New employee drug tests can identify synthetic drugs

CLEVELAND - It's another sign synthetic marijuana is surging in popularity.  Employers can now drug test their workers to find out if they're using synthetic marijuana.

"There are new tests that have come about in just the last couple of years, both lab based and instant tests, that are now available for testing for these substances," said Karen Kitchen, the owner of USA Mobile Drug Testing of Cleveland.

Kitchen said synthetic marijuana use has quickly become epidemic in Ohio and the U.S.  The drug was blamed for 11,406 emergency department visits in 2010, according to the Drug Abuse Warning Network.

"It's becoming a greater, greater problem that I think we're only on the tip of the iceberg in terms of what is going on in this area," said Kitchen.

"You can get these products in so many places; on the internet, in head shops, in gas stations, really pretty much if you look around you can find them anywhere,  which is pretty frightening,"  she said.

A NewsChannel5 undercover investigation found stores are able to evade laws banning synthetic marijuana by selling new forms of the drug.

Rogue chemists constantly alter the components used to create synthetic marijuana so the substance is still legal.

Kitchen said new tests for synthetic marijuana identify two of the most commonly used chemicals found in the drug. 

"It's going to be a kind of an ongoing cat and mouse game, you know, the tests can only be as good as the compounds that we know we're testing for," said Kitchen.

For more information on the surging popularity of synthetic marijuana,  watch "Live on 5" Friday.

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