Psychotomimetic symptoms after a moderate dose of a synthetic cannabinoid (JWH-018): implications for psychosis



Background: Synthetic cannabinoids (SCs) are the largest class of novel psychoactive substances (NPS) and are associated with an increased risk of overdosing and adverse events such as psychosis. JWH-018 is one of the earliest SCs and still widely available in large parts of the world. Controlled studies to assess the safety and behavioural profiles of SCs are extremely scarce. Aim: The current study was designed to assess the psychotomimetic effects of a moderate dose of JWH-018. Methods: Twenty-four healthy participants (10 males, 14 females) entered a placebo-controlled, double blind, within-subjects trial and inhaled vapour of placebo or 75μg/kg bodyweight JWH-018. To ascertain a minimum level of intoxication, a booster dose of JWH-018 was administered on an as-needed basis. The average dose of JWH-018 administered was 5.52 mg. Subjective high, dissociative states (CADSS), psychedelic symptoms (Bowdle), mood (POMS) and cannabis reinforcement (SCRQ) were assessed within a 4.5-h time window after drug administration. Results: JWH-018 caused psychedelic effects, such as altered internal and external perception, and dissociative effects, such as amnesia, derealisation and depersonalisation and induced feelings of confusion. Conclusion: Overall, these findings suggest that a moderate dose of JWH-018 induces pronounced psychotomimetic symptoms in healthy participants with no history of mental illness, which confirms that SCs pose a serious risk for public health.
Date made available4 Oct 2021

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