Last updated: January 30, 2023
Synthetic cannabinoids have no ties to the cannabis plant at all.
They are manufactured using mind-altering chemicals that are sprayed on dried, shredded plants for smoking. It’s also sold in liquid form to be vaporized and inhaled using e-cigarettes and other devices.
They use the term “cannabinoids” because the chemical makeup is similar to that of the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) found in the marijuana plant. It’s the mind-altering ingredient that triggers the brain. However, people are misled into thinking that synthetic cannabinoids are safe, legal alternatives to pot. Actually, these drugs are dangerous.
The effects of the drug can be unpredictable and, sometimes, life-threatening. Moreover, users need to be aware that the lethal synthetic opioid, fentanyl, can be added to the packaged mixture giving the product that extra kick. Drug dealers add fentanyl to everything it seems. It’s good for business because it brings the customers back for more—if they don’t overdose that is.
Signs of use
- Elevated mood
- Loss of interest in work and hobbies
- Red eyes
- Altered perception
- Symptoms of psychosis
Symptoms of psychosis entail exhibiting delusional or disordered thinking that is detached from reality. Sadly, the last side-effect is reported far more often than someone who smokes marijuana regularly. It’s due to the strong hallucinogens used to create synthetic cannabinoids.
If someone in the workforce is exhibiting the following symptoms, they may be experiencing the harsher effects of these man-made drugs.
- Elevated heart rate
- Suicidal thoughts
- Violent behavior
In fact, the hallucinogens contained in branded packages of the drug can cause someone to become incoherent, disorderly, and aggressive. At times, the person can become very aggressive, thereby, putting themselves and others around them at increased risk of injury.
Addiction and overdose
Synthetic cannabinoids can be addictive. If addiction occurs, it’s not known if behavioral therapies and medications can be used to treat it.
If someone quits, they may experience withdrawal symptoms.
Overdoses can occur and cause the following symptoms:
- Toxic reactions
- Raised blood pressure
- Reduced blood supply to the heart
- Kidney damage
- Death—if synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, are added without the user being aware of it
Trying to stay a step ahead
Synthetic marijuana is not included in marijuana legalization laws. In fact, law enforcement is constantly battling to keep the stuff out of stores and off the streets. Manufacturers continuously change the chemical composition, brand names, and packaging to try and stay a step ahead of the police.
Because there is no regulation, even if you purchase two packages of synthetic weed, there’s no guarantee that either the content or the quality—including how it affects the user—will be the same both times around.
Will it show up on a drug test?
Despite the likelihood of having adverse reactions, synthetic cannabinoids have become increasingly popular over the past few years. The main reason for that is that the traditional urine drug test doesn’t detect the drug’s metabolites.
It’s hard for drug testing manufacturers to create a specific test panel because the chemical makeup is constantly changing. At the moment, there isn’t a practical way to test individuals for synthetic cannabinoids on a commercial scale. However, there is a specialty test available that detects the drug in urine or blood. And, of course, since the term speciality is involved, it’s considered a bit pricey as well.
The testing must be analyzed at specific laboratories—as in the lab where it was created. Lab techs, then, perform the liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC/MS) tests. Hair follicle and oral fluid testing are likely to be available in the not-so-distant future as well.
Detection times vary
Because there are, virtually, hundreds of variations of fake pot on the market at any given time, it’s hard to pinpoint how long someone will have synthetic cannabinoids in their system. There’s no regulation and manufacturers are constantly changing the recipe. It could be that the metabolites will show up for about three days. But, again, there’s really no way to know for sure.
Why do we drug test?
Employers want to keep the workplace as safe as possible. After all, our employees are our greatest asset and we want them to know it! Setting up a drug-free workplace lets them know you aren’t tolerating drug use.
And, when they know you’re going over and above for them, they’ll reciprocate in a positive manner. Moreover, when potential new hires learn there’s going to be a test, they aren’t likely to apply for the position.
Statistics show that accidents don’t happen as often when a drug-free policy goes into effect. Employees show up for work instead of calling in sick and medical costs decrease too.
There’s no room for synthetic cannabinoids or any illicit drug use in the workplace. No one deserves to go to work and wind up in the hospital—or worse—before their shift ends. Knowing the signs and symptoms of drug use allows you and your management team to spot potential trouble before things get out of hand.