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What are the psychological effects of using synthetic cannabinoids? A systematic review

Akram, H; Mokrysz, C; Curran, HV; (2019) What are the psychological effects of using synthetic cannabinoids? A systematic review. Journal of Psychopharmacology , 33 (3) pp. 271-283. 10.1177/0269881119826592. Green open access

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Abstract

Background: Synthetic cannabinoids are, typically, full agonists at the cannabinoid CB1 receptor, and therefore considerably more potent than natural cannabis and may have correspondingly more serious psychological effects. Despite government sanctions against their production they continue to be available in ever-increasing varieties over the Internet. The psychological consequences of synthetic cannabinoid use are relatively unknown. Aim: The purpose of this study was to synthesise the available research on the psychological consequences of synthetic cannabinoid use. Method: A literature search of three databases was conducted in February 2018, including the following keywords: Spice, synthetic cannabis, cognition, affect, behaviour, psychosis, depression and anxiety. Results: Seventeen studies involving a variety of participants were eligible for inclusion: one controlled administration study, seven cross-sectional studies, five Internet surveys and four qualitative studies. The controlled administration study showed that, compared to placebo, synthetic cannabinoids acutely affected some aspects of cognitive functioning and subjective psychological ratings. Non-controlled, cross-sectional studies generally showed that synthetic cannabinoid users had lower performance on cognitive tasks and showed elevated symptomatology (e.g. paranoia) compared to both natural cannabis and non-cannabis users. Methodological limitations were noted across different study designs. There is limited research on how doses, frequency or type of synthetic cannabinoid influence outcomes. Conclusions: Acute synthetic cannabinoid use can result in a range of psychological outcomes and, when non-intoxicated, synthetic cannabinoid users appear to differ from natural cannabis and non-users on various affective and cognitive domains. As synthetic cannabinoid use is increasing in at-risk populations there is an urgent need for more and better research to inform users, professionals and policymakers.

Type: Article
Title: What are the psychological effects of using synthetic cannabinoids? A systematic review
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1177/0269881119826592
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1177/0269881119826592
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Science & Technology, Life Sciences & Biomedicine, Clinical Neurology, Neurosciences, Pharmacology & Pharmacy, Psychiatry, Neurosciences & Neurology, Synthetic cannabis, psychological, behavioural, affective, cognitive, depression, anxiety, systematic review, CONSUMPTION, PSYCHOSIS, SPICE, PREVALENCE, ADOLESCENT, TOXICITY, PATTERNS, JWH-018
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Clinical, Edu and Hlth Psychology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10073919
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