DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): Vaporization or smoking of synthetic cannabinoid-containing e-liquids or herbal formulations is a significant substance abuse problem. Although JWH-018 and other indole-derived cannabinoids that have been identified in these illicit products produce marijuana-like intoxication, they are structurally distinct from cannabinoids contained in the cannabis plant; hence, very little is known about the actual chemical exposures that occur during their use, or their pharmacology, particularly with regards to their actions at non-cannabinoid receptors and their behavioral and toxicological effects. Furthermore, the variety of structural scaffolds and analogs of synthetic cannabinoids that are being reported in these designer drug formulations continues to increase as individuals seek to become intoxicated and avoid detection, and the manufacturers and distributors of these chemicals and formulations appear to have little regard for the chemical reliability or safety of their products.
Indeed, chemicals are frequently appearing in designer drug formulations that have not been previously described as cannabinoids in the scientific literature. Moreover, some of these compounds possess thermally unstable substituents of known carcinogenic activity that may be liberated during use. The proposed research will characterize synthetic cannabinoid formulations and the chemical exposures that occur during storage and use, and evaluate their pharmacological fate in in vitro and in vivo models. Emphasis will be placed on the identification of the compounds that are inhaled or produced during actual use scenarios, and the extent to which they can interact with cannabinoid CB1 and CB2 receptors, as well as with non-cannabinoid receptors, and the degree to which they produce in vivo pharmacological and toxicological effects in mouse models. The proposed studies will thereby increase knowledge of the structure-activity relationships at cannabinoid receptors and the behavioral and toxicological effects of these abused synthetic cannabinoid substances, and provide a scientific basis for evaluation of potential health concerns associated with use of these compounds.