Synthetic cannabinoids are a drug produced in a laboratory designed to imitate the physiological and psychological effects of a specific controlled substance. They are designed to bind to receptors in the body that recognize THC and CBD metabolites from the cannabis plant. The synthetic cannabinoid was originally created to study these receptors and neurotransmitters in hopes to find a viable alternative to traditional medicine. Forensic scientists often encounter an issue of detection when dealing with synthetic cannabinoids due to the inconsistencies in the chemical formulas of their derivatives. This leads to difficulty in identifying the drug in biological matrices as it can avoid detection in standard drug tests for cannabinoids, or other related substances. Scientists continue to study how it is metabolized in the body and the effects it causes. A future goal for toxicologists is to develop a standardized test that has the potential to identify them regardless of the inconsistencies in different blends. Several studies are reviewed which analyze the strongest methods for detection and identification of synthetic cannabinoids under different conditions. Researchers are working towards sharing important information with healthcare professionals to properly treat those who experience severe intoxication. With each scientific advancement toward the identification and regulation of synthetic cannabinoids, research can be applied practically to create laws, standard techniques and treatment plans. They aim to decrease the rates of abuse of synthetic cannabinoids around the world.


Synthetic Cannabinoids, Detection, Case Studies, Forensic, Metabolism, Cannabis, Legislation, Intoxication, Health

Document Type


Year of Completion



Forensic Science


Keri Wyllie

Academic Department

Department of Chemistry, Mathematics and Physics