Designer drugs are manufactured to mimic the effects of illegal drugs, while being chemically different enough to avoid being classified as illicit.

Many people abuse synthetic drugs. These “designer drugs” are sold legally and are marked as home goods like glass cleaner. While many of these drugs seem to be safer options than street drugs, they are often more dangerous and addictive.

What are Designer Drugs?

The term can describe any drug made by copying or changing parts of an existing drug.

In most cases, these drugs are created for two uses. The first is for the side effects they have on the brain. The second is to avoid laws that ban illicit drugs by changing its type without changing its effect. These drugs are often sold as cheap options for similar drugs.

Many designer drugs are made in illegal labs. These drugs are made without medical experts, so they may be dangerous to use. People who take these drugs never know what is in them.

Effects of Designer Drugs

There are many designer drugs. Because there are so many types, their effects can vary. The effects are similar to the drug they are copying. For example, K2, which is like marijuana, has effects like marijuana.

These illegal drugs can have surprising effects because they are fake. For example, ecstasy is often mixed with meth. Based on the combination, the effects of the drug can vary widely. No one knows what will happen. This risk is a large part of what makes these drugs so bad.

Designer Drug Addiction

Designer drugs can be as harmful and addictive as illegal drugs. Like any other addiction, designer drug addiction is a medical issue that needs proper treatment.

People with any of the following may need to seek help:

  • Major changes in behavior, hygiene or appearance
  • A decline in work or school interest
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or relationships
  • Unexplained weight gain or loss
  • Poor sleep schedule
  • Paranoia

With the right treatment, recovery is possible. Drug rehab can help people get past withdrawal safely, discover the roots of the addiction, treat mental health conditions and learn coping skills to aid lifelong sobriety.

Types of Designer Drugs

The term is used to label illegal man-made drugs like LSD, GHB and meth.The term also includes substances made to copy the effects of illicit drugs, like spice and bath salts. Since mixes are made to get past new laws, the types of these drugs continue to grow.


Spice and K2 are two common designer drugs. These drugs usually come as dried plants coated in chemicals. While illegal in some states, these substances can be bought online or in hobby shops. These drugs affect people like marijuana does.

These drugs are sold as safe, legal substitutes for marijuana. However, in many cases, it is stronger than marijuana. Many people who use K2 need medical attention for:

  • A fast heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Vomiting
  • Violent behavior
  • Seizures
  • Suicidal thoughts


Also referred to as MDMA or Molly, ecstasy is a man-made drug that can significantly alter mood and perception. MDMA causes high levels of energy, pleasure and emotions. MDMA also distorts a person’s sense of time.

MDMA is not sold legally in the United States. Often, ecstasy is mixed with other substances, like meth. This mix is dangerous because its effects can vary. Using this drug with other drugs can boost the risk of an overdose.

Bath Salts

Bath salts are drugs that resemble real bath salts. False labels allow drug makers to sell them online and in hobby shops. Bath salts are often used as knock-offs for drugs like meth. They can be used in many different ways to get the desired effect.

Most bath salts are similar to the cathinone found in the khat plant. They are often called synthetic cathinones. However, unlike natural cathinones, the chemicals in bath salts are far more dangerous to people.

Bath salts can cause:

  • Paranoia
  • Panic attacks
  • Hallucinations
  • Extreme agitation
  • Dangerous behavior

New Designer Drugs

The widespread availability of designer drugs in stores and online has made the designer drug industry profitable. Many companies regularly adjust chemical formulas and branding to avoid detection by law enforcement. New designer drugs are created on a regular basis. This makes it challenging to create a concrete, unchanging list of designer drugs.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.