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Emerging drugs of abuse: current perspectives on synthetic cannabinoids

Authors Debruyne D, Le Boisselier R

Received 15 June 2015

Accepted for publication 12 August 2015

Published 20 October 2015 Volume 2015:6 Pages 113—129

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/SAR.S73586

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Dr LaTrice Montgomery

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Professor Li-Tzy Wu

Danièle Debruyne,1,2 Reynald Le Boisselier1

1Centre for Evaluation and Information on Pharmacodependence - Addictovigilance (CEIP-A), 2Toxicology and Pharmacology Laboratory, Department of Pharmacology, University Hospital Centre Côte de Nacre, Caen, France

Abstract: New psychoactive drugs that have appeared over the last decade are typically dominated by cathinones and synthetic cannabinoids (SCs). SCs have been emerging as recreational drugs because they mimic the euphoria effect of cannabis while still being legal. Sprayed on natural herb mixtures, SCs have been primarily sold as “herbal smoking blends” or “herbal incense” under brand names like “Spice” or “K2”. Currently, SCs pure compounds are available from websites for the combination with herbal materials or for the use in e-cigarettes. For the past 5 years, an ever increasing number of compounds, representative of different chemical classes, have been promoted and now represent a large assortment of new popular drugs of abuse, which are difficult to properly identify. Their legal status varies by country with many government institutions currently pushing for their control. The in vitro binding to CB1/CB2 receptors is usually well-known and considerable differences have been found in the CB1 versus CB2 selectivity and potency within the different SCs, with several structure-activity relations being evident. Desired effects by CB1 agonist users are relaxation/recreative, however, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, or psychiatric/neurological side effects are commonly reported. At present there is no specific antidote existing if an overdose of designer drugs was to occur, and no curative treatment has been approved by health authorities. Management of acute toxic effects is mainly symptomatic and extrapolated from experience with cannabis.

Keywords: synthetic cannabinoids, chemistry, analysis, pharmacology, toxicology, dependence, medical care

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