The use of synthetic cannabinoids continues to be prevalent in Europe and the world, they represent the most popular group of new psychoactive substances on the market and are used and monitored closely by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA).
Much has been written about the synthetic cannabis market over the years, some of it accurate but much of the information put out by the media is sensationalised to sell ad space and incorrect.
To accurately understand Synthetic cannabis and its effects it’s helpful to look at these substances and how they work on an individual basis and not group them together as one drug.
Generally speaking most synthetics mimic the effects of (–)-trans-Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol
(THC) which is the main psychoactive substance found in marijuana. Like THC, the
synthetic cannabinoids bind to the CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors in the brain.
The fact that these substances closely mimic THC has led to a big worldwide market and a large range of ‘legal high’ products sold as legal replacements for cannabis.
There is a tendency by the and authorities and the media to categorise all new cannabinoids as the same substance that all act in the same way. The fact is that these compounds can be very different, with very different effects. The first synthetic cannabinoids which were widely used were the JWH series. JWH-018 and JWH-073 were extremely popular in Europe before they were banned around 2012, the neurotoxicity of these are lower much than the chemical structures emerged to replace them. When one synthetic cannabinoid is, or is about to be, legally controlled manufacturers can have one or more replacement substance ready for sale.
“Legal high” products with synthetic cannabinoid compounds in them have been sold in shops and online as ‘herbal smoking mixtures’ since the mid-2000s.
Many sellers have tried innovative marketing approaches and advertising approaches and are still widely available on the web, and in some countries even in shops known as “headshops” or “smartshops”.
Smartshops in many countries started selling ‘Herbal highs’ and ‘party pills’
in the mid 2000s and many of the legal highs that were sold contained
Herbal highs, also known as legal highs or party pills are marketed as herbal supplements that offer increased energy or mood with similar effects to ecstasy or amphetamines.
They are typically marketed to contain a variety of natural and chemically active ingredients, these ingredients can be compounds as common as caffeine or taurine, citrus, aurantium and geranamine.
Up until 2009 – 2010, a very popular chemical active ingredients in party pills was BZP (benzylpiperazine) and TFMPP (trifluoro-methyl-phenylpiperazine). Other ingredients included Piper nigrum, phenylalanine, tryptophan and tyrosine.
After BZP was banned manufacturers began marketing new products. These products included chemicals such as:
3-Methylmethcathinone (also known as 3-MMC or metaphedrone)
Ethylphenidate (EPH) is a psychostimulant and a close analog of methylphenidate.
1-propionyl-LSD also known as 1P-LSD
2C-B-FLY, aka: 8-bromo-2,3,6,7-benzo-dihydro-difuran-ethylamine or 2-(8-bromo-2,3,6,7-tetrahydrofuro[2,3-f] benzofuran-4-yl)ethanamine
Branded products like Charly Sheen, Gogaine, Ching and Poke may contain stimulant drugs like methiopropamine or ethylphenidate. These substances are classed as Stimulants, which are chemicals that increase energy and are often snorted white powders. e.g. GoGaine. Benzo fury, Go Gaine, Green Beans or Pink Panther are just some of the names of the new substances.
There are other types of Hallucinogens – drugs with LSD/magic mushroom type effects e.g. AMT, 5-MEO-DALT
Synthetic Cannabinoids – drugs which have a cannabis like effect e.g. Black Mamba, Magic Dragon, Doob
Not a lot is known about the potential effects associated with these chemicals and their long term usages. The reason the potential harms associated with these chemicals are difficult to predict is because of their newness. Each product may contain different chemicals with varying toxicity.