Synthetic Marijuana Third Most Reported Substance Used by U.S. High School Students

 University of Maryland, at college park states synthetic marijuana is third most abused substance amongst young teens.

SOURCE: Adapted by CESAR from The Partnership for a Drug-Free America and the MetLife Foundation, The Partnership Attitude
Tracking Study (PATS): Teens and Parents, 2013. Available online at
publication/full-report-and-key-findings-the-2012-partnership-attitude-tracking-study-sponsored-by-metlife-foundation .

More high school students report using synthetic marijuana than any other substance besides alcohol and
marijuana, according to data from a recently released survey of 9th to 12th graders. Alcohol and marijuana
were the most prevalent drug used, with 57% reporting alcohol use and 39% reporting marijuana use in the
past year in 2012. The third most prevalent substance used was synthetic marijuana (12%), often referred to
as K2 or Spice. Use of all other substances was reported by 10% or less of high school students. Similar
results have been found by other surveys of high school students (see CESAR FAX, Volume 21, Issue 5).

Synthetic marijuana ranks third among drug use in teens, behind marijuana and alcohol.
Synthetic marijuana ranks third among drug use in teens, behind marijuana and alcohol.

Editor’s Note: Synthetic marijuana products typically consist of plant material treated with synthetic
cannabinoids, psychoactive substances designed to bind to and stimulate the same receptors in the brain as
THC. Synthetic marijuana use in general has been linked with adverse effects such as increased heart rate
and blood pressure, anxiety, agitation, and acute kidney injury (see CESAR FAX, Volume 20, Issue 17 and
Volume 22, Issue 7). However, there are more than 140 different types1 of synthetic cannabinoids, each with
potentially different potency as well as adverse effects2. The exact synthetic cannabinoids contained in
synthetic marijuana products is impossible to determine without specific testing—studies have shown that
the types and amounts of synthetic cannabinoids can vary greatly between products, lots, and even within
the same package3. In reality, youth who report using synthetic marijuana likely have no idea what specific
synthetic cannabinoid they are using or what the effects will be.