AKA/Sold As: Plant Food, Jewelry Cleaner, Phone Screen Cleaner
This synthetic cocaine knockoff came screaming full force into the public eye in 2012 after a man in Florida ate the face of another man while allegedly high on bath salts. The drugs in this large and varying group are made from synthetic chemicals related to cathinone, a stimulant found in the khat plant. Because the active ingredients in these drugs are illegal, manufacturers frequently find a substitute to keep them in stores legally.
Users of this drug experience a euphoric high, often accompanied by hallucinatory effects, paranoia, and agitation. This is, of course, not to mention the possibility of death or the psychotic and violent behavior that some users display.
AKA: Russian Magic, Cheornaya, Himiya
In 2013, krokodil made headlines due to the graphic depictions of its addicts and the fear that this drug, mainly used in Russia, might make its way to the U.S. However, this threat has not yet materialized.
Krokodil is a homemade desomorphine, or bootleg heroin, containing toxic ingredients such as gasoline and red phosphorous. Use of the drug causes an extreme high at an extreme cost. Users commonly develop gangrene and abscesses, resulting in tissue death near the areas of injection. The extremely addictive nature of the drug was made apparent through stories and depictions of addicts, already with rotten and gaping wounds, continuing to use the drug. This led to CNN referring to the substance as a “flesh-eating zombie drug.”
AKA: Molecule, Mollie, Mandy (UK), Pure MDMA
Since 2009, use and reference to the street drug molly have skyrocketed. This club drug is a pure, crystalline form of MDMA, or ecstasy, most commonly found in pill or powder form. The drug causes a euphoric high along with rapid heartbeat, high blood pressure, sweating, constriction of the blood vessels, and failure to properly regulate body temperature.
While pure MDMA is dangerous enough by itself, what makes this drug even riskier for users is how commonly the name is given to other drugs. For instance, of all the molly seized by New York law enforcement from 2009 to 2013, only 13% actually contained any MDMA. Even if MDMA was an ingredient, it was still commonly mixed with other drugs. Users often intend to purchase molly but actually find themselves possessing bath salts, methylone, MDPV, 4-MEC, 4-MMC, pentedrone, or MePP. The DEA has reported finding nearly 200 different compounds in samples of “molly” since 2009, and 80 more since 2012.
AKA/Other Forms: K2, Black Mamba, Moon Rocks
There are hundreds of different brands and forms of spice, but they are all basically synthetic marijuana that is ingested in the same ways. Since the mid-2000s, these herbal mixtures, marketed as “incense” and carrying the label “not for human consumption,” have been popping up in gas stations, smoke shops, and various internet outlets. Initially, they were all 100% legal since the synthetic psychoactive compounds weren’t an issue in the past. As these drugs gained popularity, however, the DEA designated the five active chemicals most commonly found in the drugs to be Schedule I controlled substances, which makes them illegal to sell, buy, or possess.
Manufacturers have easily evaded these restrictions by abandoning the chemicals that are made illegal and substituting similar alternatives that have yet to be outlawed. Until manufacturers run out of substitutes, they’ll likely manage to stay ahead of the law and keep their products in stores legally.
The changing and often unknown chemicals found in spice products make the drug’s true, long-term health effects difficult to nail down. In the short term, however, users have experienced rapid heart rate, confusion, hallucinations, extreme paranoia or panic attacks, and vomiting. In a few cases, the drug has even been associated with heart attacks.
AKA: Nyaope, Wunga
Whoonga is a smokeable street drug that came into widespread use in South Africa around 2010. It’s commonly said that this drug often contains HIV antiretroviral drugs, although no analysis of any seized samples has definitively proven this. It has, however, been shown by one study that 3 to 5% of those with HIV in areas where whoonga use is common have started to display pre-treatment resistance to antiretroviral drugs, possibly due to the excessive exposure that reportedly accompanies the use of whoonga.
