Using synthetic cocaine leads to unbearable addiction

  • Published
  • By Alcohol Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment
  • Tinker AFB
Think about it: Companies that try to sell you powders that change your brain are not interested in your well-being. They are drug dealers looking to make money off of you any way they can, and selling fake cocaine is the perfect way.

Why? The chemicals they use are so potently addictive that users have compared it to crack. These powders, better known as "Bath Salt," are sold under such names as Ivory Wave, Bliss, White Lightning and Hurricane Charlie. The chemicals can cause hallucinations, paranoia, rapid heart rates and suicidal thoughts, authorities say.

The users of this fake cocaine snort, smoke or inject the substance to get the sought-out high. The chemicals are in products sold legally at convenience stores and on the Internet as bath salts and even plant foods. However, they aren't necessarily being used for the purposes on the label. When a user is coming down from a bath salt high, all they can think of is getting another packet. The powders described as "fake cocaine" have appeared in the last year in stores that previously sold the now-illegal synthetic marijuana products known as K2 and Spice, law enforcement officials said.

Fake coke vendors bet on your addiction and bank on your self-destruction.

Immediate effects

Curious about the effects of coke or how it feels? If you try fake cocaine, here's what you'll encounter right away: Intense sweating, higher blood pressure, tightening blood-vessels, hyperawareness, an inability to stop paying attention, becoming easily startled, serious agitation and annoyance, anxiety and fear, loss of appetite, loss of ability to sleep, possible long and intense panic attacks. After those symptoms go away you'll be hyper-energetic and unable to sit still for about six to eight hours.

Coming down from the effects is even worse. There's an intense craving for more. A feeling of dirtiness that seems to come from inside. The comedown is characterized as similar to methamphetamine: depression, loss of energy, headache, anxiety, severely bloodshot eyes, stomach or kidney pain, irregular heartbeat. These side effects may continue for another four to eight hours.

Long-term effects

If you get hooked on fake cocaine, expect terrible results. Severe weight loss will leave your body ravaged and looking like a skeleton. Long-term lack of sleep can lead to psychosis, fear or a feeling of unreality that never goes away. Some users even report serious paranoia and audio hallucinations. Social isolation becomes a concern as well. The real problem is that no one really knows the long-term effects of chronic Methyl phenyl (MDPV) use because it has not been reliably studied. Stories by users, however, are horrific.

They mention feeling insane, unable to trust themselves, not sleeping for days, spending massive amounts of money and being unable to control their use of the drug until it becomes so unpleasant they have to force themselves to stop. This mimics the well-known long-term effects of other powerful stimulants such as diet pills, cocaine, methamphetamine and Benzedrine.

The binge

Just like the methamphetamine user, the MDPV user encounters a terrible cycle of use. It begins with experimentation. They get a little stimulated and curiosity causes them to take more. It feels exciting, interesting and gives them a lot of energy. Coming down makes them feel just the opposite, so they take more. It takes a bigger dose to maintain the high, and they want to get even higher, so doses continue to increase. This roller coaster continues -- higher highs, lower lows -- until the feelings become unbearable or the user can no longer maintain the use. This can take days, even weeks, during which the real world becomes a blur. The user is hurting their body, damaging their heart and often not sleeping at all. When it's over, if it's not from a heart attack or accident caused by a paranoid fantasy, the person can be down, drowsy, sleepy and feeling terrible for days.

Forget the fakes

If it feels strong, it is strong. Anyone who says that something producing drug-like effects is not a drug or is safe, is fooling themselves or trying to use you. Smarten up. If something has to be marketed as bath salts to be legally sold it's not something you want in your body or brain.

Nose poison

Synthetic cocaine is a growing problem throughout the western world. First identified in the U.K., retail cocaine substitutes are creating problems for people looking to get high while escaping detection. Sold as bath salts in psychedelic packets through online and real-world head shops, fake cocaine is a combination of chemicals that are, according to some researchers and more dangerous than the real thing.

Not legal

The active chemical in most of the American synthetic cocaine is MDPV, short for 1- (4-Methylphenyl) - 2- pyrrolidin- 1- yl-pentan-1-one. MDPV is illegal in a number of states. Even in states where it is legal, buying and selling a fake version of a real drug is against the law and carries the same penalties as buying and selling the real thing.

Not safe

As with many widely available substitute highs, MDPV is a research chemical. That means that scientists are still testing its effects. Because of the risks, these tests are usually performed on pigs or rats and other rodents. Test animals often die.

MDPV is a powerful stimulant, in slang an "upper." It makes everything in your body work faster than it is supposed to. It's like putting rocket fuel in a regular car, sending it racing hundreds of times faster than it should, stripping the gears, melting the tires, blowing off the paint and destroying the whole machine.

MDPV is just one of the ingredients in these so called bath salts and it is considered many times more powerful than cocaine. The negative symptoms of MDPV use can be brief or long-lasting but they are always severe.

Not true

Because they're labeled 'not for human consumption' and sold as bath salts, cocaine substitutes aren't required to list their ingredients. An independent study discovered that 18 different brands were using a host of illegal substances and research chemicals as their active ingredients -- some of which were known to cause heart attacks, severe paranoia and other dangerous effects. One brand in particular claimed to have switched its active chemicals from one that had become illegal to a different, still uncontrolled substance, but had actually not done so. They had only changed the packaging. Anyone tested for the illegal substance would have been facing jail time.

No tolerance

A recent "Spice" synthetic marijuana article in the Air Force Times denoted that Air Force leaders "want to send a clear message about the health and career gambles associated with the drug "Spice" as indicated by the service's zero tolerance policy regarding illegal substance use or possession. The same applies for "fake cocaine" or any other synthetic drug.

The military has banned "designer drugs" under Department of Defense directive 1010-3.4 and Air Force Instruction 44-120 Alcohol Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment. Air Force officials recently updated AFI 44-120 Alcohol Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment and issued an updated memorandum for AFI 44-121 Military Drug Demand Reduction Program revising both these instructions respectively. The revisions prohibit the ingestion of any substance, other than alcohol or tobacco, for the purpose of altering mood or function. The possession of any intoxicating substance, if done with the intent to use in a manner that would alter mood or function, is also prohibited.

The regulation also states that Airmen using spice could be found in violation of Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and face dishonorable discharge, confinement for two years, and total forfeiture of all pay and allowances. Enlisted members also face reduction to the lowest enlisted grade."