Synthetic cannabinoids: the hidden side of Spice drugs

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Spice drugs are herbal mixtures sprayed with synthetic cannabinoids designed to mimic the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana [Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC)] and synthesized by introducing modifications to the chemical structure of parental compounds aiming to circumvent legal regulations. Synthetic cannabinoid use/abuse can be devastating as toxicological effects and adverse reactions cannot be entirely predicted and may vary with the dose, route of administration, individual vulnerability and concomitant intake with other drugs. The absence of validated testing procedures in the clinical field makes difficult the adoption of a therapeutic approach effective in coping with the synthetic cannabinoid phenomenon, posing a significant challenge for prevention, treatment and public health in general. The aim of this review is to gain insights into the epidemiological, pharmacological and toxicological properties of synthetic cannabinoids, aiming to provide a reliable background needed for the management of synthetic cannabinoid-related adverse effects. Consumers, competent authorities and medical care professionals should be aware of the risks associated with synthetic cannabinoid use.

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