Working in the drug and alcohol testing industry often allows companies such as SureHire to foresee and monitor local drug trends. Many of these trends tend to be geographical and some are common across the board. At the same time, we also have the unique ability to monitor new and emerging drug trends.
I wanted to take this blog to educate you on some of the new and emerging trends that you may have never heard of before.
Spice is synthetic cannabis (marijuana) that is manufactured in laboratories. The effects of spice mimic those of marijuana, but to a lesser extent. Wikipedia reports,
“No official studies have been conducted on its effects on humans. Though its effects are not well documented, extremely large doses may cause negative effects that are generally not noted in marijuana users, such as increased agitation and vomiting. A three gram package of Spice is said by one study, to have the same health effects on the lungs as a packet of cigarettes, although no conclusive evidence of this exists outside of the study. A user who consumed 3 g of Spice Gold every day for several months showed withdrawal symptoms, similar to those associated with withdrawing from the use of narcotics.”
Khat is an amphetamine-like stimulant that used to only be found in African regions or among African people groups. It is now growing in popularity as a substitute for the unpredictable drug, Ecstasy. Khat consumption induces mild euphoria and excitement and creates a pleasuring effect to the same degree as ecstasy. Individuals become very talkative under the influence of the drug and may appear to be unrealistic and emotionally unstable. The effects of oral administration occur more rapidly than the effects of amphetamine, roughly 15 minutes as compared to 30 minutes in amphetamine. Khat can induce manic behaviours and hyperactivity.
Although prescription drugs are not necessary unknown drug trend, the rate at which their abuse is escalating is alarming. In the United States, prescription drug abuse is the second most widely abused drug (behind marijuana) for youth age 12-17. Most recent research on deaths in the U.S. due to poisoning over a five-year period (1999-2004) shows that nearly all poison deaths in the country are attributed to drugs, and most drug poisonings result from the abuse of prescription and illegal drugs. (CDC, 2007)The number of these deaths increased from 12,186 in 1999 to 20,950 in 2004—a 62.5 percent change over five years.
Robo tripping refers to the effects DXM (dextromethorphan) users feel when they take high doses of cough syrup or other DXM products. “Robo” stems from the name of a common cough and cold product, Robitussin (and because users chug Robitussin or another cough syrup to achieve their desired high.) When “Robo tripping,” some users describe different “plateaus” ranging from mild distortions of color and sound to visual hallucinations, “out-of-body” dissociative* sensations, and loss of motor control, along with other side effects such as confusion, dizziness, double or blurred vision, slurred speech, impaired physical coordination, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, rapid heartbeat, drowsiness, numbness of fingers and toes, and disorientation.
Looking through a lot of the emerging drug trends a pattern begins to develop. It appears as if new drug users (particularly youth) are looking for ways to achieve a “high” without having to use hard drugs. Khat and Spice for example are not perceived as dangerous. And using prescriptions medications or cough syrup is often thought to be entirely safe because doctors prescribe these substances to help people.
The message that drugs like heroin and cocaine are bad seem to be getting through, but this makes way for a new category of “safe drugs”. The best thing that parents or even employers can do in this situation is stay informed. Know the signs and symptoms of what to look for in regards to substance abuse and know how to handle someone who is abusing.
If you’re an employer looking for more information about recognizing the signs of drug and alcohol abuse, SureHire offers a reasonable suspicion training course. For general knowledge, there are many website and various resources available to those who are looking. Here are a few of my recommendations below: