Chromatography-mass spectrometry studies on the metabolism of synthetic cannabinoids JWH-018 and JWH-073, psychoactive components of smoking mixtures

J Chromatogr B Analyt Technol Biomed Life Sci. 2011 May 1;879(15-16):1126-36. doi: 10.1016/j.jchromb.2011.03.034. Epub 2011 Mar 26.


The Russian Federation prohibited the distribution of herbal mixtures with synthetic aminoalkylindoles JWH-018 and JWH-073, agonist cannabinoid receptors, on January 22, 2010. The lack or low content of their native compounds in urine requires detailed identification of their metabolites, which are excreted with urine and are present in blood. Using gas and liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry, we identified a series of metabolites in urine samples from humans and rats that were products of the following reactions: (a) mono- and dihydroxylation of the parent compounds with hydroxyl groups located at aromatic and aliphatic residues, (b) carboxylation, (c) N-dealkylation and (d) N-dealkylation and hydroxylation. The prevailing urinary metabolites in humans are monohydroxylated forms, while N-dealkylated and N-dealkyl monohydroxylated forms are found in rats. Twenty-six samples of herbal smoking mixtures with JWH-018, purchased in Russia, were analysed.

MeSH terms

  • Alkylation
  • Animals
  • Chromatography, Liquid / methods*
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry / methods*
  • Humans
  • Hydroxylation
  • Illicit Drugs / metabolism*
  • Indoles / metabolism*
  • Indoles / urine
  • Marijuana Smoking / metabolism*
  • Marijuana Smoking / urine
  • Naphthalenes / metabolism*
  • Naphthalenes / urine
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1


  • Illicit Drugs
  • Indoles
  • Naphthalenes
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1
  • 1-pentyl-3-(1-naphthoyl)indole