Mass Overdose Puts Spotlight on Synthetic Drugs

Jennifer Gladstone

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K2_drug_overdose.jpgA mass overdose recently sent 33 New Yorkers to the hospital in a single day. They weren’t doing any of the drugs that probably popped into your mind. All of them OD’d on K2, a synthetic marijuana that is also known as Spice.

This increasingly popular drug is a powerful one. People describe those who are using as zombies.

One witness of the mass overdose told the New York Times that people were being truly paralyzed by the drug. He reported watching people collapse, and said it looked like a scene out of a zombie movie. EMTs and police found people staggering through the streets, hanging onto cars, lampposts and even fire hydrants to stay upright. Others just passed out in the middle of sidewalks and streets.

Late last year the New York City Council passed new legislation that banned synthetic cannabinoids and threatened to fine, or even put stores that sold it out of business. After the law passed, the number of K2 related emergency room visits dropped dramatically – but only for a short time. Now sellers have moved from retail to the streets, and those who are “bugging out” can be seen all over town.

Is K2 a problem for employers?

Many think these marijuana “substitutes” are a way to have their fun without having to worry about getting caught on a drug test. In fact, the Maryland DOT positive rates for marijuana use is right around 5%, but about 9% of truckers have self-reported using pot. So, we either have lots of drivers managing to cheat the drug test – which is HARD to do – or they are using a synthetic version of the drug which will not show up on a regular marijuana panel.

For a long time, it was hard to weed these users out. Since these drugs are made in a laboratory, creators just need to change the compound a bit to hide it from a drug test.  But things are changing. Testing methods are starting to catch up. The DOT is even considering adding synthetic marijuana to its drug testing panel.

Synthetic drug panels are expensive, but it is possible for employers to add the test if they feel strongly about making sure their employees are not turning themselves into K2 Zombies.

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Jennifer Gladstone

Posted By: Jennifer Gladstone

Jennifer Gladstone is a news anchor and journalist with more than 20 years of experience in front of the camera. She's worked in several markets, large and small, and has performed nearly every task needed in a newsroom. As EBI’s Screening News Editor, she keeps EBI’s customers and blog subscribers up to date on the latest screening news and legislative alerts affecting companies of all sizes.

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