Acute Pharmacological Effects and Oral Fluid Biomarkers of the Synthetic Cannabinoid UR-144 and THC in Recreational Users.
Synthetic cannabinoids (SCs) are one of the most frequent classes of new psychoactive substances monitored by the EU Early Warning System and World Health Organization. UR-144 is a SC with a relative low affinity for the CB1 receptor with respect to that for the CB2 receptor. As with other cannabinoid receptor agonists, it has been monitored by the EU Early Warning System since 2012 for severe adverse effects on consumers. Since data for UR-144 human pharmacology are very limited, an observational study was carried out to evaluate its acute pharmacological effects following its administration using a cannabis joint as term of comparison. Disposition of UR-144 and delta-9-tetrahydrocannibinol (THC) was investigated in oral fluid. Sixteen volunteers smoked a joint prepared with tobacco and 1 or 1.5 mg dose of UR-144 (n = 8) or cannabis flowering tops containing 10 or 20 mg THC (n = 8). Physiological variables including systolic and diastolic blood pressure, heart rate and cutaneous temperature were measured. A set of Visual Analog Scales (VAS), the Addiction Research Centre Inventory (ARCI)-49-item short form version and the Evaluation of the Subjective Effects of Substances with Abuse Potential (VESSPA-SSE) were administered to evaluate subjective effects. Oral fluid was collected at baseline, 10, 20, 40 min and 1, 2, 3 and 4 h after smoking, for UR-144 or THC concentration monitoring. Results showed significant statistical increases in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure and heart rate after both UR-144 and cannabis smoking. Both substances produced an increase in VAS related to stimulant-like and high effects, but scores were significantly higher after cannabis administration. No hallucinogenic effects were observed. Maximal oral fluid UR-144 and THC concentrations appeared at 20 and 10 min after smoking, respectively. The presence of UR-144 in oral fluid constitutes a non-invasive biomarker of SC consumption. The results of this observational study provide valuable preliminary data of the pharmacological effects of UR-144, showing a similar profile of cardiovascular effects in comparison with THC but lower intensity of subjective effects. Our results have to be confirmed by research in a larger sample to extensively clarify pharmacological effects and the health risk profile of UR-144.