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Synthetic Drugs | Clearbrook Treatment Centers

Drugs like heroin, cocaine, and crystal meth are historically lethal and fatal substances. They are all equally dangerous in their own right. While in the midst of a growing drug epidemic, it’s understandable why the fight is focused on prescription opioids and heroin. Nevertheless, we have a new threat on our hands, synthetic drugs, especially that of synthetic opioids. What’s worse is that just when we think we have figured out the chemical makeup of these drugs, a new unknown substance hits the black market. It has literally become a rat race that we aren’t able to keep up with.

There are countless synthetic drugs available today. From synthetic opioids, to synthetic marijuana to compounds that give a user a high that is equivalent to crystal meth. Unfortunately, while we can give you background on some of these drugs, there are probably so many more we have not even heard of yet. In this article, we would like to give you information on some of the ones we know about so far and why anyone would ever decide to use such lethal substances.


Probably the most popular synthetic opioid available today, Fentanyl has been a root instigator in opioid overdoses across our nation. Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid analgesic that is very similar to morphine, but 50 to 100 times stronger. Fentanyl was originally designed to treat chronic pain associated with surgery or chronic illnesses, such as cancer. It can be transmitted through the skin and is often prescribed as a transdermal patch. It can also be found in the form of a lollipop, tablet, and powder. Although it can be prescribed by a physician, Fentanyl has also been coming into our country illegally from labs in China and Mexico. This illegal mixture is usually what’s being mixed with drugs like heroin or in prescription medication, like OxyContin and Xanax.


Carfentanil was never intended for human consumption, yet it has been implicated in countless overdose deaths. Last year, Carfentanil made its first appearance in Ohio, attributing to 96 overdoses in just a one week span. This substance is also a synthetic opioid but is even stronger than Fentanyl…100 times stronger in fact. Carfentanil is actually a tranquilizer for large animals like elephants and rhinos, and those who handle the drug for those animals are trained to wear safety gloves, glasses, and suits when doing so.

Gray Death

Gray Death is the latest and the most dangerous synthetic opioid to date. This drug is a mixture of heroin, fentanyl, carfentanil, and the synthetic opioid U-47700 known on the street as “Pink” or “U4”.  Alone, each of these ingredients has the power to kill a person but combined they become a super drug of sorts.  It is much more powerful than heroin and much deadlier.    The synthetic opioid “Pink” is primarily manufactured in illegal laboratories in China and shipped to the US.  It is often sold in powder or pill form, and can even be purchased on the internet labeled as a research chemical.  Carfentanil, fentanyl, and “Pink” are each particularly dangerous because just a small amount of each can kill a person.

In the form of “gray death,” the odds of survival are extremely low.  Because this drug combination is a relatively new scientists are still studying the chemical makeup and its effects on humans.  It can be injected, snorted, or swallowed.  It’s called “gray death” because it is gray in color and resembles concrete.  It can be a hard chunk of material or a fine powder.

Flakka & Bath Salts

Flakka and Bath Salts are both a synthetic cathinone, which is stimulant found in the khat plant. This drug is often marketed as a safe alternative to drugs such as cocaine and crystal meth, and can be purchased on the internet. These drugs, and others that fall into the category of synthetic cathinones, are now labeled as NPS or new psychoactive substances by health officials. NPS are not yet regulated, which makes it easier to find and use said drugs. When used in greater intervals, these drugs can cause paranoia and severe hallucinations. Headlines have even surfaced where users attacked innocent people and even attempted to bite the flesh off of a man’s face.

Why Would Anyone Use Synthetic Drugs?

Many people who buy heroin are addicted to prescription opioids and are no longer able to obtain them.  Cost and accessibility prohibit many from getting the pills that they want, so they turn to the street.  Heroin is readily available and much cheaper than buying pills. Unfortunately, most people do not know what they are purchasing.  Those seeking heroin are often unaware of the combination of drugs that they are receiving and therefore overdoses can happen quite easily.  An amount as minuscule as a grain of rice is all that is needed to fatally overdose on Fentanyl, Carfentanil, and Gray Death.

As for synthetic drugs that are purchased on the internet or in local shops, users, especially the youth, are under the impression that these chemicals are a safer alternative to illicit drugs like cocaine, crystal meth, or marijuana. Many of them are still unregulated and legal so those who consume them believe the drugs are harmless. Furthermore, many of these substances are undetectable in urine screenings today, so some addicts who are tested frequently will abuse these drugs instead of their substance of choice.

We Can’t Keep Up

Unfortunately, our current reality is bleak. Yes, heroin, cocaine, crystal meth, and marijuana are still prevalent and making waves in our society today. Heroin and prescription opioids are certainly to blame for thousands of deaths across America in the last several years. Nevertheless, synthetic drugs, especially synthetic opioids, are the culprit in an increasing number of deaths. From 2013 to 2014, heroin and fentanyl were responsible for 85% of all opioid overdoses in Massachusetts, whereas prescription opioids were only involved in 22% of the cases. And, in Cleveland, Fentanyl was responsible for 86% of drug overdose deaths as of August 2016.

Just when we think we have a handle on the situation, identifying and seizing these synthetic drugs from the streets, a new chemical compound hits the market. Our first responders and law enforcement have even changed the way they operate in overdose cases and drug busts, wearing safety masks with a respirator and gloves. They also carry Narcan with them at all times now, not only for the protection of an addict, but also to protect themselves and their partner from a potential overdose. Since these drugs can go airborne and can be transmitted into the bloodstream from touch alone, police and EMTs are a great risk too.

Prescription monitoring databases, more treatment options, and Narcan are clearly not enough in this fight. While they all most definitely play their part in the battle against the opioid epidemic, we need to do more. Understanding where these drugs are coming from, having better control of our borders, and cutting the supply off at the knees needs to be addressed too.

Contact Clearbrook Today

With the amount of synthetic drugs out there today, you can never be 100% certain what you are using. One mistake can be fatal!

If you or someone you know and love is struggling with alcoholism or drug addiction, we can help. For over 4 decades, Clearbrook Treatment Centers has been providing effective treatment to the chemically dependent person. By incorporating customized treatment programming and medical detoxification protocols, you or your loved one will receive the best care possible from our trusted staff. Please do not wait any longer. Contact our Admissions Specialists today and see what recovery has to offer.







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