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What are Research Chemicals? Types & Dangers

Medically Verified: 2/1/24

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All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Research chemicals are synthetic drugs that scientists created to research something about the human body. Some of these chemicals create a mind-altering effect, or a “high.” When these research chemicals get out, people begin selling them to drug users to create a profit.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) refers to research chemicals as “novel psychoactive substances (NPS).” According to NIDA, “The most common classes of NPS are synthetic cannabinoids, novel opioids, novel benzodiazepines, stimulants, and hallucinogens.”

While research chemicals are used for scientific purposes initially, once they get into the wrong hands, they become drugs of abuse. They are often based on already banned substances, like LSD or ecstasy. They are only intended for research, so sometimes they can be distributed without prosecution because of gray areas in drug laws.

There are a plethora of different types of research chemicals, each one causing different side effects and dangers. For example, there are research chemicals that mimic hallucinogenic drugs and some that cause similar effects to benzodiazepines. Since there is little understanding of the effects of research chemicals, they are dangerous to misuse.

The Different Types of Research Chemicals

The types of research chemicals change constantly as new versions of drugs are developed. Most research chemicals are based on an already existing drug, like a benzodiazepine or a hallucinogen. Being aware of them will help you avoid them and the potential long-term health risks from abusing them.

The common types of research chemicals include:

Synthetic Hallucinogens

There are a few different synthetic hallucinogens out there.

First, you have 25I-NBOMe and 25C-NBOMe. These are often confused with LSD because they are created to look similar. Often referred to as N-bombs or smiles, these chemicals can lead to severe toxicity and even death when misused.

Another type of synthetic hallucinogen to be aware of is the 2C series. These designer drugs contain 2,5-dimethoxy phenethylamine. One of the most popular is called 2C-E, which mimics the effects of LSD.

Unfortunately, 2C series drugs can also lead to death when misused. Other dangerous effects include breathing issues and psychotic hallucinations.

Acetyl Fentanyl

As if fentanyl is not potent enough, a new form of fentanyl is circulating the streets. Known as acetyl fentanyl, this substance puts opioid users at a substantially increased risk of fatal overdoses. According to the DEA, acetyl fentanyl was linked to 3,300 overdose deaths in 2023.


Arylcyclohexylamine is a psychoactive drug that mimics the effects of ketamine. While they were not created for human consumption, they have been distributed throughout the streets as a drug of abuse. If you abuse a substance containing arylcyclohexylamine, you could experience dissociative, anesthetic, and hallucinogenic effects.


Etizolam is like a cousin to benzodiazepines and is considered a thienodiazepine. It causes similar effects to drugs like Valium, however, it is 10 times more potent. In other words, abusing etizolam puts you at risk of experiencing a life-threatening overdose.

This substance is legal in countries like Japan, India, and Italy for the treatment of insomnia. However, it is illegal in the United States. Still, individuals may order it online for its potent effects.


Methoxetamine (MXE) is dissociative and can provide pain relief, making it similar to ketamine. Drug dealers might sell it to you as a ketamine derivative, claiming it is just as safe. That said, the high from this substance can last up to 7 hours and has been linked to overdose deaths.

Synthetic Cathinones

There are a variety of synthetic cathinones out there. You have probably heard of them before under the name “bath salts.” These substances can cause rapid heart rate, aggression, hallucinations, and more.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “Research shows illicit synthetic cathinone use can be life-threatening and cause other serious health and safety problems.”


Piperazines are a group of chemicals that are commonly found in industrial chemical solutions. However, they are also research chemicals that people abuse to get high. Most of them have stimulant and hallucinogenic effects, making them dangerous for your physical and mental health.

Common types of piperazines include:

  • BZP
  • mCPP
  • MeOPP


Lastly, tryptamines are naturally occurring hallucinogens. The kind of tryptamines that create a high are created in a lab. They can be found in a blotter paper, tablet, or powder form.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), adverse effects associated with tryptamines “include restlessness, agitations, gastrointestinal distress, and muscle tension.”

What are the Dangers of Abusing Research Chemicals?

Research chemicals pose tons of different physical and psychological risks. You should never intentionally consume a research chemical, as there is little study on their effects and many of them have high overdose rates.

According to research, those who have ingested research chemicals were admitted to the ER for the following symptoms:

  • Agitation and aggressive behavior
  • Extreme anxiety and paranoia
  • Intense hallucinations
  • Symptoms of psychosis
  • Seizures
  • Organ damage to liver, kidneys, lungs, and more
  • Trouble breathing or respiratory failure
  • Lack of response, unconsciousness, and coma

In addition to these risks, research chemical abuse can lead to drug addiction. Once you are addicted to them, the danger of experiencing life-threatening side effects increases. As a result, you should always seek help from a reputable drug rehab center.

Finding Help for Research Chemical Abuse and Addiction

If you or a loved one abuses research chemicals (RCs), it’s time to seek help. These substances can cause dangerous effects, like seizures and fatal overdoses. Many of the long-term risks of RC abuse are unknown because of a lack of studies.

Thankfully, addiction treatment centers can help you overcome designer drug abuse. Contact Charlotte Detox Center to get your recovery journey started.