evidence they can cause cancer — ScienceDaily

Almost every week a new synthetic psychoactive drug hits the market somewhere in Europe and can be ordered legally and easily, for example as an incense mixture, via the Internet. Synthetic cannabinoids are difficult to identify chemically and the possible adverse toxic effects that may occur from their consumption have so far hardly been studied. Within the framework of the international EU project “SPICE II Plus”, which is coming to an end, scientists from the Cancer Research Institute of MedUni Vienna have also found evidence that synthetic substances damage the DNA of human cells and therefore may possibly have cancer. -causing effects.

Synthetic cannabinoids, similar to tetrahydrocannabinol (the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana), bind to cannabinoid receptors in the human brain, causing similar neurophysiological effects. These synthetic cannabinoids are being marketed in incense blends as “legal highs” via the internet and “flooding the market”, as Siegfried Knasmüller of the MedUni Cancer Research Institute in Vienna warns.

“The substances are directly active, i.e. they are not activated by enzymes that metabolize foreign substances,” explains Knasmüller. “The respiratory organs and the digestive tract in particular are subject to increased concentrations of these drugs. Our investigations of human cell lines in the laboratory have shown that synthetic cannabinoids, in the high concentrations found in cells of the oral cavity or in the lungs, for example, are capable of causing DNA damage that can have significant consequences for users of these substances.They damage the chromosomes, which is directly associated with cancer.

Effects on consumers cannot be quantified

Synthetic cannabinoids bind very differently and some have an effect even in very small amounts. Consumers have absolutely no information about the different levels of effect, because they do not know the detailed composition of synthetically produced drugs. Even with “known” products, the type and amount of added ingredients are constantly changing. The risk of an unwanted overdose is all the greater. As a result, there have been repeated cases of harm to the health or poisoning of users, and in some cases users have even died.

Between 2005 and 2012, the European Union’s early warning system registered just under 240 new psychoactive substances disguised as incense mixtures, bath salts or plant fertilizers, and around 140 of them contained cannabinoids. synthetics.

SPICE I and SPICE II Plus are international cooperation projects at EU level which were carried out by the Institute for Medical Jurisprudence at the University Hospital Freiburg (Prof. Volker Auwärter) and which also involved the MedUni Vienna and Goethe University Frankfurt, University of Helsinki, Institute for Therapeutic Research Munich, as well as the contribution of partners such as the Federal Criminal Office Wiesbaden.

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Material provided by Medical University of Vienna. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Alvin J. Chase