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What are Synthetic Cannabinoids?

Commonly sold under the brand names of “Spice,” “K2,” and “Kronic”, synthetic cannabinoids act upon the cannabinoid receptors in the body, mimicking to varying degrees the main active chemical found in marijuana (Δ9-THC). Synthetic Cannabinoid chemicals are sprayed or soaked onto a mixture of shredded plant material and marketed mostly over the internet or in head shops as incense.

Synthetic cannabinoids facts:

  • Largest group of New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) on the market
    • Increased disproportionately compared to other NPS groups: doubled in the last few years1
  • DEA Schedule I Category: The most restrictive category for controlled substances
    • UR-144 and XLR-11 are Schedule I substances4


  • More toxic than cannabis
    • Negative side effects: seizures, hypertension, nausea, vomiting, and even death2
    • Shorter duration of action2
    • On-set of effects: Peak in minutes versus hours2
    • Linked to increased emergency room hospitalizations and fatalities3

The Thermo Scientific Solution

Quickly screen samples for the compounds that are most commonly found and identified by the DEA as Schedule I substances under the Controlled Substance Act, using the CEDIA® UR-144/XLR-11 Assay. Since synthetic cannabinoids are not naturally found in the body, samples that screen just below the cutoff may still have the drug present. By using the semi-quantitative option with the CEDIA Synthetic Cannabinoid Assay, you can identify these borderline samples and confirm using LC-MS/MS. In addition, there is no significant cross reactivity to any other commonly abused drugs (i.e. opioids, over-the-counter drugs), minimizing any opportunity for false positives due to these drugs.

CEDIA® UR-144/XLR-11 Assay

  • Specifically detects UR-144, its fluorinated form XLR-11 (5-F-UR144), and their major metabolites
  • Detects other structurally similar compounds commonly abused: UR-144 pentanoic acid, XLR-12, AM-2201, AM-1220, JWH-250 and metabolites, JWH-018 and metabolites, JWH-200, JWH-020, PB-22 pentanoic acid, AKB-48 metabolite, BB-22 and related metabolites
  • Good correlation to LC-MS/MS
  • Available in 1 x 65 mL and 3 x 17 mL sizes
  • For Criminal Justice and Forensic use only

Learn more

The semi-quantitative option in the immunoassay lets you determine if borderline samples, which screen just below the cutoff, contain some level of synthetic cannabinoids. These structurally similar compounds might be missed otherwise in the qualitative detection mode. Semi-quantitative detection may identify suspect samples, especially from clients that demonstrate behaviors associated with having taken synthetic cannabinoids, as it is possible they might be positive below the cutoff.

Structurally similar compounds may not be detected by themselves due to their low cross-reactivity (% cross-reactivity); however, they may give a positive result when multiple drugs are present simultaneously in the urine specimen. This is because the antibody cross-reacts with metabolites and multiple synthetic cannabinoid compounds. This leads to a cumulative response, whereby multiple compounds may collectively contribute to a positive test result.5

1. UNODC United National Office on Drugs and Crime, March 2015, vol 13, pg 4

2. NIDA, SAMHSA-ATTC Blending Initiative, (accessed February 27, 2017)

3. NFLIS 2015 annual report, pg 18

4. U.S Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration,UR-144 (TCMP-018;KM-X1) and XLR11 (5-F-UR-144), May 2013, (accessed February 28, 2017).

5. Barnes, A.J, Young, S., Spinelli, E.,  Martin, T.M., Klette, K.L., Huestis, M.A.  Evaluation of a homogeneous enzyme immunoassay for the detection of synthetic cannabinoids in urine. Forensic Sci Int. 2014 August; 241; 27-34.