Forensic Toxicology

, Volume 32, Issue 1, pp 82–88 | Cite as

Synthetic cannabinoids abused in South Korea: drug identifications by the National Forensic Service from 2009 to June 2013

  • Heesun Chung
  • Hyeyoung Choi
  • Sewoong Heo
  • Eunmi Kim
  • Jaesin LeeEmail author
Original Article


The rapid increase in the number of new psychoactive substances and their abuse is the most recent drug abuse issue worldwide. Although abuse of synthetic cannabinoids is highly restricted in South Korea, the rapid increase in the number of new substances is forcing the legal regulation authority to continuously improve the drug regulation act. As a result of drug screening by the National Forensic Service from 2009 to June 2013, 26 species of synthetic cannabinoids were identified in materials seized mainly by the Police Agency and the Prosecutor’s Office in South Korea. One of the most remarkable trends in synthetic cannabinoids is the increase in halogenated derivatives and new substances, including UR-144 and A-836,339 originally developed as analgesics by Abbott Laboratories. The N-pentyl fluorinated analog of UR-144 (XLR-11) has become the most frequently found synthetic cannabinoid in 2013 since its first appearance in 2012, whereas abuse of A-836,339 analogs has been little reported despite their abuse potential. Until early 2011, nicotine was the most frequently found active coingredient with synthetic cannabinoids. However, various psychoactive substances such as Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol, α-pyrrolidinobutiophenone, α-pyrrolidinovalerothiophenone, and N,N-diallyl-5-methoxytryptamine have often been found as coingredients in herbal highs since late 2011. These coingredients should also be systematically regulated, because they can cause unexpected side effects. It is suggested that authorities in different countries share information about synthetic cannabinoids and their coingredients.


New psychoactive substance Synthetic cannabinoids XLR-11 Coingredients National Forensic Service South Korea 



This study was supported by funding from the National R & D Program of the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology (2012-0009836) and the National Forensic Service of Korea.

Conflict of interest

There are no financial or other relations that could lead to a conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Japanese Association of Forensic Toxicology and Springer Japan 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Heesun Chung
    • 1
  • Hyeyoung Choi
    • 2
  • Sewoong Heo
    • 2
  • Eunmi Kim
    • 2
  • Jaesin Lee
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Graduate School of Analytical Science and TechnologyChungnam National UniversityDaejeonSouth Korea
  2. 2.National Forensic ServiceSeoulSouth Korea

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