Nearly one third of the miners on a synthetic form of cannabis

New research has revealed that a synthetic form of cannabis is being consumed and has shown up in one in ten West Australian mine workers’ urine samples. The state's ChemCentre provides forensic testing for police and the State Coroner. They have been given the contract on an increasing basis by private companies in mining regions to test their workers for the substance, known as Kronic.

According to ChemCentre spokeswoman Sarah Lau, of the 90 urine samples tested, 10 per cent returned a positive result while other batches showed up to 30 per cent of workers had consumed the substance. Kronic is one of the latest emerging designer drugs to hit WA. It is manufactured in New Zealand can be sold legally in the state because legislation has not yet registered it as a prohibited substance. “We are working closely with police and the Department (of Mines and Petroleum) looking at the issue of Kronic and whether it should be banned or regulated,” Ms Lau said.

She added, “Kronic is banned in other countries around the world and is a concern to authorities around the world. From the literature we've seen - it is sold as dry herbs which have been sprayed with a synthetic chemical compound. It was originally designed to get the beneficial effects of pain relief without getting high but it was shelved because it was found that similar to Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) (the active chemical in cannabis), they act on the same receptors to create the same affect. It is more potent than cannabis and you get the same effect.” She noted that ChemCentre was the only facility in the country which could detect the drug and recent anecdotal evidence suggested people were using it in order to get around the on-site screening process utilized by mining companies. Integrity Sampling, one of the country's largest workplace drug testers, recently met police over concerns that the substance could not be detected in blood, urine and saliva testing.

The short term effects range from loss of co-ordination and memory to hallucinations, paranoia and psychotic episodes she explained and added, “We do not really understand (the) long-term effects. Research in lab testing has been on animals and does not tell us what the long-term effects on humans will be.” “The concern that is out there in scientific literature is that because of the chemical structure it is most likely a carcinogen, which causes cancer, but there is not enough research in the area to be sure,” she concluded.

The State Government has been aware of the substance for more than a month but Mental Health Minister Helen Morton confirmed yesterday that it still had not decided whether to ban it from legal sale. “All the relevant agencies, primarily WA Police, the ChemCentre and the Drug and Alcohol Office are working on this as a priority,” she said. “Briefings will then be provided to the ministers so Government can consider whether it should be banned based on the available evidence.”

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.

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