Since the early 2000s, herbal mixtures containing synthetic cannabinoids (SCs), broadly known as Spice/K2, have been marketed as a legal marijuana surrogate and have become very popular among adolescents. Adolescence is a critical period of development, which is associated with an increased vulnerability to the central effects of drugs. Despite growing concerns about the negative effects of the use of SCs, newly synthetized compounds are increasingly detected in drugs seized by the authorities, posing a serious threat to public health. 5F-MDMB-PICA has been recently detected and classified as a highly potent agonist of CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors. Here, we first investigated the rewarding properties of 5F-MDMB-PICA in C57BL/6 adolescent and adult mice by in vivo brain microdialysis. Data showed that acute administration of a selected dose of 5F-MDMB-PICA (0.01 mg/kg i.p.) stimulates the release of dopamine in the nucleus accumbens shell of adolescent, but not of adult, mice. To further investigate the consequences of repeated exposure to this dose of 5F-MDMB-PICA, a separate group of adolescent mice was treated for 14 consecutive days and evaluated for behavioral abnormalities at adulthood, starting from 7 days after drug discontinuation. Data showed that this group of adult mice displayed an anxiety-like and compulsive-like state as revealed by an altered performance in the marble burying test. Our study suggests an alarming vulnerability of adolescent mice to the effects of 5F-MDMB-PICA. These findings provide a useful basis for understanding and evaluating both early and late detrimental effects that may derive from the use of SCs during adolescence.

View full text

Received: 19 November 2020 / Revised: 6 December 2020 / Accepted: 14 December 2020 / Published: 18 December 2020