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Ten Facts to Know About Synthetic Cannabinoids

16 August 2018 - 12:45pm by Kelly Perry

With the recent abundance of overdoses witnessed in downtown New Haven this week, the Cushing/Whitney Medical Library would like to pass on some information with regards to synthetic cannabinoids (source:  The American Journal of Medicine. 2016. 129(3): 240-244).

1.    Synthetic cannabinoids are not marijuana/cannabis
    •    Collection of numerous laboratory chemicals that interact with the cannabinoid receptor in the brain to mimic marijuana.

2.    Synthetic cannabinoids are often more potent than marijuana/cannabis
    •    The chemical components bind more strongly to the brain’s cannabinoid receptor, as well as other receptors causing dangerous and unpredictable effects.

3.    Synthetic cannabinoids are ever-changing
    •    Clandestine manufacturers frequently change the chemical formulations to evade law enforcement.
    •    The chemical compounds are not marijuana, so they will not show up on a typical urine drug screen.

4.    Synthetic cannabinoid research was “high jacked”
    •    Legitimate research began over 40 years ago to evaluate use as pharmaceutical agents.
    •    Clandestine manufacturers began illegally synthesizing some of the compounds and distributing for illicit use.

5.    Synthetic cannabinoids are dangerous chemicals with unpredictable composition and human toxicity
    •    Chemicals have not been evaluated in a controlled setting.
    •    Many of the products are laced with substances ranging form simple flavors to substances as rat poison and embalming fluids.

6.    Synthetic cannabinoids have many street names
    •    Some names include 'Spice',  'K2', 'Moon Rocks’, 'Angry Birds', 'Black Mamba', 'Bombay Blue', 'Scooby Snax', 'Yucatan', etc.

7.    Synthetic cannabinoids usage is not limited to young people
    •    Users ages range from 12-69 years.

8.    Synthetic cannabinoids are easily obtained
    •    Chemicals are imported from overseas (majority from China), mixed with acetone, sprayed onto herbal concoctions, labeled as potpourri or incense, then sold at head shops, gas stations, or the Internet.

9.    Synthetic cannabinoids can be addicting, with unknown long-term consequences
    •    Due to the unknown chemical content and varying activity of related metabolites, addition potential and long-term consequences are unclear.

10.    Education is key
    •    The National Institute on Drug Abuse provides screening tools, patient handouts, and continuing education modules.
    •    The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration provides free print resources to assist health care providers with detection; brief interventions; screening tools; and referral resources
    •    MedlinePlus provides a wide range of health information geared for consumers