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UTRECHT, THE NETHERLANDS — Adults who frequently consume illicitly-produced synthetic cannabinoid agonists (e.g., JWH-018) are significantly more likely to report experiencing mental health issues than are similarly matched controls who only use cannabis, according to data published in the journal Psychopharmacology.

A team of European researchers surveyed consumers of both natural cannabis and illicitly produced synthetic cannabinoid analogues. They reported that those who consumed synthetic cannabinoids were significantly more likely to self-report psychopathological symptoms, such as paranoid ideation, psychosis, anxiety, hostility, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Nonetheless, authors acknowledged that causality could not be determined by the study. “[W]e do not know if SC (synthetic cannabis) leads to increased mental health problems, or if mental health problems instigate SC use,” they said.

Investigators concluded: “Our study demonstrates that there are significant mental health problems in this population of SC users, which should be cause for concern for treatment and prevention professionals. Use of SCs is associated with a probability for mental health risks up to over five times greater than NC (natural cannabis) use, which is in line with previous results assembled in clinical and preclinical studies with SCs which showed a much more potent mechanism of action than NC.”

Full text of the study, “Psychopathological symptoms associated with synthetic cannabinoid use: A comparison with natural cannabis,” appears in Psychopharmacology.

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