Analytical confirmation of synthetic cannabinoids in a cohort of 179 presentations with acute recreational drug toxicity to an Emergency Department in London, UK in the first half of 2015

<p><b>Context:</b> Synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonists are the largest group of new psychoactive substances reported in the last decade; in this study we investigated how commonly these drugs are found in patients presenting to the Emergency Department with acute recreational drug toxicity.</p> <p><b>Methods:</b> We conducted an observational cohort study enrolling consecutive adult patients presenting to an Emergency Department (ED) in London (UK) January–July 2015 (6 months) with acute recreational drug toxicity. Residual serum obtained from a serum sample taken as part of routine clinical care was analyzed using high-resolution accurate mass-spectrometry with liquid-chromatography (HRAM-LCMSMS). Minimum clinical data were obtained from ED medical records.</p> <p><b>Results:</b> 18 (10%) of the 179 patient samples were positive for synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonists. The most common was 5F AKB-48 (13 samples, concentration 50–7600 pg/ml), followed by 5F PB-22 (7, 30–400 pg/mL), MDMB-CHMICA (7, 80–8000 pg/mL), AB-CHMINACA (3, 50–1800 pg/mL), Cumyl 5F-PINACA (1, 800 pg/mL) and BB-22 (1, 60 pg/mL). Only 9/18 (50%) in whom synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonists were detected self-reported synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonist use. The most common clinical features were seizures and agitation, both recorded in four (22%) individuals. Fourteen patients (78%) were discharged from the ED, one of the four admitted to hospital was admitted to critical care.</p> <p><b>Conclusions:</b> Synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonists were found in 10% of this cohort with acute recreational drug toxicity but self-reported in only half of these. This suggests that presentations to the ED with acute synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonist toxicity may be more common than reported.</p>