Generic placeholder image

Current Neuropharmacology


ISSN (Print): 1570-159X
ISSN (Online): 1875-6190

Review Article

The e-Psychonauts’ ‘Spiced’ World; Assessment of the Synthetic Cannabinoids’ Information Available Online

Author(s): Caroline Zangani, Fabrizio Schifano*, Flavia Napoletano, Davide Arillotta, Liam Gilgar, Amira Guirguis, John M. Corkery, Orsola Gambini and Alessandro Vento

Volume 18 , Issue 10 , 2020

Page: [966 - 1051] Pages: 86

DOI: 10.2174/1570159X18666200302125146

Price: $65


Background: A wide range of novel psychoactive substances (NPS) is regularly searched and discussed online by web-based drug enthusiasts (i.e. the e-psychonauts). Among NPS, the range of synthetic cannabinoids (SC; ‘Spice’) currently represents a challenge for governments and clinicians.

Methods: Using a web crawler (i.e. the NPS.Finder®), the present study aimed at assessing psychonauts’ fora/platforms to better understand the online mentions of SC.

Results: The open-web crawling/navigating software identified here some 1,103 synthetic cannabinoids. Of these, 863 molecules were not listed in either the international or the European NPS databases.

Conclusion: A web crawling approach helped here in identifying a large range of unknown SC likely to possess a misuse potential. Most of these novel/emerging molecules are still relatively unknown. This is a reason for concern; each of these analogues potentially presents different toxicodynamic profiles and there is a lack of docking, preclinical, and clinical observations. Strengthening multidisciplinary collaboration between clinicians and bioinformatics may prove useful in better assessing SC-associated public health risks.

Keywords: Psychonauts, NPS, new psychoactive substances, synthetic cannabinoids, web crawling.

