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Synthetic Cannabinoids

Synthetic cannabinoids (sin-thet-ic can-a-bin-oids) are chemicals which target cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and/or CB2) in the brain. Smoking mixtures are often made to look like cannabis and although described as 'herbal' (natural) the psychoactive substance is typically synthetic (man-made). These chemicals are often sprayed onto dried plant material and sold by brand names such as Kronic, Black Mamba, Clockwork Orange, Exodus Damnation, Annihilation, Spice, and Herbal Haze. Many brands contain a blend of more than one cannabinoid. Common cannabinoids include 5F-ADB, AKB48, 5F-AKB48, PB22, 5F-PB22 and STS-135.

The effects of synthetic cannabinoids are wide ranging and it is generally dependant on the 'chemical to plant' ratio in smoking mixtures. Cannabinoids that are currently legal are thought to be stronger than those banned in the past. 

Effects are more exaggerated and unpredictable than cannabis. People using them can experience an intense but short lived high, enhanced sensations, feelings of heaviness and nausea as well as anxiety, paranoia and heart palpitations. People have also reported an increase in severe mental health issues when using these substances including 'detachment from reality', suicidal thoughts and depression.

Physical withdrawal symptoms include seizures, shakes, sweating and insomnia. Psychological withdrawal symptoms can include depression, anxiety, paranoia and aggression. If you would like help with your use please contact your local drug service.

They come in a variety of herbal blends which look like tea and smell sweet. They are usually smoked with tobacco or other herbs in a joint or a bong. The dose varies depending on the type you take but they are much stronger than cannabis and a pinch is usually more than enough! Synthetic cannabinoids can also be found as a white powder (which are active in very small doses) or oil (designed for use in vapourisers). 

What you Need to Know

If you choose to use synthetic cannabinoids:

Legal Information

The first, second and third genertaion synthetic cannabinoids are covered by The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 as Class B drugs.  Penalties for possession are up to five years in prison and/or an unlimited fine. Supply holds penalties of up to 14 years in prison and/or an unlimited fine.

Others are covered by The Psychoactive Substances Act. It was introduced in the UK on the 26th May 2016 and it makes it an offence to manufacture, export/import (i.e. buying from a non-UK website), supply or offer to supply any psychoactive substance, if likely to be used for its psychoactive effects. Despite being psychoactive, alcohol, nicotine, tobacco and caffeine are exempt from the act.

Under the new regulations, possession with intent to supply is an offence. Possession is not an offence, except in a ‘custodial institution’ (e.g. prison, young offenders centre).

Penalties range from civil sanctions to a 7 year prison sentence but some offences will be considered to be aggravated, including selling to under 18s or around schools and children’s homes etc.

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