Synthetic cannabinoids are chemical compounds that mimic the effect of THC, the principle active ingredient of cannabis. Like THC, they bind to cannabinoid receptors in the brain and were initially developed as therapeutic agents for the treatment of pain. However, these psychoactive research chemicals are frequently being sprayed on herbal mixtures and sold as “fake weed” or “synthetic marijuana.” JWH-018 and JWH-073 are the two most common synthetic cannabinoid chemicals found in a variety of herbal smoking blends. Others like JWH-250, JWH-081, and CP47/CP497 have also started appearing in some products and preparations.
How are synthetic cannabinoids being used?
Legal in most states, JWH-018 and JWH-073 are the two most poular synthetic cannabinoids used today. Reportedly offering a high 4 times stronger than marijuana, JWH-018 and JWH-073 are commonly associated with herbal smoke and incense products sold under names like K2, Spice, Serenity and other. Synthetic cannabinoid chemicals are often laced in the herbal smoking products that are readily available via the Internet and in many “head-shops” around the country. Users looking for a “legal high” often turn to these herbal smoking or incense products because they do not show up on a standard urine drug test. Users smoke the product by wrapping joints, smoking it in pipes, or inhaling fumes via vaporizers. Users also report that herbal blends or pure chemical concoctions can be ingested with an infusion or solvent process; purportedly allowing them to manage the potency and dose of the active ingredient(s).
What are the effects of using synthetic cannabinoids like JWH-018, JWH-073, JWH-250 and others?
JWH-018, JWH-073, JWH-250 and other similar chemicals are the primary synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonists responsible for the euphoric and psychoactive effects that imitate marijuana and are among the numerous compounds found in herbal incense and smoke blends. These synthetic cannabinoids do not contain cannabis but produce effects reported up to 4 times the strength of THC/marijuana. Users indicate the high comes on slow at first, then with surprising potency. There have been many reports about the adverse effects including agitation, rapid heart rate, confusion, dizziness and nausea. In fact, the American Association of Poison Control Centers issued a warning about the dangers of synthetic marijuana products in March 2010. Long-term effects from these research chemicals are unknown.
What herbal incense brand names are being used?
Users looking for a “legal high” often turn to popular herbal smoking products marketed under brand names such as K2, K3, Spice, Genie, Smoke, Pot-pourri, Buzz, Pulse, Hush, Mystery, Earthquake, Ocean Blue, Stinger, Serenity and many others. RTL maintains a composition and concentration list for different products, brands and preparations. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate the products, but maintains they are not approved for human consumption. Without proper ingredient labeling or measured potency, users increase the risk of overdosing. To complicate labeling and dose concerns, some reports indicate many popular brands are now counterfeit or fake brands.
What is the legal status of these chemicals?
While legal under federal law, products containing JWH-018 and JWH-073 are banned in several states and by the U. S. armed forces. At present, JWH-250 is illegal in only one state. Legal restrictions on these compunds are likely to be imposed nationwide. Additionally, they are banned by a number of European countries, including Britain, France, Germany, Poland and Russia, as well as South Korea. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) labeled them a “drug and chemical of concern” in 2009.
(“Synthetic Cannabinoid Testing (urine & oral fluid)”, p.1, 2010, Redwood Toxicology Laboratory)