The uncertainty of the drug’s makeup is what makes it so dangerous: Law enforcement officials have said that dealers will add just about anything to increase the mass of the drug. Different accounts of the drug indicate that it primarily includes marijuana mixed with any number of additives: heroin, methamphetamine, rat poison, any number of antiretroviral drugs, and detergents.
AKA: Drank, Purple Drank, Sizzurp, Barre, Texas Tea, Tsikuni
The term lean describes mixtures that include prescription strength cough syrup containing codeine and/or promethazine. They commonly include the syrup and some sort of sugary drink--usually Sprite or Mountain Dew. Similar mixtures (some made of Robitussin and beer) are said to have been popular in underground rap scenes, particularly those in Houston, since the 60s and 70s. The drug didn’t reach a national audience until Three 6 Mafia’s single “Sippin’ on Some Syrup,” released in June of 2000.
Ingesting such mixtures, which can contain up to 25 times the recommended dose, causes mild euphoric side effects, lethargy, drowsiness, and motor-skill impairment. The drug is commonly used in conjunction with other drugs, like alcohol and marijuana, and has caused many dose-related deaths by way of cardiac and respiratory arrest. DJ Screw, a Houston-based rapper that helped popularize the drug, died of a codeine-promethazine-alcohol overdose in November of 2000, less than a year after Three 6 Mafia’s hit song was released.
Acetyl fentanyl is a relatively new street drug (hence its lack of street names), though it’s been around for decades. Acetyl fentanyl is a synthetic opioid analgesic drug said to be five to fifteen times more potent than heroin and more than 80 times more potent than morphine. It’s never been licensed for medical use, but it still wasn’t often seen in the illicit market until recently. It wasn’t until 2013, after Canadian police uncovered a group distributing huge quantities of acetyl fentanyl, that it became a concern to law enforcement agencies.
After several deaths by overdose in Pennsylvania in 2013, the state asked coroners to begin screening for the drug during autopsies, which revealed more than 50 confirmed fatalities in the state. Since other states have not done the same, the nationwide number of deaths related to acetyl fentanyl are still unknown, yet the dangers are understood. Side effects of the drug commonly include nausea, itching, and respiratory depression that can be fatal.
2C-E and drugs like it (2C-I and 2C-T-7) are street drugs that can often be obtained legally online. They are psychedelic phenethylamines that cause effects similar to LSD use. The high of 2C-E is said to last between six and ten hours for average doses, and it can leave users with altered perceptions for up to a day after ingestion. The drug became widely known in 2011 after its use caused more than 10 teenagers to overdose, killing one of them.
If you haven’t heard of sisa, it’s probably because this drug is predominantly an issue in Greece. Since 2010, this colorless, crystalline drug became popular around Athens, especially in the homeless community. Its affordability has led to the drug being deemed the “cocaine of the poor,” though it’s more similar to crystal meth in makeup. Along with amphetamines, this deadly and highly addictive drug contains dangerous filler ingredients such as battery acid and engine oil.
The drug takes effect faster than cocaine and the highs last longer, though it’s said to cause extreme aggression and ulcers of the mouth, nose, or intestines in many of its users. Daily use can also lead to palpitations, anxiety, schizophrenia, rashes, infections, and death.
Butane Hash Oil
AKA: Wax, Dabs, Amber, BHO
Butane hash oil isn't really a new drug; it's just a fairly new way to use an old one. Butane hash oil is highly concentrated THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. It’s typically formed by passing liquid butane through a metal tube filled with cannabis. Evaporating the butane leaves behind only the waxy resin. This is something smokers have been doing for quite some time, but the trend’s popularity has exploded in the past five years.
To smoke the wax takes a specialized “dabbing pipe,” which is essentially a bong with a titanium bowl. The titanium piece is heated with a blowtorch and the dabs of wax are placed on a nail or similar instrument. Once the bowl is red-hot, the wax is pressed against it, creating a large plume of smoke that is inhaled. Because of its potency, there have been several reports of users briefly losing consciousness after "dabbing."