In a market flooded with designer label products ranging from purses to shoes, to sunglasses, and even babies, it’s very little surprise that designer drugs are likewise finding their niche. And although today you can purchase many of these “legal” drugs online with the click of a button, unlike something you might get from, say, Dolce and Gabbana, the drugs you’re purchasing don’t always come from any one distributor. That is to say, there may be one or more chemists for your drugs cutting varying and more dangerous chemicals into pill-form (2% MDMA in 2007, from 69% in 2001). More than anything else, a study conducted by researchers at the University of Alberta shows that the problem may lie in a lack of education on these designer drugs, which, if continual use goes unchecked, can lead to a visit in the emergency room.

Alan Hudson, a pharmacologist at the U of A who studies how ecstasy and other drugs affect brain neurochemistry, gives perhaps the biggest reason why we’re still seeing cases of overdose in relation with designer drugs via Medical News Today:

The chemists who are making these drugs are coming up with about 10 new drugs per year; the legislation cannot keep up with the market. The best way forward is to educate people that they’re playing Russian roulette – the health risks from taking these drugs are high, and potentially lethal.

So we know what the problem is, and an idea of how to solve it… but how do we get people into a setting where they can be educated on the downsides of recreational drug use? That part is easy. According to Kris Wells, director of programs and services with the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services, the profile for an average user is that of a college student who goes to a party and decides to experiment with drugs–usually ecstasy–for the first time. The biggest danger here is obviously reserved for those who’ve never been exposed to usage before, and thus are unaware of their threshold. Here’s the kicker: because the chemical composition of any given drug (especially in pill-form) is essentially different from chemist to chemist, rarely does anyone really know what their threshold might be.

In closing, Wells says, “It’s about taking the research to the next level – communicating it, mobilizing the knowledge to all the stakeholders and, ultimately, to all those young people who may be facing a choice in their lives.

Not to be used as an all-encompassing or end-all be-all list, here are some red flags to bear in mind if you think your youth might be abusing drugs: depressed moods after the weekend (“coming down”), mood changes (often associated with “legal” drugs such as K2 and Spice), and sudden nosebleeds (from snorting designer drugs such as “plant food”).