The Pharmacologic and Clinical Effects of Illicit Synthetic Cannabinoids: C. Michael White

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Abstract

This article presents information on illicitly used synthetic cannabinoids. Synthetic cannabinoids are structurally heterogeneous and commonly used drugs of abuse that act as full agonists of the cannabinoid type-1 receptor but have a variety of additional pharmacologic effects. There are numerous cases of patient harm and death in the United States, Europe, and Australia with many psychological, neurological, cardiovascular, pulmonary, and renal adverse events. Although most users prefer using cannabis, there are convenience, legal, and cost reasons driving the utilization of synthetic cannabinoids. Clinicians should be aware of pharmacologic and clinical similarities and differences between synthetic cannabinoid and cannabis use, the limited ability to detect synthetic cannabinoids in the urine or serum, and guidance to treat adverse events.

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