Spice, Kronic and Synthetic Cannabinoids are the new headline grabbing drugs of abuse. Current misinformation about these “legal” drugs however includes suggestion that they are ‘safe’ to use and can be consumed without risk of detection in drug testing.
Herbal incense mixes such as Spice first appeared in the early 2000s. Originally they were blends of mildly narcotic herbs and plants but analysis showed that synthetic cannabinoids such as JWH-018, JWH-073 and cannabicyclohexanol were being added. These drugs were manufactured in the laboratory and produce similar effects to the more familiar marijuana component THC. While they have not been properly studied these substances appear to be more potent than THC and have been shown to have side effects such as agitation, vomiting and may even be more likely to induce psychosis than natural cannabis.
One of their attractions appears to be the belief that a user can avoid workplace drug testing. While there are currently no onsite devices that can detect these substances at least one laboratory is offering a test that can, and other laboratories are set to also offer this service. In addition it is being reported that many workers that thought they were using these non detectable drugs are being detected positive for THC. This is most likely due to the addition of natural THC to these mixes as it is cheaper and more accessible. It’s not surprising that when you purchase these products you don’t always get what you pay for.
Another misapprehension is that the products are legal. In fact in Europe, the US and even New Zealand they are definitely illegal. Australia has been slow to respond but Western Australia has just made the 5 most common forms of these drugs illegal and other states and federal authorities are likely to follow shortly.
As is the case with the more well known drugs of abuse and the most common and legal drug; alcohol, the issue for workplaces is ensuring that their workers are fit for work and don’t pose a risk to themselves or their workmates. This involves a range of measures including education and training of managers to recognise the potential effects of these drugs as well as testing programmes that can provide the surveillance in a majority of cases.
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