of synthetics isn’t completely understood just yet, the challenge of determining their long term effects on the brain remains.