Tripping with Synthetic Cannabinoids ("Spice"): Anecdotal and Experimental Observations in Animals and Man

Curr Top Behav Neurosci. 2017;32:263-281. doi: 10.1007/7854_2016_16.


The phenomenon of consuming synthetic cannabinoids ("Spice") for recreational purposes is a fairly recent trend. However, consumption of cannabis dates back millennia, with numerous accounts written on the experience of its consumption, and thousands of scientific reports published on the effects of its constituents in laboratory animals and humans. Here, we focus on consolidating the scientific literature on the effects of "Spice" compounds in various behavioral assays, including assessing abuse liability, tolerance, dependence, withdrawal, and potential toxicity. In most cases, the behavioral effects of "Spice" compounds are compared with those of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol. Methodological aspects, such as modes of administration and other logistical issues, are also discussed. As the original "Spice" molecules never were intended for human consumption, scientifically based information about potential toxicity and short- and long-term behavioral effects are very limited. Consequently, preclinical behavioral studies with "Spice" compounds are still in a nascent stage. Research is needed to address the addiction potential and other effects, including propensity for producing tissue/organ toxicity, of these synthetic cannabimimetic "Spice" compounds.

Keywords: Cannabinoid; Cannabinoid receptor 1; Marijuana; Synthetic marijuana; THC; ‘Spice’.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects*
  • Cannabinoids / adverse effects
  • Cannabinoids / pharmacology*
  • Drug Tolerance
  • Humans
  • Hypothermia / chemically induced
  • Indoles / adverse effects
  • Indoles / pharmacology*
  • Mental Disorders / chemically induced
  • Naphthalenes / adverse effects
  • Naphthalenes / pharmacology*
  • Seizures / chemically induced
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / etiology
  • Substance-Related Disorders


  • 1-(5-fluoropentyl)-3-(1-naphthoyl)indole
  • Cannabinoids
  • Indoles
  • Naphthalenes
  • JWH-073
  • 1-pentyl-3-(1-naphthoyl)indole