Dominion Diagnostics (Dominion) has recently developed and validated one of the first clinical urine drug monitoring assays to detect the metabolites of JWH-018 and JWH-073, two compounds typically found in synthetic cannabinoids, also referred to as "herbal incense" products.
Users looking for a "legal high" have reportedly turned to these products as an alternative to marijuana. Two compounds, JWH-018 and JWH-073, have been identified in these products as primary receptor agonists that produce marijuana-like effects. These ingredients surreptitiously sprayed on herbal incense are not currently listed as controlled substances. Despite similarities to marijuana, these products, found in over 25 different herbal blends, are not detectable using standard drug tests. Dominion's new in-house assay can detect the primary metabolites of the synthetic cannabinoids, JWH-018 and JWH-073, in urine by Ultra Performance Liquid Chromatography/Tandem Mass Spectrometry (UPLC/MS/MS).
The term "herbal incense" refers to products which have been portrayed as natural herbal mixes of substances such as vanilla and baybean. These innocent-sounding items are being increasingly banned by many groups and agencies, although they have been legally marketed as harmless products. Manufactured in Asia and sold via the Internet or in local stores under various names such as K2, Spice, Genie, Yucatan Fire, Skunk, and Sence, these products consist of herbs that are sprayed with synthetic substances. When smoked or ingested, an effect similar to the euphoric high of marijuana is realized.
The JWH-compounds were originally used in scientific research to identify cannabinoid receptors in the brain and to study the mechanism of action of THC. Health and drug officials say the danger of using these products is the unregulated nature of their production and chemical makeup. In addition to the potential for users to inhale contaminants along with the substance they think they are smoking, some evidence suggests that the potency of the active ingredients exceeds that of THC. These may be contributing factors to some of the adverse effects reported by users including panic attacks, paranoia, heart palpitations, respiratory issues, impaired motor skills, agitation, and altered mood and perception.
"At Dominion, we recognize the issues that the field has encountered with these newer synthetic and unregulated products," stated Chief Operating Officer Stephen Jordan. "Our Research & Development Team's early investigation and in-house development have led to new testing solutions that will help clinicians work more effectively with their patients."
Dominion's new UPLC/MS/MS assay, one of the first presented to the industry, is now available to clinicians across the country. This new development comes as part of Dominion's continued commitment to unparalleled laboratory excellence. Dominion continues to lead the industry in its quest for accurate, clinically relevant science for use in improving treatment outcomes.