Synthetic drugs

Synthetic Cannabinoid Overdoses Spike

by Steve Beller on August 16, 2016

synthetic cannabinoidsSynthetic cannabinoids (marijuana) have been problematic since variations of these substances were first identified in the U.S. in 2008.  Recently, CNN reported that “the number of cases of poisoning from synthetic marijuana rose sharply in the past year.” These findings were released by the ToxIC Case Registry, a monitoring and research tool established by the American College of Medical Toxicology in 2010.

“Between 2010 and 2015, a total of 42,138 cases of toxic exposure were logged by 101 participating hospitals and clinics and 456 cases involved synthetic cannabinoids.” In 2015, the proportion of poisoning cases caused by synthetic marijuana more than doubled to an excess of 3.5% of the total registry cases compared to less than 1.5% of cases reported in the previous year. A similar increase was also reported by the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC).  The AAPCC reported 7,779 cases in 2015 versus 3,682 in 2014.

Synthetic cannabinoids, also commonly referred to as “K2” or “Spice”, can be 4 to 50 times more potent than THC, the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Reactions to synthetic marijuana are unpredictable “due to the unknown chemical composition of these drugs,” which, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) noted, “may change from batch to batch.”

Fifteen synthetic cannabinoids are currently classified as Schedule I controlled substances. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s designation of Schedule I means “the drugs have no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” To hamper law enforcement, producers of synthetic marijuana continually change their chemical compounds to avoid detection, thereby exploiting a legal loophole.

Our scientific experts continually monitor and make adjustments to our panels with the goal of providing a standardized panel that can detect the most relevant synthetic cannabinoids within these products. Our synthetic cannabinoids panel screens for 15 parent drugs, new analytes and updated metabolites – the most commonly-detected substances based upon extensive research.

To learn more about synthetic cannabinoids and other synthetic drugs, visit our website or contact us online.

Refining our Synthetic Cannabinoids Panel

by Nicole Jupe on April 18, 2016

multiple-kinds-synthetic-cannabinoidsSynthetic cannabinoids (also known as “K2” or “Spice”) mimic the main psychoactive ingredient, Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), found in marijuana. They do not contain cannabis but can produce a euphoric, hallucinatory effect anywhere between four and fifty times more potent than the THC found in marijuana. Data collected from emergency room visits and poison control centers reveals an increase in synthetic drug overdoses in the United States since 2011.

Synthetic drug use presents unique challenges for employers and laboratories because these substances change frequently. Regulatory agencies also struggle to keep pace and identify the most current synthetic drugs because compounds are modified in response to legislative bans. Recent legislation now uses broader language and prohibits entire classes of synthetic chemicals.

According to the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), “There is an increasingly expanding array of synthetic drugs available. The contents and effects of synthetic cannabinoids and cathinones are unpredictable due to a constantly changing variety of chemicals used in manufacturing processes devoid of quality controls and government regulatory oversight.”

Our team of scientific experts continually monitors and makes adjustments to our panels with the goal of providing a standardized panel that can detect the most relevant synthetic drug-containing products. We are working collaboratively with other laboratories and service providers to periodically refine our synthetic drug panels based on information from the National Forensic Laboratory Information System (NFLIS), the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), peer-reviewed scientific literature and industry-observed trends and usage. Our new synthetic cannabinoids panel screens for 15 parent drugs, new analytes and updated metabolites – the most commonly-detected substances based upon extensive research.

“We have a new testing paradigm for synthetic drugs that calls for continuous evaluation. We must keep careful watch on the marketplace, positivity trends and the progression of cannabinoid usage,” said Dr. Kim Samano, Post-Doctoral Fellow, Quest Diagnostics.

Employers who are considering including synthetic drug testing in their workplace program can include a provision in their policy specifically prohibiting the use and possession of synthetic cannabinoids and synthetic stimulants in the workplace or while on company property, similar to policies regarding alcohol and illicit drugs. Synthetic drug testing is well-suited for post-accident and ‘for cause’ drug testing.

In summary, we are committed to investing in and the development of tests to detect synthetic drugs. As a leader in the industry, we will offer testing panels that enable informed employment decisions.

Watch our on-demand webinar about synthetic drugs by Dr. Kim Samano.

For more information about drug testing, visit our website or contact us online.

The DEA Crackdown on Synthetic Drugs

November 4, 2015Synthetic drugs

The notoriety of synthetic drugs, like K2 and bath salts, continues to rise as we become more aware of what these drugs are, their side-effects and why they are sought out. Ease of access, slick packaging and catchy names like Black Mamba and Yukatan Fire have given synthetic drugs the reputation of offering a natural, […]

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Name that Drug: A Stimulating Psychoactive Perspective

September 15, 2015Illicit drugs

DATIA focus is the quarterly publication of the Drug & Alcohol Testing Industry Association (DATIA). DATIA focus features a regular, popular column titled, “Name that Drug” where interesting facts about a mystery drug are described in advance of the name being revealed. The latest edition of “Name that Drug” was written by Dr. Rodi Predescu, Operations Director at Quest […]

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Synthetic Drugs: Common Questions

July 24, 2015Synthetic drugs

In our recent webinar, Kim Samano, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow at Quest Diagnostics, discussed the pharmacological profiles and physiological effects of synthetic cannabinoids (SBCs) and designer stimulants known as “Bath Salts.” She explained the evolution of chemicals that help drug manufacturers to stay ahead of detection and the misperception of safety for these drugs that are often […]

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Synthetic Drugs: What You Need to Know

June 22, 2015Synthetic drugs

Synthetic drugs go by a notorious array of trendy names including flakka, spice and ivory wave.  Although their names differ, their dangers remain the same. Drug users experience unpredictable and sometimes severe physical effects; and as a result, emergency room visits have spiked across the country. Synthetic drug manufacturers continue to modify the chemical compositions […]

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Synthetic Marijuana: Catch Me If You Can

June 9, 2015Synthetic drugs

Sold in retail outlets under alluring names like “Black Mamba” and labeled as “not for human consumption,” designer drugs are steadily infiltrating society, resulting in an alarming increase of emergency room visits. These drugs are difficult to detect, harmful if consumed and easily accessible. The latest issue of CESAR FAX features results from a yearly […]

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Changing Perceptions of Marijuana and Synthetic Marijuana

March 5, 2015Synthetic drugs

Perceived risk is studied as a metric in the annual Monitoring the Future survey. The survey asks U.S. 12th graders about seeing “great risk” in regularly using a particular illicit drug. In the March issue of CESAR FAX, data is featured showing that high school students’ perception of risk associated with occasional marijuana use is declining while […]

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More Synthetic Cannabinoids Elevated to Schedule I Ban

February 13, 2015News

Responsible for a 40% increase in emergency room visits from 2010 to 2011, synthetic cannabinoids have reached a heightened level of notoriety. Some of the reported symptoms during these ER visits were severe vomiting, hallucinations and, in some cases, cardiac arrest. Banned in several countries since 2004, synthetic cannabinoids (also commonly known as K2, spice […]

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CNN Reports on Synthetic Drugs

December 16, 2014Synthetic drugs

Media sources across the country report tragic accounts of the dangerous consequences of taking synthetic drugs. These stories often involve teens who may assume that synthetic drugs are safe because they are sold and marketed by retailers as a “legal high.” CNN recently reported a story out of North Dakota where a group of teenagers […]

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