Popular culture has made it impossible to get away from the perception that designer drugs are ravaging America. NCIS (S11, Ep7) recently had a suspect who was aggressive and violent; the character Anthony DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly) asked if bath salts were the culprits. The drugs in the suspect’s system was PCP-laced marijuana. On The Real Housewives of Atlanta (S6, Ep1), Phaedra Parks called the erratic and often unpredictable Kenya Moore a “beauty queen on bath salts”. Other pop culture references in music make designer drug use seem cool. For example, the Nicki Minaj references a male wanting to love a beautiful woman and “pop molly” in the Chris Brown song Love More. Add to this pop culture glorification of designer drugs and the media sensationalization in news articles, one is bombarded with the designer drugs epidemic.
Indeed, synthetic cathinones, synthetic cannabinoids, piperazines, tryptamines, phenethylamines, and others are a public health nuisance. The Monitoring the Future Survey from the University of Michigan (www.monitoringthefuture.org) has shown that designer drugs like synthetic cannabinoids and synthetic cathinones are on the rise in high school and middle school aged children. Moreover, the CDC has issued repeated warnings about designer drug use; most recently with “Molly” and “Acetylfentanyl”. Parents, teachers, doctors, and other professionals must be diligent about testing for these compounds when ingestion is suspected.
Which begs the questions, how prevalent are these drugs?
In most toxicology laboratories, the detection rate of these compounds is around twenty percent; cocaine, marijuana, and illegal opiates like heroin are much higher. Calls to the poison control centers about these compounds are, also, on a decline. Professionals in the area are torn between ensuring these very toxic compounds do not harm more individuals and over-hyping their presence.
At Western Slope Laboratory, we test for compounds in all the aforementioned categories. Since the compounds of interest are ever-changing, stakeholders should be proactive about what exactly is being tested since the drugs like JWH-018 that were popular in 2010 have been completely replaced with drugs like PB-22 in 2013. Western Slope is your ally in the fight against designer drugs; contact us to discuss your testing needs.