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RSAT Forum > Monthly Discussion > January 2019: Increased Prevalence of Synthetic Drugs View modes: 
skeller - 1/25/2019 3:04:57 PM
January 2019: Increased Prevalence of Synthetic Drugs
Question: In our county, we've actually been seeing some real effects of all the treatment, prevention and education work focused on the opioid epidemic. The fentanyl that is out there may be making a difference too since we hear that may be the reason why people are finally getting into MAT or stopping use of opioids altogether. But what is being seen is the increase of other drugs like cocaine, methamphetamines and, most recently, bath salts and all the forms of "spice". But now the spice seems much more potent than when we were seeing it 8 or so years ago. Its effects seem more like bath salts in its unpredictability. Have other regions noticed this trend? And what newer modes of drug testing are out there for synthetic marijuana and bath salts that don't have a long turnaround?

Response 1: I work in CT and we saw a number of overdoses and deths because of spice last summer. At first the rumors were that it had been a spike with fentanyl but EMTs had used Narcan and it had no effect. Basicallyit came down to new more potent strains of spice. But, in other cities, overdoses and deaths have been traced back to fentanyl-laced spice and rat poisin-laced spice; together with the more potent strains. The spice itself is getting more chemically complicated in an effort to be more potent but also, in some overdose clusters, it's because it's laced with something else deadly.

Response 2: There are some tests out there that vary wildly in price to test for the presence of synthetic cannabinoids. It is NOT in the standard panel of any probation/parole test I know of. It has to be requested specifically and depending on th test, it can take 2-3 days for results or more than a week. I am not sure about how long it stays in the system, etc. Usually, the reauest has only come in the dpeartments I've worked with because the probationer isn't testing positive for anything else but has been observed oviously under the influence of some intoxicant. That together with their history of using spice, a special test may be requested. I have heard that because of all the different types of spice, some tests may not be positive because they haven't caught up with the newest changes. Is this something to consider?

Response 3: A bit off the subject, but people are overdosing on buprenorphine too.  We were told only children could overdose on straight buprenorphine but medical examiners who spend the extra money to test which opioid is killing people are now finding buprenorphine only overdose deaths. Virginia’s Chief Medical Examiner’s Office reported 16 died in 2016 and seven in first half of 2017 after taking buprenorphine.  Four had no other drugs in their system. The others mixed the buprenorphine with other drugs including antihistamines and medications to treat anxiety, depression and seizures.  Similarly, the Tennessee Department of Health found that of the 67 deaths associated with buprenorphine in 2016, ten abused buprenorphine alone.