Designer drugs are structural or functional analogues of controlled substances that are designed to mimic the pharmacological effects of the parent drug while avoiding detection or classification as illegal. Many of the older designer drugs (research chemicals) are structural analogues of psychoactive tryptamines or phenethylamines but there are many other chemically unrelated new psychoactive substances that can be considered part of the designer drug group. Designer drugs can also include substances that are not psychoactive in effect, such as analogues of controlled anabolic steroids and other performance and image enhancing drugs (PIEDs), including nootropics, weight loss drugs and erectile dysfunction medications. The pharmaceutical activities of these compounds might not be predictable based strictly upon structural examination. Many of the substances have common effects while structurally different or different effects while structurally similar due to SAR paradox. As a result of no real official naming for some of these compounds, as well as regional naming, this can all lead to potentially hazardous mix ups for users. The following list is not exhaustive.
A psychedelic substance is a psychoactive drug whose primary action is to alter cognition and perception. Psychedelics tend to affect and explore the mind in ways that result in the experience being qualitatively different from those of ordinary consciousness. The psychedelic experience is often compared to non-ordinary forms of consciousness such as trance, meditation, yoga, religious ecstasy, dreaming and even near-death experiences.
The DOx family of psychedelics are also known as "substituted amphetamines" as they contain the amphetamine backbone but are substituted on the benzene ring. This gives rise to serotonin agonists similar to the 2C-X class but more resistant to elimination in the body.
Dissociatives are a class of hallucinogens which distort perceptions of sight and sound and produce feelings of detachment - dissociation - from the environment and self. This is done through reducing or blocking signals to the conscious mind from other parts of the brain. Although many kinds of drugs are capable of such action, dissociatives are unique in that they do so in such a way that they produce hallucinogenic effects, which may include sensory deprivation, dissociation, hallucinations, and dream-like states or trances. Some, which are nonselective in action and affect the dopamine and/or opioid systems, may be capable of inducing euphoria. Many dissociatives have general depressant effects and can produce sedation, respiratory depression, analgesia, anesthesia, and ataxia, as well as cognitive and memory impairment and amnesia.
Empathogens are a class of psychoactive drugs that produce distinctive emotional and social effects similar to those of MDMA. Users of empathogens say the drugs often produce feelings of empathy, love, and emotional closeness to others.
Substituted methylenedioxyphenethylamines (MDxx) are a large chemical class of derivatives of the phenethylamines, which includes many psychoactive drugs that act as entactogens, psychedelics, and/or stimulants, as well as entheogens.
Substituted amphetamines are a chemical class of stimulants, entactogens, hallucinogens, and other drugs. They feature a phenethylamine core with a methyl group attached to the alpha carbon resulting in amphetamine, along with additional substitutions.
Stimulants produce a variety of different kinds of effects by enhancing the activity of the central and peripheral nervous systems. Common effects, which vary depending on the substance and dosage in question, may include enhanced alertness, awareness, wakefulness, endurance, productivity, and motivation, increased arousal, locomotion, heart rate, and blood pressure, and the perception of a diminished requirement for food and sleep.
Amphetamines are a chemical class of stimulants, entactogens, hallucinogens, and other drugs. They feature a phenethylamine core with a methyl group attached to the alpha carbon resulting in amphetamine, along with additional substitutions.
Cathinones include some stimulants and entactogens, which are derivatives of cathinone. They feature a phenethylamine core with an alkyl group attached to the alpha carbon, and a ketone group attached to the beta carbon, along with additional substitutions.
Oxazolidines are a five-membered ring compounds consisting of three carbons, a nitrogen, and an oxygen. The oxygen and NH are the 1 and 3 positions, respectively. In oxazolidine derivatives, there is always a carbon between the oxygen and the nitrogen.
