NEW YORK — Synthetic marijuana is many times stronger than the natural stuff, but many naive teens are led to believe that it’s less risky. That may explain why a new study finds 1 in 5 high schoolers who use the “fake” drug do so at least 20 times in a month.

Researchers at NYU reviewed data from a month-long, nationally-representative study of high schoolers who had used synthetic cannabinoids (SCs), finding that three percent of students currently use fake weed — which can be anywhere from two to 100 times as potent.

Person lighting a joint
A new study finds that 20 percent of high school students who use synthetic marijuana, also known as “Spice,” do so nearly every day.

Half of this population reported having used SCs at least three times in the prior month, while about a fifth said they used the drug, often nicknamed “Spice” and “K2,” almost daily.

“This finding is important because it implies that half of users are using SCs more than once or twice, which may suggest more than just mere experimentation,” says researcher Dr. Joseph Palamar in a press release. “In fact, 20% of current users reported use on 20 to 30 days in the past month, suggesting daily or almost-daily use.”

Adds lead author Dr. Silvia Martin: “The fact that one-fifth of current adolescent SC users report using these drugs in a daily or almost daily basis is of concern.”

Males, African Americans, and students who took other drugs were found to be among the most prevalent synthetic marijuana users. The researchers noted that 80 percent of those who use SCs were also frequent consumers of actual pot.

It would seem as if many students are oblivious to the consequences associated with the consumption of synthetic weed, including high blood pressure, heart attack, hallucinations, vomiting, blurred vision, and severe anxiety.

Since synthetic weed is easy-to-obtain, made to seem benign, and not always illegal, many teens who want to get high might look at it as a viable alternative to regular marijuana.

“Our research calls for future prevention focused primarily on marijuana users, especially male and/or African American marijuana users who appear to be at great risk for frequent use,” concludes Dr. Palamar. “Marijuana users who use other drugs are at highest risk for currently using SCs, so particular focus must be paid to these individuals to prevent increasingly dangerous and severe health outcome among young users.”

The full study was published last month in the journal Pediatrics.

About Daniel Steingold

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