Symptoms and Treatment

Physical signs and symptoms of synthetic drugs mimic symptoms of stimulants such as cocaine, meth, LSD, ecstasy (also known as MDMA or “Molly”), and other designer drugs like “bath salts,” including increased body temperature, sweating, agitation, irritability, and other unpredictable, often violent behaviors.

Individuals using synthetic drugs may appear paranoid, delusional, or psychotic, and may have thoughts or feelings of violence toward themselves or others. Synthetic drugs like Flakka can lead to serious and harmful health problems, including elevated blood pressure, chest pains, and seizures.

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Treatment for any substance-use disorder should consider the use of clinical best practices as they relate to a client’s biological, psychological, social and cultural histories. While some individuals may be able to achieve abstinence without formal treatment, many may require outpatient or inpatient services to provide structure and supervision during which he/she can learn to understand the disease of addiction, engage in individual and family therapy, develop and practice coping and refusal skills, and create a plan for relapse prevention.

Often times, individuals with substance use disorders have co-occurring mental health and medical diagnoses, so while some of the methods of treatment may be the same, each client should work with his/her clinical team to develop an individualized treatment plan.

Mark Calarco, DO, is the national medical director of American Addiction Centers, a leading provider of inpatient substance abuse treatment services. He is a pioneer in treating hormone imbalances in recovering individuals and is board-certified in family medicine and osteopathic medicine.


  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse. DrugFacts. K2/Spice (“Synthetic Marijuana”). Page last updated Decmeber 2012.