Designer Stimulants Drug Information


Synthetic stimulants have been around since the early 20th century. They include amphetamines, ephedrines and their multiple analogs. Over the years they became increasingly abused. Due to the mass addiction and severe health side effects, their production, distribution and use were made illegal. The ban on the traditional synthetic stimulants resulted in a strong demand for new “legal” synthetic chemicals., They were steadily arriving and gaining popularity during the last three decades. They are known as "designer stimulants" and have had a significant impact on the drug culture.

New "designer stimulants" produce strong effects on human mind and body, similar to the traditional illegal drugs. Development of new synthetic drugs may involve altering the molecular structure of existing drugs, or creation of different chemical structures that generate the same effects that illegal drugs produce.

A group of synthetic compounds consisting of β-keto- derivatives of amphetamines (synthetic cathinones) and derivatives of piperazine have been developed as recreational ("party") drugs with psychoactive properties. They gained popularity as legal alternative to amphetamines and cocaine and have been abused worldwide, prompting investigation into their safety. These drugs were proven to possess central stimulation effects similar to those of other illicit drugs.

Due to their high potential for abuse and addiction, most designer stimulants were made illegal as soon as their spread and danger to the human health had been recognized. Scheduling of the “known” designer drugs led to their disappearance and creation new variants, which undergo the same cycle of introduction, abuse and eventual ban. New forms of designer stimulants are still available via the Internet and in "headshops" around the country.


Designer stimulants are excreted in urine unchanged and as conjugated hydroxy-metabolites. Cathinone is known to metabolize extensively by reduction of β-keto group into free norephedrine and nor-ψ-ephedrine. Similar metabolic path is expected for other synthetic cathinones.


Synthetic designer stimulants are produced in clandestine laboratories and are commonly sold at smoke shops or available online. They are sold under a variety of names that include Bath Salt, Ivory Wave, Cloud Nine, Bliss, Red Dove, Vanilla Sky and Hurricane Charlie. Many new names have been introduced.

These "bath salts" are in reality potent crystallized chemicals that may be snorted, swallowed or smoked. They contain powerful stimulants, which mimic the stimulating effects of cocaine, methamphetamine or MDMA. Additionally, some forms of designer stimulants may be sold and veiled as MDMA (ecstasy) tablets.

Effects sought by users include feelings of physical and mental wellbeing, exhilaration, euphoria, increased alertness, elevated motor activity, and postponement of hunger or fatigue. Young adults in the United States and other countries have reportedly died from using these products. While synthetic stimulants appear to affect users in ways similar to amphetamines and cocaine, reports concerning aggression, tachycardia, paranoia and suicide suggest that they may be more acutely toxic. There are no known medical uses for synthetic stimulants, and long-term effects are unknown, although experts have stated that cardiovascular effects can last for days after ingestion.

Several agencies have issued alerts about synthetic stimulants, noting ease-of-access concerns and the number of nationwide emergency-room visits related to these drugs.

Methods of Analysis

RTL's test utilizes gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) or liquid chromatography/tandem mass spectrometry (LC/MS/MS) for screening and confirmation of designer amphetamines, cathinones and designer piperazines. All presumptive positive specimens are confirmed using a second aliquot prior to reporting positive results. The analytical methods used by RTL are scientifically accepted.

Two test panel variations are available: an expanded designer stimulant panel covering 21 drugs or the limited panel covering MDPV, Methylone and Mephedrone.

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Drug information data is not definitive and should be used for reference guidelines only.

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