Last updated: September 25, 2023
According to statistics, employers pay $7,000 per year for a single employee with a drug-related problem. Consider also that 65% of all workplace accidents are drug or alcohol related, with marijuana found to be the most prevalent drug used among employees. A safe and healthy workplace promotes a productive working environment, and protects both the employees from injury and employers from liability caused by drug-related workplace accidents.
Consistent and reliable drug testing is necessary, as the National Institute on Drug Abuse states that after days and even weeks of past marijuana use, the negative effects on attention and memory are still present, even though the acute symptoms have worn off. The findings continue to illustrate a reduced level of mental functioning and work reliability:
…found that employees who tested positive for marijuana on a pre-employment urine drug test had 55 percent more industrial accidents, 85 percent more injuries, and 75 percent greater absenteeism compared with those who tested negative for marijuana use…
With the prevalence of synthetic forms of marijuana on the rise, diligent employers recognize a re-evaluation of workplace drug use policies and testing are required. Employees with a substance abuse problem may think that synthetic marijuana use is easier to hide when compared to natural marijuana leaves. And because of the varieties of synthetic marijuana, the drug is easier to find. This is a large reason that it’s still included on most drug tests, including 5 panel and 10 panel drug tests, as well as other more comprehensive tests.
Those who want to take synthetic drugs, on the other hand, might need to do little more than walk into a convenience store or so-called head shop and buy the drug they want.
The difference between synthetic and natural marijuana
Natural marijuana is grown and harvested from over 100 variations of the cannabis plant for medical or recreational use. The symptoms are usually easy to recognize in someone under the influence of the mind altering chemical component in the plant, tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. As the smoke of plant is inhaled, or the plant is directly digested when placed within a food source, the chemical is carried to the brain by way of the blood stream. Symptoms include a change in mood along with difficulty thinking and impaired body movement.
Synthetic marijuana is not grown naturally, but is manufactured like other designer drugs such as Ecstasy. The “fake weed” also goes by other names such as Spice, Skunk, and K2, and can be legally purchased on the internet, at head shops, and even at gas stations. The products are marketed with claims of being a natural alternative to marijuana, with a similar mild hallucinogenic effect. But the reality is quite different from what people seeking a safe and undetectable alternative to marijuana are told.
These synthetics use a base of dried plants to hold chemical substances that are sprayed on. The resulting drug is smoked in rolled paper or inhaled through a vaporizer unit. The mind altering chemicals are not safe and have a more powerful and unpredictable effects, and sometimes life-threatening panic attacks or psychosis. Since the chemical combinations are unregulated and sometimes unknown, there is no way to accurately know the state of mind a synthetic marijuana user may be found in.
Types of drug testing for marijuana
As marijuana legalization has been sweeping the nation, more employers have implemented drug testing programs to keep their workplaces drug-free, productive, and safe.
Pre-employment and random drug testing are the most common types of drug testing employers use, but they can also conduct reasonable suspicion drug testing when direct observation, physical evidence or reasonable suspicion of illicit drug use is determined. Both natural and synthetic marijuana can be identified.
- Urinalysis drug test — even though the molecules between the natural and synthetic versions of marijuana are different, K2 / Spice urine tests can positively detect traces of synthetic cannabis for up to 3 days after use.
- Mouth swab drug test — a large number of synthetic substances can now be detected by sufficient quantities of oral fluid retrieved with a specific collection device. The sensitivity of this oral device has returned satisfactory analysis of synthetic cannabis in oral fluid.
- Hair follicle drug test — uses an extremely high performing liquid chromatography test to hair strands for herbal mixtures that may contain traces of synthetic marijuana. Hair strand analysis is also a good tool for detecting multiple drugs in poly-abuse employees.