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Make Spice/K2 part of your Reasonable Suspicion Training DOT Program on Drug and Alcohol Awareness

Posted by Daniel A. Feerst, BSW, MSW, LISW-CP Publisher on

Regarding reasonable suspicion training DOT programming, the US Department of Transportation does not provide a huge amount of guidance on what drugs of abuse they want managers to be educated about other than alcohol, downers, uppers, PCP, hallucinogens, and marijuana. However, to keep up with the different types of drugs of abuse that can affect human behavior and the workplace, you must update your content regardless of the limited DOT guidance. There is always some unique substance of abuse making its way into society, so keep a look out.


You many wonder why PCP is listed as one of the drugs that the DOT wants supervisors to understand even though we don't hear much about it these days. It was more of a rage in the 1980's, and not coincidentally, the Drug Free Workplace Act was first signed at this time. That's why it is on the list. PCP is still around, but reasonable suspicion training DOT programming needs go beyond this substance to add those that are even more of a threat right now.

Although most people do not know it, Spice/K2 is a bigger problem than PCP. The U.S. Army is having a problem with it. And this substance is highly toxic stuff. Drug testing isn't necessarily going to identify it. I believe they are making a screening test, but the DOT does not require testing. Because the radical behaviors of those using this drug, you should educate supervisors about Spice/K2.

Spice is synthetic Marijuana (or cannabis) that is produced by spraying chemicals on natural herbs. It is designed to mimic the psychoactive effects of marijuana or pot. However, it is not pot or marijuana. Its active ingredient is not THC, which is the active ingredient in marijuana.

Proper research does not exist about chemicals that are used in spice. Hence, we are not fully aware of the damage caused by them. Most of the chemicals don’t even have any specific names and are described only by letters. For example, JWH-018, HU-210 etc. Sounds yummy, huh?

Spice is popularly used by teenagers who are often already using pot or marijuana, and it also has been a problem in the military where thousands of personnel have been dismissed because of its use.

Spice is easily available and its use is advertised as legal, but it is not. The many chemicals used to create it are banned and it is illegal to possess them. However, until a couple of years ago, Spice use was legal in the USA. It was only in July 2012 that using Spice was classified as illegal at the federal level. I hope you are beginning to see the rationale of adding information about Spice/K2 to your reasonable suspicion training DOT programming efforts

Spice is also popular among prison inmates or those individuals who are out on parole. Many have used Spice thinking that it is not detectable in drug tests, but technology has caught up.  According to one study conducted by the University of Michigan done in the year 2012, Spice was the second highest drug consumed by the high school seniors just after marijuana. Spice use has been reported by one in nine high school seniors, a statistic that is highly disturbing.

Spice is often bought in head shops and some convenience stores, and online. Formulas of chemicals used in Spice keep changing, but the most common myths associated with Spice is that it is “marijuana lite”, legal, safe, undetectable, and not really drug abuse. None of these of course are true. What are reasons for the growing popularity of Spice?

Spice is very often advertised as a natural replacement for marijuana (which it is not). When offering reasonable suspicion training DOT programming, describe the behaviors of an employee who may be using Spice/K2. Some of these may include not being able to respond to verbal cues; may be unable to speak; may not respond to pain; may appear catatonic and un-moving. The skin may be warm. Until recently, using Spice was not illegal; hence, it was difficult for drug enforcement authorities to tackle its use.

There are other drugs of abuse of course that can affect the workplace, and I will discuss more of them in the future. Salvia is one of these substances, which is available on the Internet. If you can't wait, try vising YouTube to see footage of the these drugs and their effects. And if you have one our PowerPoints or Web course, you can insert these videos into your presentation. Believe me, the videos will spice things up (pardon the pun.) Go here to see our brochure on this substance of abuse Spice/K2.

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