Legal Yet Lethal | Synthetic Drugs

News articles like this report about “legal drugs” coming from Shorewood, Illinois are become more and more frequent. Stores all across the country are setting up shop and offering “legal” drugs under the guise of bath salts, incense, potpourri and other “harmless” products. Parents don’t think much about it – their teens are buying products from retail stores. However, store owners and drug-using teens alike both know that these supposedly legal, “harmless” products are actually giving a high that could be much more powerful – and dangerous – than outlawed marijuana.


Stores sell "legal" synthetic drugs. Photo courtesy of

What are Synthetic Drugs?

As mentioned in our previous post about synthetic drugs, these are products sold in many stores, often called “hedge shops.” Labeled on the shelves as bath salts and incense, store owners currently offer these drugs to teens looking to get their hands on “legal” substances that will give the same high as marijuana and other drugs. However, synthetic drugs are being reported as even more dangerous than the “traditional” marijuana. They contain compounds known as “JWH” and are extremely dangerous and harmful. The EPA even outlawed products with these dangerous compounds earlier this year, but producers continue to find ways to keep new variants of the compound (that haven’t been ruled as illegal yet) in products on the shelf. These drugs are known to be much stronger – and much more dangerous. The use of synthetic drugs has landed several teens in the ER, and some have even experienced comas, seizures, mental loss and more. And the trickiest thing about synthetic drugs – they may be difficult to detect.

Testing for Synthetic Drugs

Often parents or employers suspicious of drug users may require that teens take a standard drug test. However, the typical 5-panel and 10-panel drug tests will test for the more traditional drugs – marijuana, cocaine, methadone, opiates and more. These drug tests work great to detect traditional drug use – but will not pick up if the teen is using synthetic drugs to get high. Synthetic drug-using teens waltz into the lab and pass a drug test with flying colors while parents leave scratching their heads. That’s why it’s imperative that parents understand that teens may be getting high off of “new” substances these days, and alternative tests may need to be run in addition to the standard drug test.

To test a teen for synthetic drugs, we use a urine test and a saliva test to see if certain synthetic drugs are in the system. We’re often looking for synthetic cannabinoids to determine if a teen is using synthetic drugs, and our unique tests will detect if these synthetic compounds are in the bodily fluids.

For parents suspecting teen drug use, we encourage you to be proactive and get your teen tested for traditional AND synthetic drug use. If you see any questionable materials in their bedrooms strange salts, potpourri, or small, metallic packages with what seems to be “harmless” products, be suspicious. Your teen may be using something that’s not only harmful, but also has the power to be quite lethal.

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