This article presents the finding of a study on the forensic identification of new synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonists (SCRA).
The rapidly evolving synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonist (SCRA) market poses significant challenges for forensic scientists. Since the enactment of a generic ban in China, a variety of new compounds have emerged capable of evading the legislation by carrying new structural features. One recent example of a SCRA with new linker and head moieties is CH-PIATA (CH-PIACA, CHX-PIATA, CHX-PIACA). CH-PIATA bears an additional methylene spacer in the linker moiety between the indole core and the traditional carbonyl component of the linker. This study describes detections in 2022 of this new SCRA in the United States, Belgium, and Scottish prisons. CH-PIATA was detected once in a seized powder by Belgian customs and 12 times in Scottish prisons in infused papers or resin. The metabolites of CH-PIATA were investigated via in vitro human liver microsome (HLM) incubations and eight metabolites were identified, dominated by oxidative biotransformations. A blood sample from the United States was confirmed to contain a mixture of SCRAs including CH-PIATA via presence of the parent and at least five of the metabolites identified from HLM incubations. Furthermore, this paper evaluates the intrinsic in vitro cannabinoid 1 and 2 (CB1 and CB2) receptor activation potential of CH-PIATA reference material and the powder seized by Belgian customs by means of β-arrestin 2 recruitment assays. Both the reference and the seized powder showed a weak activity at both CB receptors with signs of antagonism found. Based on these results, the expected harm potential of this newly emerging substance remains limited. (Published Abstract Provided)