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The changing pattern of synthetic cannabinoid use within England, April 2014 to March 2018

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Introduction: Synthetic cannabinoids (SC), designed to mimic delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, the natural component of cannabis, have seen a rapid increase in popularity since 2008. Nearly 200 SC have been detected to date. However, there are limited data available reporting the changing trend in their use. Here, we report the temporal changes in SC use, as well as the demographic profile of users. Method: In this retrospective study, case background and toxicology findings were collected from forensic toxicology reports dated between 1 April 2014 and 31 March 2018 that included a positive result for the presence of one or more SC and/or metabolites. Results: A total of 113 cases were positive for SC; 103 (91.2%) of the individuals were male, with a median age of 40 years (range 15–80 years). Over the four-year time period, a total of 12 different SC were detected; seven of these SC were detected in more than six cases each. The most commonly detected SC had a lifetime of one to two years before being replaced. Discussion and conclusion: Our data show that SC were being used for approximately one to two years before they were superseded by newer structures. It is therefore extremely difficult to predict future patterns of SC use and is consequently not advisable to offer limited screening.




Sharp, P., Hudson, S., Hikin, L., Smith, P. R., & Morley, S. R. (2019). The changing pattern of synthetic cannabinoid use within England, April 2014 to March 2018. Medicine, Science and the Law, 59(3), 180–186.

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