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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

No Family Is Safe From This Epidemic

November 2017 – The last photograph of my son Jonathan was taken at the end of a new-student barbecue on the campus green at the University of Denver. It was one of those bittersweet transitional moments. We were feeling the combination of apprehension and optimism that every parent feels when dropping off a kid at college for the first time, which amplified by the fact that we were coming off a rocky 16 months with our son. [Full Story]

At least 60 overdosed on synthetic marijuana last week in Minneapolis

October 2017 – It’s the biggest toll since 2015, said one official, and left users with hallucinations, violent behavior, or nearly comatose. Overdoses on synthetic cannabis sent people to the hospital in Minneapolis at least 60 times last week, causing hallucinations and violent behavior in some users, while leaving others nearly “comatose,” health officials said. [Full Story]

Nation takes note of Little Falls anti-opioid abuse effort

October 2017 –  A Little Falls hospital’s program to curb opioid addiction drew the attention of Washington for its effectiveness in stopping opioids from hitting the streets, and users from hitting up the drugs. Doctors from CHI St. Gabriel’s Health went to Capitol Hill Sept. 27 to brief congressional staffers from the House and the Senate on their program. [Full Story]

FDA to step up targeting of fentanyl, other synthetic opioids at postal facilities

Aug 2017 – The Food and Drug Administration is strengthening efforts to detect opioids illegally entering the country through the mail, reflecting heightened concerns about the flood of synthetic fentanyl and similar drugs being shipped from China and elsewhere. “Given the scope of the opioid crisis, and the risk posed by these synthetic drugs, it’s my belief that we need to devote even more resources and attention to these risks,” said Gottlieb, who has made the opioid crisis a top priority in his brief tenure as FDA head. [Full Story]

Fentanyl deaths: Warning as drug kills 'at least 60'

August 2017 – At least 60 people have died in the UK in the last eight months after taking the strong painkiller fentanyl. Tests on heroin seized by police since November found traces of the synthetic drug, with more than 70 further deaths pending toxicology reports, the National Crime Agency (NCA) said. Some contained carfentanyl, which is 10,000 times stronger than morphine and often used to tranquillize elephants. [Full Story]

Officials: Boy, 10, among youngest victims of opioid crisis

July 2017 – Prosecutors in Florida believe a 10-year-old boy who died with the painkiller fentanyl in his system is among the state’s youngest victims of the opioid crisis. Preliminary toxicology tests show Alton Banks had fentanyl in his system when he collapsed and died at his home on June 23, The Miami Herald reported . Health officials say fentanyl and other synthetic forms of the drug are so powerful that just a speck breathed in or absorbed through the skin can be fatal. [Full Story]

Doctors increasingly face charges for patient overdoses

July 2017 – Doctors are increasingly being held accountable — some even facing murder charges — when their patients overdose on opioid painkillers they prescribed. The number of doctors penalized by the US Drug Enforcement Administration has grown more than fivefold in recent years. [Full Story]

Drugmakers and distributors face barrage of lawsuits over opioid epidemic

July 2017 – The companies that manufacture and distribute highly addictive painkillers are facing a barrage of lawsuits for the toll their product has taken on communities across the country as the worst drug epidemic in U.S. history continues to escalate. Within the past year, at least 25 states, cities and counties have filed civil cases against manufacturers, distributors and large drugstore chains that make up the $13 billion-a-year opioid industry. [Full Story]

Opioid addiction rates continue to skyrocket

July 2017 – An analysis from Blue Cross Blue Shield of its members found that from 2010 to 2016, the number of people diagnosed with an addiction to opioids — including both legal prescription drugs like oxycodone and hydrocodone, as well as illicit drugs — climbed 493%. [Full Story]

Drug Deaths in America Are Rising Faster Than Ever

June 2017 – Drug overdose deaths in 2016 most likely exceeded 59,000, the largest annual jump ever recorded in the United States, according to preliminary data compiled by The New York Times. The death count is the latest consequence of an escalating public health crisis: opioid addiction, now made more deadly by an influx of illicitly manufactured fentanyl and similar drugs. Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death among Americans under 50. [Full Story]

Synthetic marijuana blamed for spike in St. Paul emergency calls

May 2017 – Dozens of people in St. Paul have been sickened in recent weeks after smoking or ingesting what may be synthetic marijuana. The bad reactions have left some people in what authorities describe as a “zombie-like” state. The incidents have been reported mostly by providers of services for homeless people living in downtown. Drug abuse experts say they have little idea where the tainted marijuana is coming from. [Full Story]

Chicago-Area Medical Examiner: New Opioid Killing Dozens

May 2017 – The Cook County medical examiner’s office says a powerful new type of opioid is to blame for more than 40 deaths in the Chicago-area this year.

The medical examiner’s office says that 44 deaths were attributed to acrylfentanyl from January through April. That number was just seven for all of last year. Acrylfentanyl is a chemical cousin of fentanyl, which is a powerful synthetic opioid.

The office is warning the general public and emergency responders about this drug because officials say it could take more than one dose of naloxone, the heroin antidote, to revive a person who takes it. [Full Story]

Get opioid overdose antidote in your medicine cabinet now, health officials say

April 2017 – State health commissioner Ed Ehlinger has an urgent message for Minnesotans: get the anti-overdose drug Narcan and learn how to use it.

Opioid overdoses kill more people in Minnesota than traffic deaths, according to Ehlinger, and he said now is the time to take precautions. State health officials are urging people to consider stocking up on the medication that reverses an opioid overdose just in case. [Full Story]

'White China' Fentanyl-Smuggling Ring Busted in Brooklyn, DA Says

Mar. 2017 – DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — More than 30 people were busted for smuggling a new potent form of heroin, dubbed “White China,” from Asia into New York for the last 10 months, officials said Wednesday. “Our communities are flooded with heroin, fentanyl and similar synthetic drugs. And these drugs are often even more potent and more dangerous,” acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said at a press conference Wednesday. “As you all know, the use of heroin and other opioids is reaching crisis levels in New York City. The New York City police department estimates that overdoses have killed 1,350 people in the city last year.” [Full Story]

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]

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