Synthetic cannabinoids are designer drugs that bind to receptors in the body’s endocannabinoid system, which can dramatically impact an array of physiological processes. Typical synthetic cannabinoids are based on the chemical composition of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), albeit with a much greater binding affinity and increased potency. This increased bioactivity typically results in heightened physiological and psychoactive effects in comparison to natural cannabis.
The increase in synthetic cannabinoid popularity is largely attributed to the comparative lack of legislation with other illicit substances. While recreational marijuana use remains illegal in 41 states, certain synthetic analogs of cannabis remain unscheduled and increasingly complicated variations of the drug are synthesized to avoid federal restrictions.
Most commonly referred to as K2, or Spice, synthetic cannabinoids are typically smoked or consumed as a vapor. This poses a significant risk to public health, with numerous deaths worldwide attributed to the abuse of synthetic cannabinoids.
Detecting Synthetic Cannabinoids with Immunoassay Equipment
Conventional methods for detecting drugs of abuse in biological samples include enzymatic immunosorbent assays (EIA or ELISA) and lateral flow tests, through which the presence and concentration of a distinct antigen can be detected with varying degrees of precision through chromatographic analysis. This requires high-purity antibody and drug conjugates to target and bind to antigen molecules in a biological analyte – a process that is complicated by the emergence of so-called “designer drugs”.
Conventional drugs of abuse have well-documented pharmacological signatures and chemical structures, enabling analysts to precisely quantify the concentration of a drug such as naturally occurring cannabis in urine or hair tissue. Synthetic cannabinoids are not characterized in nearly as much depth as natural variants, and the comparative lack of chemical and physiological information makes it difficult to detect distinct synthetic cannabinoid families in an analyte.
Emerging conjugations target common chemical elements within synthetic cannabinoids that are proven to metabolize in the body and excrete in the glucuronic acid of urine. Naphthoylindole is a full agonist of the cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2, and is shown to produce three times as many monohydroxylated metabolites of the CB1 receptor compared to natural THC. Yet conventional THC conjugations will not detect the presence of K2, or spice, due to their vast chemical dissimilarity.
JWH-018 conjugated to bovine serum albumin is regularly used to detect the parent drug K2 and its metabolites through lateral flow or ELISA testing methodologies.
Detecting Synthetic Cannabinoids with Pyxis Labs
Pyxis Labs is a leading developer of immunological reagents for detecting drugs of abuse and therapeutic drugs through established immunoassay equipment. We routinely provide a number of custom conjugations and established reagents including:
- Alcohol such as ethyl glucuronide-BSA (EtG-BSA);
- Amphetamines such as Amphetamine-BSA, Methamphetamine-BSA, methcathinone-BSA, MDMA-BSA, MDPV-BSA, Mephedrone-BSA and Methylphenidate-BSA (Ritalin-BSA);
- Benzodiazepines, such as Oxazepam-BSA and Clonazepam-BSA;
- Cannabinoids such us, delta-8-THC-BSA, delta-9-THC-BSA; and synthetic cannabinoids such as JWH-018-BSA, ABpinaca-BSA, UR144-BSA;
- Cocaine, such as BZEG-BSA;
- Hallucinogens/Anesthetics such as Ketamine-BSA and PCP-BSA;
- Nicotinic such as Cotinine-BSA.
- Opioids such as Buprenorphine-BSA, Fentanyl-BSA, Methadone-BSA, Morphine-BSA, Oxycodone-BSA, Propoxyphene-BSA and others such as Chloramphenicol-BSA, Gabapentin-BSA and N-acetyl glucosamine-BSA (NAG-BSA).