Graphical Abstract
Corkery, J.M.; Orsolini, L.; Papanti, D.; Schifano, F. From concept(ion) to life after death/the grave: The ‘natural’ history and life cycle(s) of novel psychoactive substances (NPS). Hum. Psychopharmacol., 2017, 32(3)
[ ] [PMID: 28657188]
Guirguis, A. New psychoactive substances: a public health issue. Int. J. Pharm. Pract., 2017, 25(5), 323-325.
[ ] [PMID: 28895252]
Orsolini, L.; Papanti, G.D.; Francesconi, G.; Schifano, F. Mind navigators of chemicals’ experimenters? A web-based description of e-psychonauts. Cyberpsychol. Behav. Soc. Netw., 2015, 18(5), 296-300.
[ ] [PMID: 25965863]
Soussan, C.; Andersson, M.; Kjellgren, A. The diverse reasons for using Novel Psychoactive Substances - A qualitative study of the users’ own perspectives. Int. J. Drug Policy, 2018, 52, 71-78.
[ ] [PMID: 29241144]
Schifano, F.; Napoletano, F.; Chiappini, S.; Guirguis, A.; Corkery, J.M.; Bonaccorso, S.; Ricciardi, A.; Scherbaum, N.; Vento, A. New/emerging psychoactive substances and associated psychopathological consequences - Corrigendum. Psychol. Med., 2019, 12, 1.
[ ] [PMID: 31511097]
Schifano, F.; Napoletano, F.; Arillotta, D.; Zangani, C.; Gilgar, L.; Guirguis, A.; Corkery, J.M.; Vento, A. The clinical challenges of synthetic cathinones. Br. J. Clin. Pharmacol., 2020, 86(3), 410-419.
[] [PMID: 31674690]
Shevyrin, V.A.; Morzherin, Y.Y. Cannabinoids: structures, effects, and classification. Russ. Chem. Bull., 2015, 64(6), 1249-1266.
European Monitoring Centre for drug and drug addiction (EMCDDA). Synthetic cannabinoids in europe (Perspectives on Drugs). 2017 [November 5, 2019]; Available from http://www.
European Monitoring Centre for Drug and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) European Drug Report 2019: Trends and Developments. 2019 [November 5, 2019]; Available from 2.
Ifeagwu, S.C.; Raithelhuber, M.; Crean, C.; Gerostamoulos, D.; Chung, H.; Tettey, J.N. Toxicology in international drug control-Prioritizing the most harmful, persistent and prevalent substances. Forensic Sci. Int., 2017, 274, 2-6.
[ ] [PMID: 27899215]
Martinotti, G.; Santacroce, R.; Papanti, D.; Elgharably, Y.; Prilutskaya, M.; Corazza, O. Synthetic cannabinoids: Psychopharmacology, clinical aspects, psychotic onset. CNS Neurol. Disord. Drug Targets, 2017, 16(5), 567-575.
[ ] [PMID: 28412921]
Schifano, F.; Orsolini, L.; Duccio, P.G.; Corkery, J.M. Novel psychoactive substances of interest for psychiatry. World Psychiatry, 2015, 14(1), 15-26.
[ ] [PMID: 25655145]
Trecki, J.; Gerona, R.R.; Schwartz, M.D. Synthetic cannabinoid-related illnesses and deaths. N. Engl. J. Med., 2015, 373(2), 103-107.
[ ] [PMID: 26154784]
Tai, S.; Fantegrossi, W.E. Pharmacological and toxicological effects of synthetic cannabinoids and their metabolites. Neuropharmacology of New Psychoactive Substances (NPS): The Science Behind the Headlines; Baumann, M.H.; Glennon, R.A; Wiley, J.L., Ed.; Springer: Switzerland, 2016, Vol. 32, pp. 249-262.
Langford, A.M.; Bolton, J.R. Synthetic cannabinoids: Variety is definitely not the spice of life. J. Forensic Leg. Med., 2018, 59, 36-38.
[] [PMID: 30130700]
Simonato, P.; Corazza, O.; Santonastaso, P.; Corkery, J.; Deluca, P.; Davey, Z.; Blaszko, U.; Schifano, F. Novel psychoactive substances as a novel challenge for health professionals: results from an Italian survey. Hum. Psychopharmacol., 2013, 28(4), 324-331.
[ ] [PMID: 23881880]
PubMed. [November 5, 2019];
Google. [November 5, 2019]
Google Scholar. [November 5, 2019]
