Teens and Spice: A Review of Adolescent Fatalities Associated with Synthetic Cannabinoid Use*

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Synthetic cannabinoids (SCs) are commonly abused by adolescents with reported past year (2013) use in high school students between 3 and 10%. Standard adolescent postmortem toxicology does not include routine SC analysis, and thus, the true burden of fatalities related to SCs is unknown. A retrospective case review of two cases included scene investigation, interviews, autopsy, and toxicology. SCs were confirmed by liquid chromatography–tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS). Review of the eight adolescent SC-associated fatalities in the literature revealed five of eight cases had no other discernible cause of death on autopsy. Compounds detected included PB-22 (1.1 ng/mL), JWH-210 (12 ng/mL), XLR-11 (1.3 ng/mL), JWH-122, AB-CHMINACA (8.2 ng/mL), UR-144 (12.3 ng/mL), and JWH-022 (3 ng/mL). With synthetic drug use on the rise, forensic experts should have a high index of suspicion for the possibility of SC intoxication in adolescent fatalities with no other discernible cause of death.

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