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NYU Heads Study About the Deadly Synthetic Cannabinoids “Spice” and “K2”


The first national study regarding high school drug use shows that at least 3-percent of high school seniors admit to using synthetic cannabinoids in the previous 30-days. Almost half of those surveyed said they’d used the synthetic cannabinoids over three times in the previous month. The study on synthetic cannabinoids includes drugs like “Spice” and “K2.”

Joseph Palamar of the New York University Rory Meyers College of Nursing’s Center for Drug Use and HIV Research headed the study, according to Futurity. The team of researchers examined current usage trends among high schoolers in regards to synthetic cannabinoid use. Cannabinoids in the synthetic products do resemble the naturally occurring cannabinoids found in cannabis.

What teens may not understand is that the cannabinoids in the synthetic products can be up to 100 times stronger than the cannabinoids found naturally in marijuana. This is why the adverse health events reported from synthetic cannabinoid use are seen more than in traditional marijuana use.

The study conducted by Palamar and his team was published in the journal Pediatrics, where Palamar said, “This finding is important because it implies that half of current users are using SCs more than once or twice, which may suggest more than just mere experimentation. In fact, 20 percent of current users reported use on 20 to 30 days in the past month, suggesting daily or almost-daily use.”

Senior study author, Silvia Martins said, “The fact that one-fifth of current adolescent SC users report using these drugs in a daily or almost daily basis is of concern. This is particularly notable due to all possible adverse effects associated with SC use.”

Data was taken from Monitoring the Future, which is an ongoing study occurring annually regarding behaviors, attitudes and values of American high school students. Roughly 130 public and private schools in 48 states participate in the study. This results in about 15,000 high school seniors partaking in the survey.

The data shows that those using synthetic cannabinoids are likely to use traditional marijuana as well, in fact 8 out of 10 that use synthetics also said they use traditional marijuana. The research team broke down the data further to separate marijuana only users from those using just synthetics and those that use both.

In terms of marijuana-only users, fewer synthetic users think they’re at risk for harm from using them. Synthetic users also reported that they think they’re at a higher risk of using occasional traditional marijuana.

The findings of this research suggest that teens think that there are less health risks associated with using synthetic cannabinoids. It boils down to a lack of knowledge regarding the dangers of using products like “Spice” and “K2”.

Palamar said, “If there are students using synthetic cannabinoids because they genuinely believe they are less risky than marijuana, this misconception must be addressed through better education stressing the greater danger posed by synthetic cannabinoids.”

It is suggested that the students think that marijuana is more dangerous than synthetic products because marijuana remains illegal and for now, at least, “Spice” and “K2” are not technically illegal.

The report also suggests that those using synthetics are using other drugs as well.

Palamar said, “Concurrent use of other drugs such as alcohol can make adverse outcomes more likely. Our findings help allow clinicians and public health experts to determine who is at risk for SC use and possibly poisoning from SC use, so appropriate directed intervention education measures can be deployed.”

Monica Barratt of the Drug Policy Modeling Program, National Drug and Alcohol Research Center at the University of New South Wales – Sydney, Australia said, “Evolving generations of SC compounds are increasingly harmful and poisonous to overall health, making effective prevention efforts more important than ever.”

Similar studies conducted previously suggest that marijuana users are at a higher risk for using synthetics. This study unveiled the risk factors that current marijuana use increases the risk of current or higher-frequency of using synthetic cannabinoids.

Palamar said, “Our research calls for future prevention focused primarily on marijuana users, especially male and/or African-American marijuana users who appear to be at greatest risk for frequent use. Marijuana users who use other drugs are at highest risk for currently using SCs, so particular focus must be paid to these individuals to prevent increasingly dangerous and severe health outcomes among young users.”