Designer Stimulants Drug Information


Recreational drugs produced in the laboratory have been around since at least the middle of the 20th century, when LSD was first studied. But over the past few years, a new wave of synthesized chemicals, so-called "designer drugs" and "designer stimulants" have had a significant impact on the drug culture.

The term "designer stimulants" is used for chemicals that produce similar subjective effects to illegal recreational drugs. Development of synthesized drugs may involve altering the molecular structure of existing drugs, or identifying different chemical structures that generate the same effects that illegal drugs produce.

A group of synthetic compounds consisting of β-keto- and methylendioxy-derivatives of amphetamines and derivatives of piperazine have been recently 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 have been recently banned in many European countries, Australia and New Zealand. A federal ban enacted in July 2012 targets MDPV and Mephedrone, two designer drug compounds found in so-called bath salts. This important measure will prove critical in deterring abuse from these dangerous designer drugs. Nevertheless, they are still readily available via the Internet and in many "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 stimulants possessingβ-keto structure.


Synthetic designer stimulants are produced in clandestine laboratories and are commonly sold as "bath salts" at smoke shops or available online. They are sold under a variety of names that include Ivory Wave, Cloud Nine, Bliss, Red Dove, Vanilla Sky and Hurricane Charlie.

These "bath salts" are in reality potent crystallized chemicals that may be snorted, swallowed or smoked. They contain powerful stimulants such as methylone, ethylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV) and mephedrone, 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.

In 2011 the U.S. poison control centers had received over 12,000 calls regarding toxic "bath salts" jumping from the 2010s total of 3,200. Last year they received 302 calls in the entire year, showing that the true extent of the public health threat these products pose has yet to be revealed.

In 2010, poison centers nationwide responded to approximately 304 calls related to bath salts. In 2011, that number jumped to more than 6,000 calls. As of September 2012, the number of calls is over 2,300 showing that the true extent of the public health threat is still prevalent.

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.

To learn more about RTL's laboratory drug tests call:


RTL also offers on-site test devices. Click here to view the complete line of Reditest® screening devices.

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

Contact Us

Laboratory: 800-255-2159

Products: 877-444-0049