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Fields & Applications Spectroscopy

An Eye on Spice

Pudney and colleagues testing the portable analyzer. Photo credit: The University of Bath.

What is your research focus?

We focus on synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonists, which are so-called “novel psychoactive substances” and collectively referred to as “Spice.” They mimic some of the active compounds in cannabis by interacting with endocannabinoid receptors, but do so with increased potency and exert enhanced effects. Interestingly, these compounds – which share some structural similarities with compounds from the plant – potentially also act on different receptors in the body, meaning their effects are difficult to predict.

The actual chemistry or strength of these products is often not known, which presents a serious problem – an accidental overdose of the wrong synthetic compound could lead to, for example, a stroke, or send them to the emergency room. It is also difficult to discern exactly what drug a patient on suspected Spice may have taken, so there’s an acute need for a point-of-care test from both health and harm reduction perspectives. That’s the overarching aim of our work.

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About the Author

Matthew Hallam

I've always wanted a career in which I could practice my creativity, even when I worked on the assembly line in a fish factory. At one time, I channeled this need into dance, drawing, poetry and fiction, and I still do most of these things. But, following completion of my MSc(Res) in Translational Oncology and time working in labs and as a Medical Writer for major pharmaceutical companies, I'm happy to find myself in a career that allows me to combine my creative side with my scientific mind as the Deputy Editor of The Analytical Scientist.

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