The Adverse Health Effects of Synthetic Cannabinoids

871 words | 3 page(s)

Amsterdam, Brunt, and Brink (2015) discuss the mechanisms by which cannabinoid drugs may affect vulnerable populations with regard to psychosis. The authors implicate tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) as the guilty compound, noting the mitigating effects of cannabinol (CBD). These findings are in line with the findings of Pierre (2011) regarding the risk of psychosis relative to cannabinoid use.

In examining the article the problem statement, which declares that evidence of the specific influence of THC versus CBD in the role of psychosis is not well-understood, the authors clearly state the problem. The introduction provides sufficient background on the issue to underline why this is a concern and worthy of research. The problem statement is followed up by a clear statement of the article’s purpose. The purpose of the article is to review “the general toxicity profile” of synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonists (SCRAs) “with special emphasis on their psychosis-inducing risk” (Amsterdam, Brunt, & Brink, 2015, p. 2). This is clearly tied to the introduction and the problem statement, clearly highlighting what the research intends to add to the literature and what gaps may be filled by this research.

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This research is essentially a review of the literature rather than a traditional experiment. It does not explicitly identify any independent or dependent variables, but it is evident that the variables involved include SCRAs, THC content versus CBD content of cannabinoid drugs, an emphasis on synthetic cannabinoid drugs, and psychosis as a result of toxicity. This research does have significance to nursing, as patients presenting with psychosis may not be presenting with mental illness-based issues; understanding the role these drugs may play would affect how the patient may be treated.

The research design for this article was a literature review. The authors detail the search strings and parameters they utilized to identify the 250 papers about SCRAs in the PubMed database. These search strings and parameters serve as inclusionary criteria. The authors also detail exclusionary criteria that were used which were “animal studies, analytical essays of SCRAs and their metabolism” (Amsterdam, Brunt, & Brink, 2015, p. 2). These findings were then presented thematically. The information extracted from the papers used was synthesized, though some comparisons did occur to show relationships between the information.

250 papers were used in this literature which seems to present a sufficient amount of data. As to whether or not this paper minimized biases and threats to internal and external validity, it is difficult to determine, given that it is a literature review. The inclusion and exclusion criteria are not explicitly stated, and the search parameters are also not likewise explicitly stated. Without these criteria and the rationale for why and how these criteria were developed and used, it is difficult to understand potential biases. This unfortunately raises questions about the validity of the results, though the finding will no doubt be useful.

As noted earlier, the research design for this study is a literature review or synthesis of literature. This allows the authors to capitalize on the research of other researchers, providing them with a broad collection of data from which they can draw. This also provides them with a variety of data, offering different angles and perspectives on the data. In this way the authors can extract and present a variety of information on the topic – covering their bases, so to speak. The authors also essentially conducted a thematic analysis of the information, given its presentation.

Being a literature review this research article did not have a population as such. It is therefore impossible to state whether or not the population has been identified and described sufficiently. However, the authors do acknowledge that they use 250 research papers in their synthesis; in this case, those 250 papers may, as such, be considered the sample. In that regard, the inclusion and exclusion criteria serve as the sample’s description. In that case the sample is not necessarily well described. One may assume, based on the findings, that the sample is a mix of quantitative and qualitative research articles containing a variety of research designs.

With regard to the sampling design, one might say that the best possible design was not used, given the broadness of the inclusion criteria. Furthermore, given the lack of detail for the inclusion criteria, it is also difficult to say that the best possible design was used. With regard to the size of the sample, which is 250 studies, it seems safe to say that the sample size was adequate. The sheer number of studies used provides a great deal of information. No power analysis appeared to be performed. The authors describe the method section and then launch into a description of their findings, thematically arranging topics to include history and prevalence, variation of the product, reasons to use SCRAs, unwanted negative effects, acute adverse effects, long-term adverse effects, young people at risk, SCRA-induced acute psychosis, SCRA use as self-medication in schizophrenia, and limitations of the review, with a conclusion.

Thus far, the research article presents useful information. Its findings do not seem to contradict other research on the topic. Pierre (2011)’s article was not included in the article being reviewed, so it serves as a good point of comparison for the article. Though Pierre’s (2011) article appears less rigorous, it seems more useful than the article under review.

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