Is adipose tissue suitable for detection of (synthetic) cannabinoids? A comparative study analyzing antemortem and postmortem specimens following pulmonary administration of JWH-210, RCS-4, as well as ∆9-tetrahydrocannabinol to pigs

Arch Toxicol. 2020 Oct;94(10):3421-3431. doi: 10.1007/s00204-020-02843-x. Epub 2020 Jul 14.


Examining fatal poisonings, chronic exposure may be reflected by the concentration in tissues known for long-term storage of drugs. Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) persists in adipose tissue (AT), but sparse data on synthetic cannabinoids (SC) are available. Thus, a controlled pig study evaluating antemortem (AM) disposition and postmortem (PM) concentration changes of the SC 4-ethylnaphthalene-1-yl-(1-pentylindole-3-yl)methanone (JWH-210) and 2-(4-methoxyphenyl)-1-(1-pentyl-indole-3-yl)methanone (RCS-4) as well as THC in AT was performed. The drugs were administered pulmonarily (200 µg/kg body weight) to twelve pigs. Subcutaneous (s.c.) AT specimens were collected after 15 and 30 min and then hourly up to 8 h. At the end, pigs were sacrificed and s.c., perirenal, and dorsal AT specimens were collected. The carcasses were stored at room temperature (RT; n = 6) or 4 °C (n = 6) and specimens were collected after 24, 48, and 72 h. After homogenization in acetonitrile and standard addition, LC-MS/MS was performed. Maximum concentrations were reached 0.5-2 h after administration amounting to 21 ± 13 ng/g (JWH-210), 24 ± 13 ng/g (RCS-4), and 22 ± 20 ng/g (THC) and stayed at a plateau level. Regarding the metabolites, very low concentrations of N-hydroxypentyl-RCS-4 (HO-RCS-4) were detected from 0.5 to 8 h. PM concentrations of parent compounds did not change significantly (p > 0.05) over time under both storage conditions. Concentrations of HO-RCS-4 significantly (p < 0.05) increased in perirenal AT during storage at RT. These results suggest a rapid distribution and persistence in s.c. AT. Furthermore, AT might be resistant to PM redistribution of parent compounds. However, significant PM increases of metabolite concentrations might be considered in perirenal AT.

Keywords: Adipose tissue, postmortem redistribution; Pigs; Pulmonary administration; Synthetic cannabinoids; Tetrahydrocannabinol.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Cannabinoids / analysis*
  • Cannabinoids / metabolism*
  • Chromatography, Liquid
  • Dronabinol / analysis
  • Dronabinol / metabolism
  • Indoles / analysis
  • Indoles / metabolism
  • Lung / metabolism
  • Male
  • Naphthalenes / analysis
  • Naphthalenes / metabolism
  • Respiratory Tract Absorption
  • Specimen Handling
  • Swine
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry
  • Time Factors


  • 2-(4-methoxyphenyl)-1-(1-pentyl-indol-3-yl)methanone
  • 4-ethylnaphthalen-1-yl-(1-pentylindol-3-yl)methanone
  • Cannabinoids
  • Indoles
  • Naphthalenes
  • Dronabinol