Synthetic drugs

Bath salts, Synthetic Marijuana (Spice, K2) and new psychedelics drugs

• Bath Salts
• Synthetic Marijuana
An alarming trend among teens and young adults is the rising use of synthetic drugs. Poison control centers report an alarming increase of calls for exposure to “bath salts” and synthetic marijuana. Synthetic drugs are man made chemical formulations created in labs across the globe. These drugs are dangerous and can have life altering side effects.  A 2011 Monitoring the Future Study reported that 1 in 10 American high school seniors used synthetic drugs. Synthetics are more common than hallucinogens, LSD and Oxycontin and twice as likely to be used as over the counter cold medicines. The two most common synthetics are “bath salts” and synthetic marijuana.

Are “bath salts,” synthetic marijuana and new psychedelics legal?

In some cases–yes. And this poses a real danger to teens. Teens believe that if these products are legal, they must be safe to use. Many of these drugs fall into a grey area between legal and illegal. Bath salts and “fake pot” are often sold as incense or potpourri. The marketers of these drugs label them as “not for human consumption,” “not illegal” or “for adults only.” Often bath salts are sold as vitamins, energy boosters, plant feeder, insect repellant and even “stain remover.” Teens can buy these products at convenience stores, gas stations and very easily over the Internet.


Early in 2013 the Brookline police learned teens were purchasing “Scooby Snacks” a gummy synthetic marijuana candy from Brookline businesses. The Brookline Police and the Brookline Health Department sent a letters to store owners informing them of the Massachusetts laws that prohibit the sale of the synthetic marijuana and “bath salts”.  The letter informed merchants that “At this time the Brookline Police Department, along with the Brookline Department of Public Health and Human Services, is strongly urging all merchants to immediately cease stocking and selling these items.  The Police Department may seek criminal complaints for violations of M.G.L. Chapter 270 s 3 and related crimes for businesses found in violation after receiving this notice.

Brookline is reducing access to these products, but teens tell us these products are available across the town border in Allston/Brighton and other communities.  And …..many of these items can be ordered via the Internet.  

It is a constant challenge and game of catch up for law enforcement, emergency room doctors and substance abuse counselors to know exactly what people are consuming. As soon as law enforcement and legislators classify these drug formulations as illegal, the chemists alter the formula and continue to market and sell the drugs. In addition there are web sites and chat room communities where chemists and users meet to exchange ideas and share drug induced experiences.

What are these drugs so dangerous?

The poison control center and emergency room doctors report a wide range of symptoms for both bath salts and synthetic marijuana: quick onset of symptoms within 3 to 5 minutes and highs lasting up to 8 hours, severe paranoia, delusions, hallucinations, increased heart rate, seizures, loss of physical control of body, hypertension, chest pain, serious injury, serious injury, suicidal thoughts and death. 

Some long-term health problems resulting from “bath salt” and “fake marijuana” use include: kidney failure, liver failure, long term mental illness, self-mutilation, significant negative effects to the cardiovascular and central nervous symptoms and death.

ABC News Video on K2 (Synthetic Marijuana) and Bath Salts

What do they look like?

Visit the bath salt and synthetic marijuana pages to learn more and see what the substances look like.

What should parents do?

Parents need to tell their children that although this synthetic marijuana is “legal” it is NOT SAFE. Parents need to remain informed of these ever changing and new trends. Parents need to understand these substances are easily obtained. If you notice any of the symptoms or see any of the packaging in your child’s room–you must intervene. This video from the Partnership at offers more information and recommendations for parents. The video is approximately 15 minutes long.

From the Partnership at

Parents should be in touch with their legislators.  According to the White House ONDCP (Office of National Drug Control Policy), The Synthetic Drug Control Act (HR1254) was approved by the House on December 8, 2011. There are several pieces of legislation concerning synthetics drugs, including one that deals specifically with synthetic marijuana, pending in the Senate.