Home > Synthetic cannabinoids in Europe – a review.

Auwärter, Volker and de Morais, Joanna and Gallegos, Ana and Evans-Browns, Michael and Christie, Rachel and Jorge, Rita and Sedefov, Roumen (2021) Synthetic cannabinoids in Europe – a review. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.

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Synthetic cannabinoids come under the spotlight today in a new report released by the EU drugs agency (EMCDDA). Widely available across Europe and highly potent, these substances are placing some users at a ‘high risk of poisoning’, the agency warns.


Synthetic cannabinoids are the largest group of new psychoactive substances (NPS) monitored by the EMCDDA through the EU Early Warning System, with 209 detected between 2008 and 2020. They began to appear in Europe in the mid-2000s, in smoking mixtures such as ‘Spice’, and sold as ‘legal’ replacements for cannabis. But it was soon discovered that these potent substances could poison users, who were often inadvertently exposed to high doses (1). In such cases, this led to outbreaks of mass poisonings in parts of Europe, Canada, Russia and the United States.

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