User Experiences of Development of Dependence on the Synthetic Cannabinoids, 5f-AKB48 and 5F-PB-22, and Subsequent Withdrawal Syndromes

  • Marie Claire Van HoutEmail author
  • Evelyn Hearne


Emergence of synthetic cannabinoids (SCBs) in herbal smoking mixtures is a public health concern. New SCB’s such as 5f-AKB48 and 5F-PB-22 have been detected in French seizures and in sudden death post mortems in the US. The aim was to describe development of dependence on herbal smoking mixtures containing the SCB’s, 5f-AKB48 and 5F-PB-22 and subsequent withdrawal syndromes. Dependent users of herbal smoking mixtures known to contain the SCB’s 5f-AKB48 and 5F-PB-22 with an average Severity of Dependence Score (SDS) of 13 were interviewed using a structured guide (three males/three females). Narratives were analysed using the Empirical Phenomenological Psychological (EPP) five step method. Six themes with 68 categories emerged from the analysis. Themes are illustrated as 1) Networks and Product Availability; 2) Drivers and Motives for Use; 3) Effect and Pathways toward Dependence; 4) Poly Substance Use and Comparisons to Natural Cannabis; 5) Dependence and Withdrawal and 6) Self-detoxification Attempts. Two higher levels of abstraction above these theme-levels emerged from the data, with sole use of herbal smoking mixtures containing 5f-AKB48 and 5F-PB-22 centering on the interplay between intense cravings, compulsive all-consuming seeking, use and re-dose behaviours, and fear of the psychiatric and self-harms caused when in withdrawal. This is the first study describing dependence and withdrawal experiences in users dependent on 5f-AKB48 and 5F-PB-22. Given the potential for adverse psychiatric and physical consequences of dependent use, further development of specific clinical responses and clinical research around toxicity and withdrawal severity are warranted.


Synthetic cannabinoid 5f-AKB48 5F-PB-22 Herbal cannabis, Spice, withdrawal 



This work was supported by the Health Service Executive, and Teach na nDaoine, Ireland. The opinions expressed in this article are of the researchers and are not necessarily those of the funders.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Authors declare no conflict of interest.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Health SciencesWaterford Institute of TechnologyWaterfordIreland

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