Drug Testing for Synthetic/Designer Drugs


Safework Laboratories offer analysis for a wide range of current and emerging Designer/Synthetic Drugs in our Labs


For a long time now, the manufacture, sales and possession of drugs such as cocaine, cannabis, ecstasy and LSD have been largely prohibited by governments, and rightly so. After all, these drugs have long proven to have dangerous effects on the people who use them. But what if people can get their hands on substances that mimic the effects of these drugs, and they can be bought legally?

That is exactly what synthetic drugs offer: legal drugs that give practically the same kind of high as real cocaine, marijuana, ecstasy and LSD. Now since they’re legal, these synthetic drugs must be safe, right? Wrong. Synthetic drugs can be even more dangerous than the real thing. And if someone actually uses these synthetic drugs at work, then CEOs, HR and safety officers have a lot to be worried about. However, solutions for synthetic drugs at workplace concerns exist.

What are Synthetic Drugs?

Officially called new psychoactive substances or NPS, synthetic drugs are basically made up of chemicals designed to imitate the effects of traditional drugs like cocaine, cannabis, ecstasy, LSD and other illicit substances. To stay ahead of the law, the people who manufacture these drugs develop new chemicals that are nowhere in the list of any country’s banned substances. They also have the ability to constantly alter the chemical components of their drugs every single time a government wises up and bans some or even all of their ingredients.

According to the 2014 report of the UN’s office of drugs and crime, many of these drugs are synthesised in Southeast Asian laboratories, and the number of these synthetic drugs being marketed the world over has increased by 20 per cent.

Taking a closer look at synthetic drugs

Like most drugs, synthetic drugs are known by many other names, including herbal incense, herbal highs, party pills, bath salts, plant fertiliser, synthetic cocaine and synthetic cannabis.

There are three common types of synthetic drugs, listed below.

Herbal highs and party pills – Its effects are similar to that of amphetamines and ecstasy. Marketed as mood or energy boosters, these synthetic drugs contain an assortment of man-made chemicals, and are sold under brand names like are marketed under names like NeuroBlaster, HyperDrive and Loaded. Available in pill and liquid forms, herbal highs are usually swallowed.

Research chemicals and drug analogues – Marketed as pure psychoactive substances, research chemicals usually come in white powder, crystal, capsules or blotter tab form. These drugs are known by many names, including Synthacaine, benzo furry, methoxetamine, Ivory Wave, Dr. Death, plant food or bath salts. As with most synthetic drugs, there isn’t much in the way of research that would tell us what its effects on humans are, and chemicals included in the mix are often not properly indicated in the packaging.

Synthetic cannabis – Also known as synthetic marijuana, synthetic cannabis falls under the designer drug category. A typical synthetic marijuana product is made up of dried plant material and chopped up herbs, with man-made chemicals that mimic delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient in cannabis, sprayed onto them. Synthetic marijuana is usually smoked, although there are users who prefer drinking them as a tea. They are usually sold in colourful packets, bearing brand names like Kronic, Godfather, Mojo, Northern Lights, Lightning Red and Lightning Gold.

Effects of synthetic drugs in the body

Synthetic drugs contain an assortment of man-made chemicals, fillers and cutting agents, which make it difficult to predict their effects in the body. Making things more difficult is the common practice of manufacturers of constantly changing the ingredients should any of them get banned. That way, they can continue to produce synthetic drugs legally. Reports and stories of adverse effects of synthetic drugs in the body, however, are all too real to ignore. Some of those reported adverse effects include:

  • fast and irregular heartbeat
  • paranoia
  • acute agitation
  • emotional fragility
  • diminished cognitive ability
  • hallucinations
  • muscular pain
  • sore jaw
  • appetite loss
  • anxiety
  • seizures
  • psychosis
  • suicidal thoughts
  • rapid breathing
  • racing thoughts
  • dissociative state

A number of deaths have also been attributed to the use of synthetic drugs, particularly synthetic marijuana.

synthetic drugs at workThe Impact of Synthetic Drugs at Work

When someone uses synthetic drugs at work, the likelihood of a workplace incident occurring is high. A person who takes synthetic drugs at work can suffer seizures, which, in turn, can trigger an accident that results in injuries or deaths. This is very possible especially if the worker concerned operates heavy equipment or drives company cars or trucks. Since the man-made chemicals that make up synthetic drugs can also cause psychosis or suicidal thoughts, employees who use synthetic drugs at work can also cause a lot of trouble even in an office setting.

The cost to the employer of incidents caused by synthetic drugs at workplace concerns can also skyrocket, beginning with the Workman’s Compensation claims that will surely be filed by anyone involved in any workplace incident. And if an employee blames the company and files suit in court for failing to provide a safe workplace or any similar claims, the costs are going to rise even more.

What to do About Synthetic Drugs at Work

Synthetic drugs are some of the most dangerous substances around, and the only real way for employers to protect themselves is to establish a clearly-worded drug and alcohol policy. Such a policy should include an education and awareness programme as well as a synthetic drugs testing programme to help employers determine if a worker is impaired by synthetic drugs at work, and effectively prevent incidents caused by synthetic drugs at workplace issues.

synthetic drugsSynthetic drugs testing

The ever-changing compounds that make up synthetic drugs can make it difficult for standard drug tests to detect them. However, Safe Work Laboratories has adapted to this situation and is now offers lab based analysis for a range of synthetic drugs including Synthetic Cannabinoids, Synthetic Cathinone, Piperazines, NBoMe, Ketamine & Flakka . Our drug test panels are being constantly updated to be able to detect the chemicals that are used in synthetic drugs, and our scientific team is constantly monitoring the compounds that get struck off or added to their list of ingredients to stay one step ahead of these life-threatening substances.

Safe Work Laboratories is also committed to improving its existing synthetic cannabis drug test regime as well as developing new synthetic drugs testing methods to help deal with synthetic drugs at workplace concerns better.

Developing a Comprehensive Synthetic Drugs Safe Workplace Program

Synthetic drugs at workplace concerns can be dealt with a little more easily if a company has a well-thought out drug and alcohol policy in place. This policy should stipulate the right programmes, including synthetic drugs testing, to provide CEOs, HR and safety officers clear and legal guidelines that will help them efficiently handle any synthetic drugs at workplace concern.

Safework Laboratories can help you develop such a policy and more. Please get in touch with us today for a confidential discussion if you need further information about synthetic drugs testing or if you want to develop a comprehensive synthetic drugs safe workplace programme.