Many drug users will do whatever it takes to pass a drug test. Some attempt to use a clean urine sample in place of their own, others drink excessive amounts of water or add an oxidizing adulterant to their sample.
Now, studies reveal, users are avoiding positive test results by substituting dangerous synthetic cannabinoids for marijuana. Synthetic cannabinoids can be bought for as little as $5. Unlike heroin or cocaine, they are not made using just one chemical. As many as 100 different chemicals are used to make synthetic cannabinoids, and they are all illegal to possess, sell, and use in the United States.
Nonetheless, synthetic cannabinoids (also known as K2 or Spice) are not included in most routine drug test panels because they require specialized, more expensive testing. Furthermore, studies on these drugs have shown that the amount and types of synthetic cannabinoids can very greatly from product to product, which makes it difficult discern which synthetic cannabinoids metabolite specifically should be included in drug testing programs.
As a result, many drug users have turned to these drugs if they are seeking employment, under community correctional supervision, residing in a sober living facility, or joining the military. Synthetic cannabinoids have a similar effect to weed, without the positive drug test results. Many users turn to synthetic cannabinoids only to pass a drug test, and then return to marijuana use once the testing has ended. This return to marijuana may be due to concerns over the health effects of the drug. According to one user in a study, “Spice just doesn’t feel right. Way more of a stressor on your body, like your body is trying to deal with whatever cannabinoid that is in there, and it’s just like you experience it in a different way. It feels worse.”
And as you might guess, synthetic cannabinoids can be extremely dangerous. Many users act extremely violent and confused when using these drugs. Some of these patients become so violent that they require general anesthetic and intubation to protect them from injuring themselves or others. Increased heart rate with chest pain and kidney failure has also been observed. Recent data on synthetic cannabinoids lists anxiety, vomiting, high blood pressure, tremor, seizures, hallucinations, and paranoia as common effects of the drug.
Not enough is known about which compounds a person is purchasing when they buy these drugs. The most important message that can be learned from these studies is that synthetic cannabinoids are capable of causing serious harm to users and those around them- those risks are just not worth passing a drug test.