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New Drug Testing Developed for Previously Undetectable K2 and Spice

Posted on September 22, 2010 in Research & News

Two new intoxicating drugs, K2 and Spice, are raising concerns among public health officials and law enforcement since they cannot be detected by current drug testing technologies. To address this problem, diagnostic laboratories have developed new assays for drug monitoring that are reliably capable of detecting the two highly intoxicating drugs, and are making these products available to consumers. 

K2 and Spice are two compounds typically found in synthetic cannabinoids, also known as the JWH-018 and JWH-073 metabolites, and are generally referred to as "herbal incense" or "legal highs." Some drug users, especially those undergoing drug probation or rehabilitation, have admitted to resorting to K2 or Spice use as an alternative to marijuana. The compounds, currently not classified as controlled substances, are secretly sprayed on natural herbal blends, which are then legally sold as seemingly innocent products like vanilla or baybean. Synthetic cannabinoid products are manufactured in Asia and then sold in local markets throughout the U.S.—including gas stations, liquor stores, convenient stores, smoke shops, or on the Internet—under the brand names “K2,” “Spice,” “Sence,” “Yucatan Fire,” “Skunk,” or “Genie.” When smoked or ingested, JWH-018 and JWH-073 can produce marijuana-like effects by acting as primary receptor agonists. The compounds have been found in as many as 25 different herbal blends; even though they closely resemble marijuana, they still remain undetectable under standardized drug testing.

Now, companies like Dominion Diagnostics are promoting a new clinical drug monitoring assay that is capable of detecting JWM-018 and JWH-073 metabolites through urine testing. Another company, NMS Labs, has also recently begun marketing its array of drug monitoring assays that are designed to detect the presence of these metabolites through either urine testing or blood testing. The products are said to utilize Ultra Performance Liquid Chromatography/Tandem Mass Spectrometry (UPLC/MS/MS), a highly advanced form of laboratory technology that is capable of achieving precise results. These new capabilities will help law enforcement, hospitals, rehabilitation clinics, drug courts, and schools detect the presence of these popular synthetic cannabinoids and can be incorporated into traditional drug testing formats. For toxicologists, clinicians, and other physicians, the new technologies help ascertain more scrutiny in individuals’ drug use—making legal action, prevention, treatment, or medical administration more safe and effective.

K2, Spice, and related substances and considered highly dangerous. Because these compounds are surreptitiously added to other substances, the amount of the compound present cannot exactly be measured. These synthetic cannabinoids have been associated with impaired driving incidents, attempted suicides, and emergency department visits, and have been linked to such adverse effects as panic attacks, heart palpitations, respiratory complications, aggression, mood swings, altered perception, and paranoia. Also, recent investigations have cited the compounds as having greater potency that THC found in traditional cannabis products because of K2 and Spice’s unregulated production. K2 and Spice are becoming alarmingly more popular among younger generations due to their accessibility, making the use of these new drug testing technologies more significant to drug monitoring programs that involve youth outreach.

Source: Medical News Today, NMS Labs Now Performs Urine Tests For Metabolites Of Synthetic Cannabinoids Found In K2 And Spice, September 17, 2010

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