Synthetic Cannabinoids and the New Drug Crisis

Synthetic cannabinoids, more popularly known as “fake weed”, K2, or Spice, was originally produced as a way to study the functions of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active psychoactive substance found in cannabis, and its interactions with cannabinoid receptors. During its first debut as an illicit drug in 2004, synthetic cannabinoids were first being sold at local gas stations as incense, and thus, sellers of this drug were able to circumvent law enforcement by packaging them with labels stating “Not for Human Consumption.” The creation of many synthetic cannabinoids are so simple that they can easily be created illicitly. Also, the simplicity of the synthetic pathway allows the starting materials to be easily changed to create a new synthetic cannabinoid. Due to increased legal action, production of synthetic cannabinoids has evolved with many new strains, some including brodifacoum, an anticoagulant poison commonly found in rat poisons, and has been added to intensify the high. With the addition of unregulated chemicals, using synthetic cannabinoids has resulted in detrimental health effects including hallucinations, strokes, seizures, vomiting, heart failure, and even death. We are now in the midst of a synthetic cannabinoid crisis, or rather, is this merely the beginning of a new drug epidemic?

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