What are synthetic cannabinoids?

Synthetic cannabinoids are manufactured chemicals that produce an effect similar to the psychoactive component of cannabis (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or THC). These chemicals are combined with plant material to produce a synthetic form of cannabis.

In recent years, a wide variety of synthetic cannabinoid products have been made available as smoking mixtures that are sold on the Internet and in various specialised shops. These products are usually sold in foil sachets, typically containing 1-3 grams of dried plant matter to which chemicals that mimic the effects of THC have been added. A number of plant-based ingredients are often listed on the packaging, but scientific testing has found that many of these are not actually present.

In order to minimise associated harms, synthetic cannabinoids have been included as a scheduled prohibited substance (Schedule 9) under the Standard for the Uniform Scheduling of Medicines and Poisons (SUSMP). This means that the use of synthetic cannabinoids is illegal.

Source: Adapted from the DrugInfo (2018) and Alcohol and Drug Foundation (2018) websites.