Synthetic Cannabinoids: Psychopharmacology, Clinical Aspects, Psychotic Onset

CNS Neurol Disord Drug Targets. 2017;16(5):567-575. doi: 10.2174/1871527316666170413101839.


Background: Synthetic Cannabinoids (SC) are the widest and most diffused class of Novel Psychoactive Substances. The short- and long- term health risks associated with the consumption of SC are often unknown to both users and health professionals. This review aims to provide a synthesis of the most recent and relevant insights on the pharmacology, clinical and psychopathological aspects of SC.

Method: A structured search of two bibliographic databases (PubMed and Scopus) was undertaken according to inclusion/exclusion criteria. The following terms "synthetic cannabinoid*", "synthetic cannabimimetic*", "synthetic cannabis", "synthetic marijuana" and "Spice AND cannabinoid*" were used as search strings.

Results: 162 relevant results, mainly published in the past two years were revealed. Most results emerged for the keyword "synthetic cannabinoid*", followed by the combination "Spice* AND "cannabinoid*". Most papers were epidemiological, forensic, toxicologic, or analytical. The results of studies were systematized according their contribution to the comprehension of pharmacological, clinical and psychopathological effects of SC. Fifteen SC-related fatality cases were reviewed according to their histories, pathology and toxicology findings.

Conclusion: The findings of this review confirm the importance of prompt and reliable information available for health professionals More specific analytic techniques and designed preventive strategies are required to face unprecedented SC challenge.

Keywords: Cannabis; clinical; intoxication; novel psychoactive substances; psychopharmacology; synthetic cannabinoids.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cannabinoids / chemical synthesis
  • Cannabinoids / pharmacology*
  • Cannabinoids / toxicity
  • Humans
  • Psychoses, Substance-Induced
  • Psychotropic Drugs / chemical synthesis
  • Psychotropic Drugs / pharmacology*
  • Psychotropic Drugs / toxicity


  • Cannabinoids
  • Psychotropic Drugs