An illegal drug is one of the worst problems that every country is faced with. Aside from death or health problems that it causes with the users, it is also associated with violence and other crimes. With the help of the laws, the government of different countries is trying their best to control and limit the illegal drug trade. But with the continuous development of technology, we can further see the disadvantages it brings.

Designer drugs are also known with other terms, such as research chemicals, research drugs, and synthetic drugs. In order to evade the existing drug laws, individual chemists and drug manufacturers are designing chemicals that are comparable with the existing illegal drugs. These are made differently but give the same effects.

Designer Drugs from the 1990s to 2000s

With the continuous development of internet from the 1990s up to the early 2000s, designer drugs became readily available in this decade. The threat became grave due to the increase of sales and tons of synthetic drugs were produced.

The chemical compositions of the designer drugs were commonly altered to evade the ban by the government. However, the uncertainty of their contents makes it more dangerous. In an effort to control designer drugs, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) of the USA completed the Operation Web Tryp back in 2004. The goal of the operation was to identify and investigate further the online sale of designer drugs that are marketed as ‘research chemicals’. A total of 10 people were arrested under this operation.

Based on reports, there are a total of 5 different sites related to the online sale of research chemicals. In addition, there are two cases of death of customers and 14 non-fatal overdoses all pointing to purchase and use of research chemicals.

In this decade, there are tons of categories for designer drugs including dissociatives, hallucinogens, opioids, and stimulants. Some of the popular designer drugs were:

• Anabolic steroids – the synthetic variation of testosterone
• Cocaine – a stimulant
• Ecstasy – categorized as hallucinogen and stimulant
• Heroin – an opioid
• Methamphetamine – under the stimulant category
• Phenethylamine – a psychoactive chemical
• Tryptamine – another psychoactive chemical

Several types of the designer drugs during this time are not essentially synthetic. However, the serious problem of abuse and addiction arose due to the variations.

Designer Drugs from 2010 to the Present

The global presence of the internet and instant communications all around the world helped the expansion of designer drugs. Back then, we only have hallucinogens, steroids, and opioids. Note that these synthetic drugs are still not approved for human consumption or medical use because the long-term effects are still unidentified and might be severe to health.

In 2009, it was found that there are 95 different synthetic cannabinoids which are labeled and sold by vendors as legal alternatives to marijuana. In a 2012 operation known as Project Synergy, this was launched across 35 states in the US and other countries; it targeted drug trafficking organizations of synthetic chemicals. There are several cannabinoid drugs, cathinone (hallucinogens/stimulants) drugs, and treated plant materials that were uncovered.

Since the early 2000s until now, the two main groups of designer drugs are from synthetic cannabinoids and synthetic cathinones. Back in 2009, there are only 2 synthetic cannabinoids identified but it increased up to 51 new types in 2012. The alarming increase of the new designer drugs made way to create the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act (SDAPA) in order to control these drugs. Under the Controlled Substances Act by the 2012 SDAPA law, some of the synthetic cannabinoids are now classified as Schedule I substances.

In the most recent years, here are some of the commonly known designer drugs:

• 2C family – synthetic hallucinogens
• Bath salts – each of it are made of different substances but commonly contain one or more synthetic cathinones.
• Ecstasy – also known as “Molly” and under the synthetic psychoactive drug comparable to amphetamines and mescaline
• Krokodil – a cheaper version of heroin, which comes from synthetic morphine derivative
• Mephedrone – generally found in bath salts
• Methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV) – one of the chemicals found in bath salts together with another chemical
• Methylone – also found in bath salts
• “Spice” – a synthetic version of marijuana