Synthetic drug use down among teens: US

Fewer teens are trying fake marijuana according to the US government’s annual survey on drug use.


Synthetic marijuana, known by such names as K2 and Spice, is thought to have appeared in the US in 2009. Soon after came a spike in emergency room visits, even deaths, as the drug caught on among young people.

About 8 per cent of high school seniors said they’ve used synthetic marijuana this year, according to the report released Wednesday by the National Institutes of Health. That’s a sharp drop from the 11 per cent of seniors who’d experimented with fake pot in 2012.

Use of synthetic drugs among younger teens dropped as well, said University of Michigan’s Professor Lloyd Johnston, who heads the annual Monitoring the Future survey of more than 40,000 students in years 8, 10 and 12.

“The message has gotten out that these are dangerous drugs,” Prof Johnston said. “Their ever-changing ingredients can be unusually powerful. Users really don’t know what they are getting.”

Synthetic marijuana is made of dried plant material sprayed with various chemicals and packaged to look like pot. The Drug Enforcement Administration banned a number of chemicals used to make synthetic marijuana in 2011, but new chemical varieties continue to appear.

The survey results were being released just weeks before recreational marijuana sales become legal in Colorado and Washington state for people over 21. Opponents of legalised marijuana long have said they worried about its impact on children.

The annual survey also found that teenage perceptions of the dangers of marijuana use continued to decline. In 1993, more than 60 per cent of high school seniors considered marijuana dangerous, while this year less than 40 per cent thought that.

Dr Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said researchers worry that as perceptions of marijuana as a dangerous drug continue to decline, use will keep increasing among teenagers.

Mason Tvert, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project which advocates for regulating marijuana, said steady rates of marijuana use among teenagers “underscores the benefits of regulation versus prohibition”