Dwindling support services and declines in drug treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic have led to a proliferation in Synthetic Cannabinoid usage across Europe, causing 224 new forms to be detected on the continent since 2008 and 15 for the first time in 2021.
Whilst often marketed as a ‘safe’ and ‘legal’ alternative to natural cannabis, Synthetic Cannabinoids can cause severe health and wellbeing issues when abused or mixed with other dangerous synthetic opioids, which have already caused the deaths of 9 individuals in Germany, 34 in Hungary and 49 in Turkey in 2020 alone.
For employers and HR teams, it’s important to understand the risks posed by synthetic cannabinoid consumption and the value that workplace drug testing can bring when it comes to identifying and tackling substance misuse at work. This is key to promoting employee safety and wellbeing, and may be a contractual requirement for many businesses.

What Are Synthetic Cannabinoids?

Synthetic Cannabinoids are laboratory-made chemicals popularly sprayed on herbal mixtures for the purpose of smoking. The drug is frequently marketed as ‘fake weed’ as its molecules are designed to mimic the effects of cannabinoids like THC and CBD found in the marijuana plant. However, different variations of dosage and chemical composites across products means that synthetic cannabinoids can be highly unpredictable after consumption.

What is Spice?

Spice is the general nickname given to a drug containing one or more synthetic cannabinoids. The name derived from one of its first ‘brands’ in convenience stores, where it was labelled ‘Not For Human Consumption’ to prevent liability when consumed.

What is Mamba?

Likewise, Mamba is a variation of the synthetic cannabinoid combination and refers to an early brand of synthetic cannabinoid-coated herb. Both Spice and Mamba are popularly called the ‘zombie drugs’ due to regularly leaving users foaming at the mouth in a slumped, unconscious state.

Synthetic Cannabinoids Class of Drugs

Synthetic cannabinoids are class B substances after an amendment to the 1971 Misuse of Drug Acts in 2009/2013, and further restricted under the 2016 Psychoactive Substance Act after concerns over hospitalisation and death rates when consumption.
So far, little is known about the overall effects of synthetic cannabinoids on the human brain due to their varying chemical compositions across products. However, it’s apparent that these legal highs have highly damaging effects on the human body and psyche, and can significantly impact on workplace productivity and safety if left unchecked.
Therefore, it would be wise to be informed about the impacts of the drug to help identify its use in the workforce.  Common symptoms include:

Physical Health

  • Dizziness
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Seizures
  • Heart attacks
  • Renal injuries
  • Skin problems

Mental Health

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Hallucination
  • Amnesia

Synthetic Cannabis Deaths

Overall, the abuse of synthetic cannabinoids has caused around 165 UK death between 2012-2019, so recognising its signs is instrumental in maintaining employee safety and wellbeing by allowing avenues of discussion for those influenced.

Drug Testing for Synthetic Cannabinoids

How can we help? At Innovative Testing Solutions, we help UK businesses get to grips with tackling substance misuse at work. This involves:

  • Policy writing and consultation– to ensure workplace drug and alcohol testing programs are legally defensible, promote employee wellbeing, and are robust.
  • Drug and alcohol testing kit provision – we supply businesses with all the essential testing kits they’ll need to run an effective testing program. Our products are manufactured to European workplace standards, making them ideal for UK businesses.

A purely punitive approach to synthetic cannabinoid misuse may not be the most optimal solution in the modern day. That’s why we work with employers to help educate managers on how to talk to employees about substance misuse in a constructive and useful manner, while also writing a legal policy that lays out what actions should be taken and when to handle specific incidents.
Whether you have an existing drug testing program or are looking to create one in response to a recent challenge your business has faced, get in touch with our experts to learn about how we can support you.