Emerging Drug Trends in the U.S.

drug trends

Prescription Opioids

It is estimated that over 30 million people in the U.S. are currently using prescription opioid medications originally intended to be taken for a short period of time. Drugs designated as hypnotic analgesics meant to minimize pain are the most abused and addictive types of prescription opioid medications. Central nervous system depressants and painkillers like Valium, Xanax, Ativan, Vicodin, Oxycontin, and Klonopin are commonly abused prescription drugs.

Current Drug Trends - OpioidsAttempting to overcome an addiction to pain or antianxiety drugs by going “cold turkey” can be potentially life-threatening. Because even short-term exposure to anxiety or pain-relieving prescriptions produces neuronal pathway adaptations that are counterintuitive to the medication’s effects, the risk of dependency and developing a tolerance for the drug is extremely high. Stopping the drug or just reducing the dosage can induce “rebound” symptoms in people addicted to prescription opioids. Rebound symptoms include worsening of pain, severe anxiety, panic attacks or insomnia. Withdrawal symptoms also include seizures, psychotic episodes, palpitations and rapid weight loss from nausea or “dry” vomiting.

For people addicted to prescription opioids, a medically supervised detoxification program provides medications for reducing withdrawal symptoms under the supervision of trained professionals. For example, buprenorphine reduces the strong craving for opiates during withdrawal and does not produce side effects seen with other medications used in an opiate detoxification program. In addition, all detoxification programs are accompanied by individual counseling structured to meet the psychological and physical needs of the patient.


Krokodil use spread rapidly in Russia about ten years ago and has now made its way into the U.S.
drug culture. Containing codeine, gasoline, paint thinner, iodine and hydrochloric acid, krokodil produces a sense of euphoria and relaxation similar to heroin. Krokodil is cooked over an open flame but not purified before users inject the chemical into their veins.

A Krokodil high lasts about two hours and affects brain neurochemistry the same way traditional opioids do– by releasing huge amounts of dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine into the brain. Addiction occurs when the brain starts to constantly crave the intense high caused by flooding the brain with mood-enhancing neurotransmitters.

Krokodil addicts who regularly inject the drug can expect to live about two years following the onset of their addiction. In addition, the physical effects of krokodil are worse than the psychological effects. Addicts in a hurry to relieve the painful craving for krokodil may inject the drug into their flesh instead of a vein. Infection inevitably sets in at the injection site that develops into serious abscesses. Failing to get adequate treatment for an abscess contaminated by krokodil ingredients
will cause gangrene, necrosis and possibly death for the addict.

Antipsychotic Medications

Antipsychotic medications are prescribed to treat serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or schizo-affective disorders (a type of mood disorder that exhibits some symptoms of schizophrenia). Individuals with mental illnesses that cause them to hallucinate, hold delusional thoughts and remain, for the most part, unable to access reality require antipsychotic medications in order to reduce symptoms and hopefully allow them to function better in society.

Although antipsychotic medications are not by themselves addictive, they can cause withdrawal symptoms in recovering addicts who abuse them just for the sake of abusing a drug. A condition called “supersensitivity psychosis” is known to affect people who are abusing antipsychotic medications and stop taking them. In addition to suffering involuntary muscle spasms, addicts experiencing supersensitivity psychosis will hallucinate visually and auditorily similar to the side effects of an LSD “trip”.


A plant growing naturally in southeast Asia, kratom stimulates opioid receptors the same way morphine affects them. Although kratom is readily available online as a non-addictive alternative to prescription pain pills, research regarding kratom’s so-called medicinal properties has discovered kratom users can become addicted to kratom with regular use. Kratom is legal in the U.S. and can be purchased online through kratom wholesalers who get their kratom from overseas dealers. Kratom abusers drink kratom tea, take capsules containing predetermined amounts of kratom or use kratom powder to give them the hypnotic analgesic effects offered by both illegal and legal opioid drugs.


In 2012, news reports of a crazed man attempting to chew off the face of another man in Miami, FL made headlines across the U.S. Blood tests later revealed the man may have been under the influence of bath salts, a type of designer drug containing synthetic chemicals called cathinones.

Flakka is designer drug made from cathinones derived from the khat plant. Flakka is highly addictive, comes in white, powdery rocks that are easily broken apart and can be snorted, swallowed or injected. Flakka rocks are also being “vaped” or used in e-cigarettes and hookahs by people on the street to avoid the suspicions of law enforcement.

Drug Trends in US , FlakkaThe chemical drug alpha-PVP needed to make Flakka was declared an illegal, controlled substance in the U.S. in 2014 but continues to be manufactured in China and other overseas countries where it is not regulated. In addition, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency thinks that large quantities of alpha-PVP may have already made it to the U.S. by the time it was made illegal, which may explain the sudden rise in Flakka use over the past year.

Flakka produces the following physical and physiological symptoms:

  • Extreme anxiety and panic
  • Combative behavior/aggression
  • Confusion/disorientation
  • Blackouts/memory loss
  • Paranoid delusions/hallucinations
  • Tachycardia (rapid heartbeat)
  • Chest pain/breathing difficulties
  • Hyperthermia/sweatinghypertension2.

When high on Flakka, users can experience body temperatures as high as 106°F, which induces a cascade of systemic events possibly leading to rhabdomyolysis. A condition where significant muscle tissue breakdown releases creatine phosphokinase and pieces of muscle fiber into the bloodstream, rhabdomyolysis can produce kidney damage and/or kidney failure.

If you or a loved one are suffering from the disease of addiction, the time to get help is now. Call us today at (844) 211-7944 to find out how The Treatment Center family can meet you where you are on your journey of recovery.