Sedatives are substances that induces sedation by reducing irritability or excitement. At higher doses they may result in slurred speech, staggering gait, poor judgment, and slow, uncertain reflexes. Doses of sedatives such as benzodiazepines, when used as a hypnotic to induce sleep, tend to be higher than amounts used to relieve anxiety, whereas only low doses are needed to provide a peaceful effect.
Sedatives can be misused to produce an overly-calming effect. In the event of an overdose or if combined with another sedative, many of these drugs can cause unconsciousness and even death.
Selective androgen receptor modulators (SARMs) are a novel class of androgen receptor ligands. They are intended to maintain the desirable muscle building effects of anabolic steroids while reducing undesirable androgenic actions (e.g., increased risk of prostate cancer). SARMs that are more selective in their action potentially could be used for a wider range clinical indications than the relatively limited legitimate uses that anabolic steroids are currently approved for.
Caffeine – a meta-analysis found an increase in alertness and attentional performance.
Eugeroics (armodafinil and modafinil) – are classified as "wakefulness-promoting agents"; modafinil increases alertness, particularly in sleep-deprived individuals, and facilitates reasoning and problem solving in non-ADHD youth. In a systematic review of small, preliminary studies where the effects of modafinil were examined, when simple psychometric assessments were considered, modafinil intake enhanced executive function. Modafinil may not produce improvements in mood or motivation in sleep deprived or non-sleep deprived individuals.
Nicotine – a meta-analysis of 41 clinical studies concluded that nicotine administration or smoking improves alerting and orienting attention and episodic and working memory and slightly improves fine motor performance.
A 2016 review reported that theanine may increase alpha waves in the brain. Alpha waves may contribute to a relaxed yet alert mental state. A 2014 systematic review and meta-analysis found that concurrent caffeine and L-theanine use had synergistic psychoactive effects that promoted alertness, attention, and task switching. These effects were most pronounced during the first hour post-dose.
Piracetam is not a vitamin, mineral, amino acid, herb or other botanical, or dietary substance for use by humans to supplement the diet by increasing the total dietary intake. Further, piracetam is not a concentrate, metabolite, constituent, extract or combination of any such dietary ingredient. [...] Accordingly, these products are drugs, under section 201(g)(1)(C) of the Act, 21 U.S.C. § 321(g)(1)(C), because they are not foods and they are intended to affect the structure or any function of the body. Moreover, these products are new drugs as defined by section 201(p) of the Act, 21 U.S.C. § 321(p), because they are not generally recognized as safe and effective for use under the conditions prescribed, recommended, or suggested in their labeling.
Some of the most widely used nootropic substances are the cholinergics. These are typically compounds and analogues of choline. Choline is an essential nutrient needed for the synthesis of acetylcholine (a neurotransmitter), and phosphatidylcholine (a structural component of brain cell membranes).
Alpha-GPC – L-Alpha glycerylphosphorylcholine has thus far only been studied in the context of cognitive performance alongside other substances such as caffeine. A more comprehensive meta-analysis is needed before any strong conclusions are made about Alpha-GPC's usefulness as a nootropic.
Choline bitartrate – Choline bitartrate is a tartaric acid salt containing choline (41% choline by molecular weight). At least one meta-analysis has found choline bitartrate to be ineffective at improving any measure of cognitive performance.
Citicoline – Compound consisting of choline and cytidine. Several meta-analyses found that it is likely effective for improving memory and learning in older people with mild cognitive decline, as well as in people who are recovering from a stroke. There is little evidence it enhances cognition in young, healthy people.
Psychedelic microdosing is the novel practice of using sub-threshold doses (microdoses) of psychedelic drugs in an attempt to improve mood and cognition. The efficacy of this has not been verified. In a study examining the qualitative reports of 278 microdosers the researchers found that there were mixed results among users. While some users reported positive effects such as improved mood and cognition, others paradoxically reported negative effects such as physiological discomfort and anxiety. In one of the only double-blind, randomized studies to date, those given microdoses of LSD did not perform better than those given the placebo on cognitive tasks.
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