Synthetic cannabinoids

Brooke Mills, Andres Yepes, Kenneth Nugent

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations

Abstract

Synthetic cannabinoids (SCBs), also known under the brand names of "Spice," "K2," "herbal incense," "Cloud 9," "Mojo" and many others, are becoming a large public health concern due not only to their increasing use but also to their unpredictable toxicity and abuse potential. There are many types of SCBs, each having a unique binding affinity for cannabinoid receptors. Although both Δ 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and SCBs stimulate the same receptors, cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB 1) and cannabinoid receptor 2 (CB 2), studies have shown that SCBs are associated with higher rates of toxicity and hospital admissions than is natural cannabis. This is likely due to SCBs being direct agonists of the cannabinoid receptors, whereas THC is a partial agonist. Furthermore, the different chemical structures of SCBs found in Spice or K2 may interact in unpredictable ways to elicit previously unknown, and the commercial products may have unknown contaminants. The largest group of users is men in their 20s who participate in polydrug use. The most common reported toxicities with SCB use based on studies using Texas Poison Control records are tachycardia, agitation and irritability, drowsiness, hallucinations, delusions, hypertension, nausea, confusion, dizziness, vertigo and chest pain. Acute kidney injury has also been strongly associated with SCB use. Treatment mostly involves symptom management and supportive care. More research is needed to identify which contaminants are typically found in synthetic marijuana and to understand the interactions between different SBCs to better predict adverse health outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)59-62
Number of pages4
JournalAmerican Journal of the Medical Sciences
Volume350
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 9 2015
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Abuse
  • Acute kidney injury
  • Cannabinoids
  • Synthetic marijuana
  • Toxicity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)

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