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Drugs & Health Blog

Real Teens Ask: What Are Designer Drugs?

Sara Bellum

Questions about drugs? Lots of teens are asking. That’s why each year, NIDA scientists spend a day chatting online with high school students and answering their questions.

At the last Drug Facts Chat Day, “Boxy” from St. Henry District High School in Kentucky asked:

What are designer drugs?

The term “designer drugs” refers to drugs that are created in a laboratory (typically, an “underground,” or secret, illegal lab). A designer drug is created by changing the properties of a drug that comes from a plant—such as cocaine, morphine, or marijuana—using the tools of chemistry. The resulting “designer” drugs typically have a new, different effect on the brain or behavior.

Examples of Designer Drugs

MDMA (Ecstasy), ketamine, GHB, Rohypnol, LSD (acid), and methamphetamine are some examples of designer drugs. These drugs may also be referred to as “club drugs” because of their use in night clubs.

Since many designer drugs are created in illegal labs, their ingredients and potency (how strong they are) vary a lot, making it nearly impossible to know what is actually in them or what they can do to you. For example, Ecstasy tablets are often contaminated with other things, like ephedrine (used to treat allergies and asthma), ketamine (an injected anesthetic given for minor surgeries), and methamphetamine (another illicit drug).

It is not surprising that these unknown mixtures can cause dangerous side effects, such as seizures, memory loss, coma and even death.

Find out more about club drugs.


You make some very good points. An important one is that designer drugs are frequently much more dangerous than other drugs. This is primarily because there is no way of knowing how the designer drug was made, and new versions are constantly popping up, making medical emergencies especially hard to treat. As far as the definition goes, agreed. NIDA will revisit that definition for inconsistencies. Thank you for your well thought out comments.

this person doesnt know what they are talking about meth and lsd and ecstasy are not designer drugs, designer drugs are drugs made to avoid current drug laws, and so the drugs listed here are all illegal, for example Spice, which is a synthetic cannabinoid is a designer drug because there is no law towards it and you can easily buy it nowadays

how are designer drugs used is my question! that's why i came on this website. im not trying to be mean. i'm just saying. i have a project coming up about designer drugs and i wana get a head start.

Drugs are bad mmmmkay

I have tried myself 2 dozens of illegal drugs, I am 39 I have noticed the most dangerous: cigarettes, alcohol and acetophenon/Tylenol
DON'T DO DRUGS. what person would even try drugs? they are risking their lives. drugs are horrible.
wht evs


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