New drug detection system finds synthetic marijuana in all populations

The Community Drug Early Warning System (CDEWS) is designed to detect emerging drugs by re-testing urine specimens collected by criminal justice system (CJS) drug testing programs, and examining them for emerging drugs of abuse, such as synthetic cannabinoids (a.k.a. synthetic marijuana).

Image of Synthetic MarijuanaThe CDEWS model is based on the premise that emerging drugs of abuse often show up in high-risk CJS populations before other people in the community. In the pilot study, over one-thousand anonymous urine specimens from five CJS populations were sent to an independent laboratory for testing for an expanded CDEWS panel of more than 30 prescription and illicit drugs. In addition, over 50% of these specimens were sent to a second independent laboratory for testing for 12 synthetic cannabinoid metabolites.

The results show synthetic cannabinoids were found in all participating populations and more than 25% of young males in three of the populations tested positive for this synthetic drug. Unlike other prescription and illicit drugs, synthetic cannabinoids were as likely to be found in people who had failed the limited CJS screen as in persons who had passed. This means that drug tests that do not currently test for synthetic drugs are potentially missing a population of drug users.

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