Which Teens Are Most At Risk For Synthetic Marijuana Use?

Sun Sentinel/Getty images

Sun Sentinel/Getty images

Have you heard of synthetic marijuana? Sometimes referred to as Spice, K2, or Scooby Doo, this substance is an herbal mixture that produces a similar effect to marijuana. Since the drug is considered a safer, legal alternative to weed, it’s become popular among teens. According to a 2011 survey, more than 1 in 10 high school seniors used this drug. Because of its popularity, researchers at New York University decided to take a look at risk factors for synthetic cannabis use among teens.

Explaining the reason for the research, Joseph J. Palamar, an assistant professor of Population Health at NYU Langone Medical Center, says:

Use began to decrease last year, but the drug still poses a substantial threat, and research was needed to determine which teens are at highest risk for use.

Researchers conducted a study with more than 11,800 students about their use of natural and synthetic marijuana from 2011 to 2013. And what did they find?

  • Among genders, males were at greater risk for using spice and used it more frequently.
  • When it came to race, black students were 42% less likely to report synthetic cannabis use than white students.
  • Students who went out for fun four to seven nights a week were at a higher risk to experiment and use this drug.
  • Students who used other substances (like alcohol or cigarettes) were more likely to use synthetic marijuana. Cigarette smokers were twice as likely to use it.

Although synthetic cannabis is not technically illegal, that doesn’t mean it’s not dangerous. Despite its fun, colorful packages, there’s no way of telling what’s actually inside — which is exactly what makes it risky. In 2014, emergency room visits from this substance doubled. Talk to your teens about the dangers associated with spice.

To get the conversation started, share Choices magazine’s “Scary Spice” story with them! Click the image below to view the story as a PDF:

Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 12.02.50 PM

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