Alarm over synthetic cannabinoids

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Science  30 Jan 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6221, pp. 473
DOI: 10.1126/science.347.6221.473

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Grisly media reports of cannibalism and shooting sprees prompted by synthetic cathinones have given them an especially bad reputation, but there's another class of designer drugs worrying drug enforcement and public health officials: synthetic cannabinoids, humanmade chemicals designed to mimic THC, the key psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Sold since the early 2000s under brand names such as K2 and Spice, synthetic cannabinoids act on the same brain receptors as THC but are up to 100 times more potent, leading to dangerous side effects such as heart attack, kidney failure, psychosis, and sometimes death. Since the Drug Enforcement Administration banned the first synthetic cannabinoids in 2011, more than 250 new compounds have arisen to take their place.