PubChem. [September 30, 2019];
CHEMBL Database Release 25. [November 5, 2019].
Gaulton, A.; Hersey, A.; Nowotka, M.; Bento, A.P.; Chambers, J.; Mendez, D.; Mutowo, P.; Atkinson, F.; Bellis, L.J.; Cibrián-Uhalte, E.; Davies, M.; Dedman, N.; Karlsson, A.; Magariños, M.P.; Overington, J.P.; Papadatos, G.; Smit, I.; Leach, A.R. The ChEMBL database in 2017. Nucleic Acids Res., 2017, 45(D1), D945-D954.
[ ] [PMID: 27899562]
Davies, M.; Nowotka, M.; Papadatos, G.; Dedman, N.; Gaulton, A.; Atkinson, F.; Bellis, L.; Overington, J.P. ChEMBL web services: streamlining access to drug discovery data and utilities. Nucleic Acids Res., 2015, 43(W1) W612-20
[] [PMID: 25883136]
Bonaccorso, S.; Metastasio, A.; Ricciardi, A.; Stewart, N.; Jamal, L.; Rujully, N.U.; Theleritis, C.; Ferracuti, S.; Ducci, G.; Schifano, F. Synthetic cannabinoid use in a case series of patients with psychosis presenting to acute psychiatric settings: clinical presentation and management issues. Brain Sci., 2018, 8(7) E133
[] [PMID: 30011896]
Fattore, L.; Weinstein, A.M. Editorial: novel psychoactive drugs. Front. Psychiatry, 2019, 10, 119.
[ ] [PMID: 30914980]
Orsolini, L.; Papanti, D.; Corkery, J.; Schifano, F. An insight into the deep web; why it matters for addiction psychiatry? Hum. Psychopharmacol., 2017, 32(3)
[] [PMID: 28657187]
Ho, R.; Gerona, R.R.; Olson, K. Clinical Course of 4-bromo-2, 5-dimethoxyphenylamine (2C-B) intoxication with laboratory confirmation. Clin. Toxicol. (Phila.), 2013, 51(7), 666-667.
Thornton, S.L.; Lo, J.; Clark, R.F.; Wu, A.H.B.; Gerona, R.R. Simultaneous detection of multiple designer drugs in serum, urine, and CSF in a patient with prolonged psychosis. Clin. Toxicol. (Phila.), 2012, 50(10), 1165-1168.
[ ] [PMID: 23163617]
Qian, Z.; Hua, Z.; Liu, C.; Jia, W. Four types of cannabimimetic indazole and indole derivatives, ADB-BINACA, AB-FUBICA, ADB-FUBICA, and AB-BICA, identified as new psychoactive substances. Forensic Toxicol., 2016, 34, 133-143.
[ ] [PMID: 26793280]
Westphal, F.; Sönnichsen, F.D.; Knecht, S.; Auwärter, V.; Huppertz, L. Two thiazolylindoles and a benzimidazole: novel compounds on the designer drug market with potential cannabinoid receptor activity. Forensic Sci. Int., 2015, 249, 133-147.
[ ] [PMID: 25698514]
Madras, B.K. The Growing Problem of New Psychoactive Substances (NPS).Neuropharmacology of New Psychoactive Substances (NPS): The Science Behind the Headlines; Baumann, M.H.; Glennon, R.A; Wiley, J.L., Ed.; Springer: Switzerland, 2016, Vol. 32, pp. 1-18.
Schifano, F.; Deluca, P.; Baldacchino, A.; Peltoniemi, T.; Scherbaum, N.; Torrens, M.; Farre, M.; Flores, I.; Rossi, M.; Eastwood, D.; Guionnet, C.; Rawaf, S.; Agosti, L.; Di Furia, L.; Brigada, R.; Majava, A.; Siemann, H.; Leoni, M.; Tomasin, A.; Rovetto, F.; Ghodse, A.H. Drugs on the web; the Psychonaut 2002 EU project. Prog. Neuropsychopharmacol. Biol. Psychiatry, 2006, 30(4), 640-646.
[ ] [PMID: 16458404]
Davey, Z.; Schifano, F.; Corazza, O.; Deluca, P. Psychonaut Web Mapping Group. e-Psychonauts: conducting research in online drug forum communities. J. Ment. Health, 2012, 21(4), 386-394.
[ ] [PMID: 22823094]
Papanti, G.D.; Orsolini, L.; Francesconi, G.; Schifano, F. ‘Noids’ in a Nutshell: Everything you (don’t) want to know about synthetic cannabimimetics. Adv. Dual Diagn., 2014, 7(3), 137-148.
Franz, F.; Angerer, V.; Jechle, H.; Pegoro, M.; Ertl, H.; Weinfurtner, G.; Janele, D.; Schlögl, C.; Friedl, M.; Gerl, S.; Mielke, R.; Zehnle, R.; Wagner, M.; Moosmann, B.; Auwärter, V. Immunoassay screening in urine for synthetic cannabinoids - an evaluation of the diagnostic efficiency. Clin. Chem. Lab. Med., 2017, 55(9), 1375-1384.
