The emergence and analysis of synthetic cannabinoids

Drug Test Anal. Jul-Aug 2011;3(7-8):466-78. doi: 10.1002/dta.268. Epub 2011 Feb 21.


In late 2008, several synthetic cannabinoids were detected in herbal smoking mixtures. Typical of these products were 'Spice Gold', 'Spice Silver' and 'Yucatan Fire', but many other products have since appeared. The analytes detected, such as JWH-018 and CP47,497 are experimental compounds, some of which were never designed for human use. Both scientific and anecdotal evidence suggest that these compounds are more potent than traditional cannabis and are being widely used. As a result, authorities around the world are now beginning to control them by either naming individual compounds or using generic legislation. This, however, is easier said than done as the synthetic cannabinoids detected are constantly changing in attempts by manufacturers to evade legislation. This paper includes background information in the style of a brief monograph, as an aid to rapidly understanding the pharmacological aspects of these compounds in the forensic context, and then presents a comprehensive set of data, obtained from analysis of purchased products by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) and liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cannabinoids / analysis*
  • Cannabinoids / metabolism
  • Cannabinoids / pharmacology*
  • Cannabis / chemistry*
  • Chromatography, Liquid
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Humans
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry


  • Cannabinoids