Spicing Up Pharmacology: A Review of Synthetic Cannabinoids From Structure to Adverse Events

Colin Davidson, Jolanta Opacka-Juffry, Angel Arevalo-Martin, Daniel Garcia-Ovejero, Eduardo Molina-Holgado, Francisco Molina-Holgado

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Recreational use of synthetic cannabinoids (SCB), a class of novel psychoactive substances is an increasing public health problem specifically in Western societies, with teenagers, young adults, and the prison population being the most affected. Some of these SCB are analogs of tetrahydrocannabinol, aminoalkylindoles, and other phytocannabinoid analogs have been detected in herbal preparations generically called "Spice." Spice, "K2" or "fake cannabis" is a general term used for variable herbal mixtures of unknown ingredients or chemical composition. SCB are highly potent CB1 cannabinoid receptor agonists falsely marketed and sold as safe and legal drugs. Here, we present an overview of the endocannabinoid system, CB, and SCB chemical structures and activity at CB receptors. Finally, we highlight the psychological effects of SCB, particularly on learning and memory, and adverse clinical effects including on the cardiovascular system, kidneys, and CNS, including psychosis. Taken together, it is clear that many SCB are extremely dangerous and a major public health problem.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCannabinoid Pharmacology
EditorsDavid Kendall, Stephen Alexander
Number of pages34
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jun 2017

Publication series

NameAdvances in Pharmacology
ISSN (Print)1054-3589


  • Journal Article

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