[ ] [PMID: 28130957]
Cannaert, A.; Storme, J.; Franz, F.; Auwärter, V.; Stove, C.P. Detection and activity profiling of synthetic cannabinoids and their metabolites with a newly developed bioassay. Anal. Chem., 2016, 88(23), 11476-11485.
[ ] [PMID: 27779402]
Baumann, M.H.; Majumdar, S.; Le Rouzic, V.; Hunkele, A.; Uprety, R.; Huang, X.P.; Xu, J.; Roth, B.L.; Pan, Y.X.; Pasternak, G.W. Pharmacological characterization of novel synthetic opioids (NSO) found in the recreational drug marketplace. Neuropharmacology, 2018, 134(Pt A), 101-107. PMID: 28807672
Smith, J.S.; Lefkowitz, R.J.; Rajagopal, S. Biased signalling: from simple switches to allosteric microprocessors. Nat. Rev. Drug Discov., 2018, 17(4), 243-260.
[ ] [PMID: 29302067]
Ellis, C.R.; Kruhlak, N.L.; Kim, M.T.; Hawkins, E.G.; Stavitskaya, L. Predicting opioid receptor binding affinity of pharmacologically unclassified designer substances using molecular docking. PLoS One, 2018, 13(5) e0197734
[ ] [PMID: 29795628]
Ellis, C.R.; Racz, R.; Kruhlak, N.L.; Kim, M.T.; Hawkins, E.G.; Strauss, D.G.; Stavitskaya, L. Assessing the structural and pharmacological similarity of newly identified drugs of abuse to controlled substances using public health assessment via structural evaluation. Clin. Pharmacol. Ther., 2019, 106(1), 116-122.
[ ] [PMID: 30957872]
Gandomi, A.; Haider, M. Beyond the hype: Big data concepts, methods, and analytics. Int. J. Inf. Manage., 2015, 35, 137-144.
Clemente, L.; Lu, F.; Santillana, M. Improved real-time influenza surveillance: using internet search data in eight latin american countries. JMIR Public Health Surveill., 2019, 5(2) e12214
[ ] [PMID: 30946017]
Ljubic, B.; Gligorijevic, D.; Gligorijevic, J.; Pavlovski, M.; Obradovic, Z. Social network analysis for better understanding of influenza. J. Biomed. Inform., 2019, 93 103161
[ ] [PMID: 30940598]
Spreco, A.; Eriksson, O.; Dahlström, Ö.; Cowling, B.J.; Timpka, T. Integrated detection and prediction of influenza activity for real-time surveillance: Algorithm Design. J. Med. Internet Res., 2017, 19(6) e211
[ ] [PMID: 28619700]
Lazer, D.; Kennedy, R.; King, G.; Vespignani, A. Big data. the parable of google flu: traps in big data analysis. Science, 2014, 343(6176), 1203-1205.
[ ] [PMID: 24626916]
Raghupathi, W.; Raghupathi, V. Big data analytics in healthcare: promise and potential. Health Inf. Sci. Syst., 2014, 2, 3.
[ ] [PMID: 25825667]
Wang, Y.S. Exploring the “like” in the psychological interaction of users on fan community: A netnography analysis. J. Commun. Psychol., 2019, 47(6), 1380-1398.
[ ] [PMID: 31017310]
Loi, B.; Zloh, M.; De Luca, M.A.; Pintori, N.; Corkery, J.; Schifano, F. 4,4′-Dimethylaminorex (“4,4′-DMAR”; “Serotoni”) misuse: A Web-based study. Hum. Psychopharmacol., 2017, 32(3) e2575
[ ] [PMID: 28657180]
Deluca, P.; Davey, Z.; Corazza, O.; Di Furia, L.; Farre, M.; Flesland, L.H.; Mannonen, M.; Majava, A.; Peltoniemi, T.; Pasinetti, M.; Pezzolesi, C.; Scherbaum, N.; Siemann, H.; Skutle, A.; Torrens, M.; van der Kreeft, P.; Iversen, E.; Schifano, F. Identifying emerging trends in recreational drug use; outcomes from the Psychonaut Web Mapping Project. Prog. Neuropsychopharmacol. Biol. Psychiatry, 2012, 39(2), 221-226.
[ ] [PMID: 22841965 ]

Rights & Permissions Print Export Cite as
© 2022 Bentham Science Publishers | Privacy Policy