Designer Shoes…Designer Fashion…But Designer Drugs?

pre screening,screening testsYou have heard of designer shoes, designer fashion and may be the band Designer Drugs, if you are an Australian clubber and music follower, but have you heard of designer drugs?  This is yet another term that employers should be aware of because these are powerful illicit drugs. They are called designer drugs because they are created for the purpose of circumventing the drug laws.

The designer drugs are a bit tricky because they will give the drug user the same kind of experience that other illegal drugs are meant to generate. The designer drugs, though, are synthetic drugs in which as little as one molecule may have been modified in the molecular structure thus creating a new drug form. Most of the laws specifically name drugs that are illegal so these new drugs are technically not illegal for a while.

Popular designer drugs that have shown up include ketamine, GHB and K2 to name a few.

  • Ketamine – Ketamine is a dissociative anaesthetic drug designed originally for veterinary use, but that became popular with drug users when it was discovered to have hallucinogenic properties causing similar effects as those achieved with PCP.  It causes dreamlike states by distorting sight and sound perceptions. It is usually injected intramuscularly or is snorted.
  • GHB – Gamma-Hydroxybutyric acid (GHB) is a central nervous system depressant that is actually a natural substance present in the brain in very small concentrations. High doses of this drug produce a sedative effect. It is usually taken orally as a liquid or powder but may be snorted also.
  • K2 – A substitute for marijuana, it is a mixture of herbs and chemicals that is smoked. It affects the central nervous system and mimics the affects achieved when smoking marijuana.

Just recently the University of New South Wales reported that the use of ecstasy is declining. That is good news except that the study conducted indicated the decline is due to the fact that there is a new range of Australian designer drugs.1 These include mephedrone which is that infamous one molecule different from an amphetamine. Referred to as miaow or bubbles, it is a synthetic stimulant.

It is amazing to note that one of the main reason ecstasy use is falling is that drug users are reporting that it is being sold with much less purity. In other words, the ecstasy is not delivering the desired effects, so more powerful and dangerous synthetic drugs are designed.2

Not Fit for Human Consumption

One of the interesting facts about these designer drugs is that new ones appear on the drug scene regularly, and they are often first sold on the internet. Labelled as plant food that is “not fit for human consumption”, these drugs are temporarily and technically legal. Eventually the law catches up and adds the designer drugs to its list of illicit substances.

When you choose to do random or blanket drug testing as an employer, your goal is not to catch those breaking the law, but rather to protect the safety of workers and the workplace. The designer drugs can negatively impact learning ability, attention, motor function, memory and some may cause hallucinations. That is not the kind of condition you want your employees to be in whilst they are working.

The concern is whether the saliva drug test or the urine drug test can detect these designer drugs.  It’s impossible to say yes or no to this question. The answer is that a quality state-of-the-art drug testing laboratory will develop drug testing equipment to detect these substances once it is discovered they exist.

Talk to the Testing Laboratory Professionals

There certainly may be a short period in which a brand new designer drug is sold and is not detectable, but it won’t remain undetectable for long. Saliva and/or urine drug tests can currently detect ketamine, K2 and mephedrone. GHB can be detected but is not considered a routine drug test (as of right now).  That can certainly change if it is determined its use has become extensive.

CMM Technology ( works hand-in-hand with employers to insure that current drug testing equipment is current and effective at detecting the popular drugs whether they are “designer” quality or not. You can contact the CMM Technology professionals and discuss any concerns you may have about the types of drugs employees may be using on or off the job.


1. Herald Sun. (2011, May 9). New Designer Drugs Overtake Ecstasy. Retrieved May 10, 2011, from Herald Sun:

2. White, Cassie. (2011, May 9). Escstasy Impurity Leads to DesignerDrug Rise. Retrieved May 9, 2011, from ABC News:

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