The prevalence of synthetic cannabinoids in forensic casework based on data from the Drug Enforcement Administration's National Forensic Laboratory Information System
"Synthetic Cannabinoids are among newly synthetized drugs that have become widely known throughout the United States and around the world. Originally, these compounds were used by researchers to isolate the medicinal effects of natural cannabis. Ultimately these compounds found their way into the illicit drug market as an alternative to marijuana. Unfortunately, the pharmacology of synthetic cannabinoids is not known in detail but it has been confirmed that they elicit stronger, more often times negative effects compared to natural cannabis. The use of these compounds have resulted in cases of overdose and even death. The National Forensic Laboratory Information System (NFLIS) collects drug report information involving narcotics, stimulants, depressants, hallucinogens, cannabis, and emerging drugs such as anabolic steroids, phenethylamines, and synthetic cannabinoids, to name a few. They receive drug reports from forensic laboratories and perform statistical analysis to establish the prevalence of these drugs through out the United States. Specifically, the use of published NFLIS data sets from 2009-2013 and unpublished data set from 2013-2014 provided prevalence information from laboratories that have received synthetic cannabinoids in their forensic casework. The use of additional surveys and databases to supplement NFLIS data sets were used to better understand which particular groups of people are most likely to consume synthetic cannabinoids and in what specific regions. Understanding how common the abuse of synthetic cannabinoids provides information on how best to control them and potentially prevent health risks associated with their use. The prevalence of synthetic cannabinoid use has demonstrated an increasing-decreasing-increasing pattern throughout the years. The specific synthetic cannabinoids that have been identified in drug cases have changed over time to bypass the drug control laws. The future prevalence of these drugs is uncertain but knowledge of current patterns may help us to understand the state of this issue and plan for the future cases our forensic drug chemistry laboratories will face."