Teenagers who use synthetic marijuana or “fake weed”, are more likely to engage in risky violent behaviors with their physical and sexual health than those who only have ever used natural marijuana, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study. The study was published online in the journal Pediatrics on March 13, it was the first to look into the addictive effects of synthetic cannabinoids or SCs. The one of two released reports exploring SC use and the second report found teenagers with depressive symptoms or who use marijuana, other drugs or alcohol are more likely to later use SCs.
According to the journal Pediatrics, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) collected data about 36 health risks in 4 subjects from the 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey on 15,624 high school students to explore the behaviors of teens who have used synthetic cannabinoid. The survey asked participants about their use of marijuana and synthetic pot. They were also asked about their certain behaviors across four areas: violent behavior, mental health, sexual health and other drug use.
The survey was answered by 15,624 American students from 9th to 12th grades. Researchers writing in Pediatrics found that students in grades 9 to 12 who used synthetic cannabinoids were also associated with increased marijuana use. The researchers found that 29.5 percent of students reported that they had used marijuana only and 9.4 percent of students reported having used synthetic cannabinoids. Roughly 98.4% of those who had used synthetic cannabinoids or SCs also had used marijuana. Results also showed that 61 percent of students reported that they had never used synthetic cannabinoids or weed.
Those who used synthetic pot, were more likely to carry weapons, engage in high risk sexual activity, experience depression and violence. They were also more prone to being injured, being the victim of sexual violence, getting into a physical fight than the students that only used real marijuana.
“The findings illustrate a dramatic difference in the association with risky health behaviors by type of marijuana use,” Heather Clayton, first author of the paper and a health scientist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), told Live Science.
Compared to students who had used only marijuana, synthetic cannabinoid users were more likely to have started using marijuana before the age of 13 (very early in life), to have used marijuana at least once in the last 30 days. And the kids who used synthetic pot were more likely to have used real marijuana 20 times in the past 30 days, the investigators found. According to researchers, synthetic pot use was also linked to higher odds of having sex without a condom or other forms of birth control.
The purpose was to study the risk correlated with synthetic cannabinoid use. Researchers found that high school students in the study who had used synthetic cannabinoids or fake weed, were much more likely to use other drugs and engage in risky sexual or violent behaviors compared to those students who had used only marijuana. It revealed synthetic marijuana is linked not only to continued use of synthetic cannabinoid, but also to violence and alcoholism.
“We found that students who used synthetic marijuana had a significantly greater likelihood of engaging in the majority of health-risk behaviors included in the study compared to students who used marijuana only,” Clayton told Live Science.
The synthetic cannabinoids often called “fake weed” includes a variety of drugs sold under hundreds of brand names, such as the commonly known Spice and K2. Some of the chemical concoctions used in fake weed are similar to those found in real marijuana, so the former is often marketed as “natural” and “safe,” or marked with warnings stating that they are “not fit for human consumption.”
Fake weed belongs to a class of substances called synthetic cannabinoids or SCs, are created in a laboratory and designed to mimic the effects of marijuana. It produces the similar sensations to tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, the psychoactive ingredient found in the cannabis plant, yet many users report synthetic cannabinoids are more powerful and stronger, often dangerous effects.
Fake weed or synthetic pot has become a popular choice of drug amongst many teens today but the US National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that synthetic pot has unpredictable and the effects of this substance can be catastrophic in life, such as heart and kidney damage, psychosis and even death.
Prevention is the only key
Synthetic pot is listed as a Schedule I drug and completely illegal on federal level. Researchers agree that the most important thing to do right now is prevention. The researchers said, the study will help medical professionals and schools develop strategies to help prevent the use of both marijuana and synthetic cannabinoids.
“To prevent marijuana and the use of synthetic cannabinoid, it is important that health professionals and school-based substance prevention programs include strategies that reduce initiation of marijuana and synthetic cannabinoid use, particularly among students younger than 13 years of age,” researchers wrote.