What are synthetic cannabinoids?
Synthetic cannabinoids are chemicals that have been developed to act like the main psychoactive chemical in cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which acts on cannabis receptors in the brain.
Since synthetic cannabinoids act like cannabis the effects - good and bad - are similar to cannabis. Some users will feel happy and relaxed, may get the giggles, feel hunger pangs and become very talkative. Others mainly feel ill or paranoid.
Because synthetic cannabinoids react more strongly with the brain's cannabis receptors so they're more potent than natural cannabis. This means it's easier to use too much and experience unpleasant and harmful effects.
Synthetic annabinoids are usually sold in 'herbal' smoking mixtures. Sometimes these smoking mixtures have been found not to contain any synthetic cannabinoids at all!
There are lots of different types of synthetic cannabinoids. Some were previously illegal and some weren’t, but since 26 May 2016 when the Psychoactive Substances Act came into effect, none of these drugs are legal to produce, supply or import for human consumption.
In their pure form, synthetic cannabinoids are either solids or oils. They are then added to dried herbs, vegetable matter or plant cuttings to make a smoking mixture (so that it looks more like real herbal cannabis).
The smoking mixtures are packaged in small, often colourful sachets with labels describing the contents as incense or herbal smoking mixture and usually stating 'not for human consumption'.
There are many different names given to herbal smoking mixtures, some of the most common are listed in the aka section at the top of the page.
There are many different brand names for smoking mixtures, but it is not uncommon for different brands to contain the same synthetic cannabinoids.
How do people take synthetic cannabinoids?
Synthetic cannabinoids are normally used in a similar way to cannabis:
- They can be mixed with tobacco, rolled up into a ‘spliff’ or ‘joint’, and then smoked
- They can be smoked without tobacco using of pipe or bong.
• As e-cigarettes have become more available, there are reports of some people using ecig- technology for synthetic cannabinoids and that e-liquids containing synthetic cannabinoids have been produced which can be used with normal e-cigs.
• They can also be swallowed, eaten with food or made into a drink