Deadly new designer drugs which can cause severe hallucinations and erratic behaviour among users are making their way into the Australian workplace.

Australia’s largest workplace drug testing company, Safework Laboratories, says the first positive results for the psychoactive compound NBOMe, also known as N-Bomb, have been detected on Australian worksites in Western Australia and Queensland.

Safework’s National Marketing Director and forensic toxicologist Mr Andrew Leibie, said the positive tests were a frightening development for worker safety.

“NBOMe compounds are extremely potent with as little as thousandths of a gram enough to cause major effects on those who consume it including violent or frightening hallucinations, major cardiac symptoms, nausea and vomiting,” he said.

“NBOMe compounds are also associated with bizarre behaviours such as running into buildings head first or running into moving traffic.

“The impact a worker affected by these drugs could have while operating heavy machinery or in a safety-sensitive workplace is terrifying to consider.”

Mr Leibie said NBOMe compounds could not be detected by normal workplace drug tests and the recent positives had only been discovered in more advanced testing requested by the particular workplace.

“At the moment, we believe NBOMe is still relatively rare in Australia, but the incidence is increasing,” he said.

“As it makes its way through society, it may become more important to broaden the range of compounds tested for at safety sensitive workplaces.

“The arrival of NBOMe in larger quantities would be a very dangerous development.”

Mr Leibie said key signs that someone may be affected by NBOMe included:

  • Hallucinations, which could be violent or frightening
  • Facial flushing/blushing
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Inability to communicate
  • High or irregular heartbeat
  • Seizures
  • Muscle spasms
  • High body temperatures

“NBOMe by itself can be deadly, but in combination with other commonly used drugs such as speed, ice or ecstasy, it can create a lethal cocktail,” he said.

Mr Leibie said traces of NBOMe could be detected in users up to 48 hours after consumption.

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