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What are synthetic drugs?

Synthetic drugs are illegal substances people take to alter their consciousness. They can be bought on the internet, on the street or even over the counter in some stores. Some claim to be a safe and legal alternative to illicit drugs but in reality, they can have serious or even fatal side effects. 

Synthetic drugs are made to mimic the effects of illicit substances like cannabis, amphetamines, MDMA (ecstasy), and Acid/LSD. These substances do not undergo any quality control checks, and ingredients are regularly changed to try to get around drug laws. 

In Victoria, there are now specific laws targeting synthetic drugs. Under these laws, anyone found producing, selling, or promoting synthetic drugs faces up to 2 years in prison and/or a fine of over $38,000… ouch! 

Are synthetic drugs bad for your health? 

Short answer: yes. There’s not really any research available into the long term effects these drugs can have on your mental and physical health. Synthetic drugs are not safe. 

What do synthetic drugs look like?

Synthetic drugs can come as pills, a powder, a liquid or even an organic material (like a plant or a herb). They usually come in bright packaging featuring party scenes and have names like ‘spice’, ‘kronic’, ‘northern lights’, ‘lighting gold’, ‘mojo’, ‘blue lotus’ and ‘godfather’.

You can read more about synthetic drugs over at Better Health Channel.

Two packets of synthetic drugs. One is a green face with the text "Spice 99" and the other is red with the text "K2".
What kinds of effects do synthetic drugs have?

Synthetic drugs mimic illicit drugs. The effects will vary depending on which drug you take. 

Common effects include:
  • feeling euphoric
  • feeling relaxed
  • lowering your inhibitions (doing things you wouldn’t normally do)
  • feeling dizzy
  • racing thoughts
  • agitation or confusion
  • paranoia
  • a fast and irregular heartbeat
  • a dry mouth
  • disconnection from your thoughts and feelings memories or sense of identity (this is called a dissociative state)
  • delayed reactions
Serious side effects include:

There are also some really serious effects that synthetic drugs can have on you. These effects can make you really sick and some people have even died from taking these substances.

  • a rapid heart rate
  • rapid breathing
  • difficulty breathing
  • chest pain
  • heart palpitations
  • hallucinations
  • seizures
  • psychosis
  • blurred vision
  • violent outbursts
  • paralysis
  • stroke
  • liver damage

If you are with someone who has taken synthetic drugs and they start to show any of these symptoms, call an ambulance on 000. 

Paramedics will not get the police involved. You will not get into trouble. They only care about saving your friend’s life.

Where to get help
  • If you experience bad side effects after using synthetic drugs, see your doctor. 
  • You can also call Kids Helpline or the DrugInfo Line
  • If you are experiencing mental health issues after taking synthetic drugs, chat online with a youth mental health professional at eheadspace.
  • If someone has a bad reaction to synthetic drugs and is unwell, call an ambulance on 000

Need someone to talk to? Free, confidential support is available.

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