Potential Mechanisms Underlying the Deleterious Effects of Synthetic Cannabinoids Found in Spice/K2 Products

Basavarajappa, Balapal S.; Subbanna, Shivakumar

The chief psychoactive constituent of many bioactive phytocannabinoids (D9-tetrahydrocannabinol, D9-THC) found in hemp, cannabis or marijuana plants are scientifically denoted by the Latin term, Cannabis sativa, acts on cell surface receptors. These receptors are ubiquitously expressed. To date, two cannabinoid receptors have been cloned and characterized. Cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1R) is found to serve as the archetype for cannabinoid action in the brain. They have attracted wide interest as the mediator of all psychoactive properties of exogenous and endogenous cannabinoids and they are abundantly expressed on most inhibitory and excitatory neurons. Recent evidence established that cannabinoid receptor type 2 (CB2R) is also expressed in the neurons at both presynaptic and postsynaptic terminals and are involved in neuropsychiatric effects. Distinct types of cells in many regions in the brain express CB2Rs and the cellular origin of CB2Rs that induce specific behavioral effects are emerging. To mimic the bliss effects of marijuana, synthetic cannabinoids (SCBs) have been sprayed onto plant material, and this plant material has been consequently packaged and sold under brand name “Spice” or “K2”. These SCBs have been shown to maintain their affinity and functional activity for CB1R and CB2R and have been shown to cause severe harmful effects when compared to the effects of D9-THC. The present review discusses the potential brain mechanisms that are involved in the deleterious effects of SCBs.


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February 8, 2019