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What is it?

Synthetics are drugs developed utilizing manufactured chemicals which are created by humans to imitate the effects of different controlled substances.

Side effects

Because synthetic drugs are developed with chemicals manufactured by humans, individual batches of a drug differ leaving little information on the chemical composition of a synthetic drug. Without the knowledge of the chemical composition it is unpredictable what the side effects of a drug will be. Most common side effects experienced by synthetic cannabinoids are elevated mood, altered perception, symptoms of psychosis, confusion, paranoia, and hallucination. Commonly experienced side effects to a person’s health are rapid heartbeat, vomiting, violent behavior and suicidal thoughts. Most side effects experienced by synthetic cathinones vary significant depending upon the chemical composition of the drug used, however, common side effects reported are lowered inhibition, anxiety, and depression. 


Recommendations for Research. Washington, DC, January 12, 2017. Available at


One of the most common synthetics are synthetic cannabinoids also commonly referred to as “Spice” or “K2” which are developed to imitate the effects of THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Another prevalent synthetic are cathinones, commonly known as “bath salts,” which are drugs chemically related to cathinone, a stimulant found in the khat plant.

  • Iowa Statewide Poison Control Center For poison emergency call 1-800-222-1222 (voice and TTY)

  • Synthetics Fact Sheet  Comprehensive information on K2, spice, bath salts, and salvia from the Iowa Governor's Office of Drug Control Policy (ODCP). 

  • Emerging Drugs Information on K2/spice, bath salts, flakka and many more - National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA)

  • Synthetic Cathinones Fact Sheet  Information on "bath salts," a human-made stimulants chemically related to cathinone - National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA)