Several local governments have started to include synthetic cannabinoids in their criminal justice drug monitoring programs in an effort to deter their use, after it became clear many people were using the drugs because they knew tests wouldn’t detect them, according to the Director of the University of Maryland’s Center for Substance Abuse Research (CESAR).
Washington, D.C. and Tampa, Florida have added testing for synthetic cannabinoids. The drugs are sometimes referred to as synthetic marijuana, but the name is misleading, says Eric Wish, Ph.D. He explained that when synthetic cannabinoids were first created, they mimicked the effects of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Now, the chemical structure of synthetic cannabinoids has changed so much, “they are multi-generations away from THC,” said Dr. Wish. “People who are switching from regular marijuana to synthetic cannabinoids are switching to a more dangerous drug.”
Dr. Wish says any program that conducts drug tests, including schools, workplaces, accident investigations, hospitals and treatment programs, are likely missing synthetic cannabinoid use in their populations, due to the high cost and complexity of testing for them. This leads to lost opportunities for diagnosis and intervention.