With the July 9 passage of the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act, which bans compounds commonly found in synthetic marijuana, companies have been developing specific tests for these compounds. Occupational Drug and Alcohol Collection Solutions Inc. (ODACS) in Park Hills now offers a test for synthetic cannabinoids in addition to standard drug screening.
An increase in synthetic drug use has prompted many employers and concerned parents to start testing for the substances. As the compounds used in synthetic drugs are ever changing to skirt controlled substance guidelines, in the past testing often proved difficult or impossible. With specific compounds listed in the Synthetic Prevention Act companies are able to produce a standardized, specific, testing platform.
“I don’t think people are realizing what a problem K-2 and these bath salts are,” said Dawn Pettus, owner of ODACS Inc. “On the normal panels people are being tested with, it’s not in there, it’s not included. It’s a totally separate test. That’s something that has to be asked for specifically if they think there is a concern, so if the person requesting the screening thinks the donor has been checked for that, most likely they’ve not.”
Users often turn to the synthetics to avoid criminal prosecution. Offenders on probation or parole also use them to avoid a violation.
Problems in the workplace have been increasing as well, according to drug monitoring agencies. Employees faced with periodic or random drug screening will often turn to synthetics to avoid being fired.
“We have seen a moderate increase in the use of synthetic drugs and employers are taking a closer look at policy and drug testing practices,” said Tim Reardon, Manager of Business Development at BarnesCare, an occupational medical provider in the greater St. Louis Area. “It’s really all about workplace safety.”
The new test is a single strip test geared specifically to detect synthetic marijuana compounds. A test for the presence of “Bath salt” type synthetic drugs is also available, but the sample must be laboratory tested.
There are basically two types of synthetic drugs. Synthetic cannabinoids type drugs marked under names such as such as “K-2,” “Cloud 9” and “Spice” are intended to mimic marijuana. Side effects can include paranoia, hallucinations and euphoria. The American Association of Poison Control Centers reported that they received 6,959 calls related to synthetic marijuana in 2011, up from 2,906 in 2010.
“Bath salts” are crystalline compounds which mimic hallucinogens or amphetamines. The drugs are produced in labs with no oversight and the side effects and long-term effects are unknown. These drugs can cause drastic personality changes including violent behavior. Several violent crimes, some local, have been attributed to the influence of these drugs.
Newly developed drugs, particularly from the “2C family” (dimethoxyphenethylamines), are generally referred to as synthetic psychedelic/hallucinogens. 2C-E caused the recent death of a 19 year-old in Minnesota. The substances added to Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act include 9 different 2C chemicals as well as the 15 different synthetic cannabinoids.
According to Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) forensic laboratory reports, the initial appearance of synthetic cannabinoids in herbal incense products in the United States occurred in November 2008, when U.S. Customs and Border Protection first encountered products such as “Spice.”
Prior to arriving in the U.S. market, synthetic cannabinoids were marketed as herbal incense products in several European countries. After experiencing numerous health-related incidents, some European countries banned these products and chemicals. They are illegal on both the state and federal level on Missouri.
Pat Pratt is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-431-2010 ext. 172 or firstname.lastname@example.org