According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there were over 20,000 deaths related to synthetic opioids in 2016. Synthetic overdoses resulted in more deaths than heroin, cocaine, semi-synthetic opioids and methamphetamine overdoses.
In an effort to create a safer workplace, the Department of Transportation added four semi-synthetic opioids to its panel in Jan. 2018. Several operators and employers are taking it a step further and adding a synthetics panel to their drug testing program.
What are Synthetic Drugs?
Synthetic drugs are drugs created using man-made chemicals rather than natural ingredients. They can be created commercially by drug manufacturers for legitimate medical purposes, but are often times produced illegally for illicit markets. Examples include fentanyl, ecstasy and methadone.
The term “designer drug” is often used when discussing synthetics. A designer drug is a synthetic version of an illegal drug that is slightly altered to avoid having it classified as illegal. These drugs are extremely dangerous because they aren’t previously tested and have no regulatory oversight. Often times, the small modification made to the known drug results in a new drug with greatly different effects.
Types of Synthetic Drugs
Synthetic drugs are often divided into two categories: cannabinoids and stimulants.
Synthetic cannabinoids are chemicals that mimic the effect of THC, which is the primary active ingredient in marijuana. Synthetic cannabinoids are often falsely marketed as safe, legal alternatives to marijuana. However, there are over 120 known chemical forms of synthetic cannabinoids and the drug can be extremely different depending on the batch. More common names for synthetic cannabinoids include K2 and Spice.
While synthetic cannabinoids aim to imitate marijuana, stimulants mimic the effects of cocaine, LSD and methamphetamines. Common examples are bath salts and ecstasy. Effects of these drugs include addiction, paranoia, panic attacks and even death.
Synthetic Drugs in the Workplace
As synthetic drug use continues to increase, laboratories have begun testing for the detection of these drugs. Several oil and gas operators have started requiring a synthetics panel for pre-employment testing. Employers may also decide to add it to their program for reasonable suspicion and post-accident situations.
It’s important for employers to create a drug testing program that best fits their company. Contact TEAM to discuss which testing options are best for you.