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Synthetic Cannabinoids

Cannabinoid chemicals are sprayed onto plant material and smoked to appear like marijuana.
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Synthetic Cathinones

Often known as “bath salts,” cathinones contain amphetamine-like stimulants that can be ingested orally, injected or snorted.
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What is Vapor?


Liquid forms of synthetic cannabinoids are ingested using a vapor pen or electronic cigarette that produces little to no odor.
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Synthetic drug facts

Synthetic drug facts

Synthetic drugs include any substance that aims to mimic the effects of illegal chemicals and may contain stimulant, depressant, or hallucinogenic properties.
What to look for

What to look for

Synthetic drug packaging can range from plastic tubes or bottles to brightly colored foil packets.
What to say

What to say

If you have concern that someone you know may be using synthetic drugs, it is important address the issue directly, with the individual’s best interest in mind.
Frequently Asked Questions


Get the answers to your synthetic drug related questions.

Synthetic Cannabinoid (yellow) and Cathinone (black) Exposure Calls

Hennepin Regional Poison Control Center, January 2010 – June 2014


Past-Year Use of Illicit Drugs by High School Seniors (percent)

  • Marijuana/Hashish 35.1%
  • Adderall 6.8%
  • Synthetic Cannabinoids 5.8%
  • Hallucinogens 4.0%
  • Salvia 1.8%
  • MDMA (Ecstasy) 3.6%
  • Inhalants 1.9%
Source: 2014 National Institute on Drug Abuse

In The News

Synthetic drugs are making headway in Afghanistan, UN agency reports

Feb. 2017 – After spending eight-months gathering information on drugs known locally as ‘glass,’ ‘tears of love or ‘sheesha,’ the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) concluded that “there are strong indications that methamphetamine use is establishing itself among opiate users, which are already one of the most vulnerable parts of Afghan society.” [Full Story]

Learning to say no: Hospitals train emergency doctors to resist prescribing opioids

Jan. 2017 – A patient admitted to the trauma unit of the University of Kentucky Albert B. Chandler Hospital was prescribed opioid painkillers for injuries he sustained in a nasty car crash. Within days, the patient returned for more pills, the first of many trips to multiple doctors.“This guy was not a substance abuser before,” Chang said. “Because of the pain medicine, he became one. We asked ourselves: Were we responsible for it?” [Full Story]

A Drug 85 Times More Potent Than THC Caused 'Zombie Outbreak' In New York City

Jan. 2017 – Synthetic cannabinoids are used by researchers to study the nervous system, but they are now produced illegally and sold on the street. Though smoked like cannabis, synthetic cannabinoids share little in common with it or its active ingredient, THC. Indeed, the synthetic drugs are much more dangerous because some have killed people. [Full Story]

DEA chief to visit China for talks on synthetic drugs

Jan. 2017 – The nation’s top drug officer is visiting China for the first time in more than a decade to discuss banning more of the synthetic drugs being manufactured by chemists there and illegally sold in the United States. Carreno said the purpose of the visit is to push for more substances to be banned, especially synthetic fentanyl, an incredibly deadly drug that can poison and kill in very small doses. [Full Story]

Synthetic Drug 85 Times More Potent Than Marijuana Caused 'Zombie' Outbreak In New York

Dec. 2016 A designer drug known to be 85 times more potent than marijuana has been identified as the cause for the mysterious, “zombielike” mental state that afflicted several New Yorkers this past summer. While the exact cause of the overdose was not immediately known to investigators, researchers say that they have finally pinpointed the culprit drug after testing the blood and urine samples of the victims. [Full Story]

Opioid Crisis Worsened by Illicitly Manufactured Fentanyl

Dec. 2016 – America’s already serious opioid crisis is being complicated by a new—and deadly—drug. Fentanyl is a powerful pain medication long prescribed for patients with advanced cancer. But now an illicit version of the drug, one that is illegally manufactured, is flooding some communities across the United States, with overdoses and deaths steadily climbing in its wake. In fact, the Drug Enforcement Administration reported more than 700 deaths from 2013 to 2014 related to illicitly manufactured fentanyl (IMF). [Ful Story]

DEA Bans a Cousin of Deadly Synthetic Opioid Fentanyl

Nov. 2016 The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration on Tuesday added furanyl fentanyl, a deadly cousin of the synthetic opioid fentanyl, to its most restrictive list of controlled substances. The ban comes as the DEA tries to thwart the fast-evolving market for synthetic opioids, including several fentanyl analogues and relics from old pharmaceutical research like the chemical U-47700. Production and use of illicit synthetic opioids are on the rise. [Full Story]

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