Rates of Synthetic Cannabinoid Use in Adolescents Admitted to a Treatment Facility

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Objective: Many forms of synthetic marijuana are available in the United States for recreational use. Although the composition of these synthetic forms is unclear, consumption has been on the rise among adolescents. The objective of this study is to understand the usage rates and identify the reasons and risk factors for synthetic cannabinoid use.

Methods: We recruited 637 adolescents (aged 13 to 17 years) admitted to the Children’s Recovery Center, Norman, Oklahoma, from August 11, 2014, to March 30, 2016, for the study. Descriptive statistics and Pearson χ2 test were used to analyze the data. Logistic regression and adjusted odds ratio (OR) were performed to determine the risk factors for synthetic marijuana use.

Results: The mean age of synthetic cannabinoid users was 16 years. Increased prevalence of synthetic marijuana use was observed in 16- to 17-year-old adolescent males, in the white population, and in individuals living in urban areas. Synthetic marijuana was preferred by subjects over the regular form, as it is less expensive, produces a better high, is undetectable on drug tests, and is perceived as legal. Male sex (OR = 2.63, P < .0001), aged 16 to 17 years (OR = 1.99, P < .0001), and residing in an urban locality (OR = 1.57, P = .05) were identified as risk factors for consuming synthetic marijuana. Adolescents who use synthetic marijuana are more at risk of having substance use disorder (OR = 11.87, P < .0001) than those who do not.

Conclusions: Synthetic marijuana use is increasing in the adolescent age group and could potentially have a negative impact on the health of teenagers. Hence, enforcing strict laws against synthetic marijuana use and promoting awareness programs targeting adolescents would be beneficial.​

Prim Care Companion CNS Disord 2018;20(5):17m02265