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Posted on Sun, Dec 23, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

Report finds synthetic cannabinoids like K2 still in use among high school seniors

By Amy Biolchini

High school seniors have continued to use synthetic cannabinoids like K2 and Spice even after the federal government banned a number of chemicals used to manufacture the drugs in 2011, according to a recent study conducted by the University of Michigan.

The Monitoring the Future report, released last week, found that 11.3 percent of twelfth grade students across the country used a synthetic cannabinoid substance in 2012 -- the same level as in 2011.


Synthetic cannabinoid products for sale in June in Ann Arbor before Michigan made them illegal as of July 1.

Melanie Maxwell I

The federal government listed specific chemicals used to make the synthetic drugs as controlled substances in 2011 -- a move that Lloyd Johnston, a professor at U-M and principle investigator on the study, said he thought would have resulted in a decline in use among teens.

Synthetic cannabinoids are made by spraying manufactured chemicals on a herb or leafy substance. However, their effects differ from marijuana. Noted side effects include loss of control, seizures, hallucinations, vomiting and elevated heart rate and blood pressure.

They were sold in head shops, at party stores and gas stations under a number of commercial names, the most common being K2 and Spice.

In 2011, poison control centers across the country responded to more than 13,000 calls related to use of synthetic cannabinoids and synthetic cathinones, 60 percent of which involved patients age 25 and younger, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers. The Michigan legislature took a more aggressive approach than the federal government in banning the entire class of synthetic cannabinoids and synthetic cathinones.

The ban took effect July 1, and resulted in a raid by the Livingston and Washtenaw Narcotics Enforcement Team on Ann Arbor head shop Bongz & Thongz in August.

Synthetic cathinones, known more commonly as “bath salts” and sold under trade names like "Cloud 9" and "Bliss," contain designer drugs that have amphetamine-like effects.

The Monitoring the Future study surveyed the prevalence of the drugs amongst teens for the first time in 2012 because of the bad reputation bath salts garnered after being linked to a number of violent crimes and adverse side effects like extreme and irrational behavior, as well as suicidal thoughts, Johnston said.

The report showed that drugs like bath salts have very little prominence among teens, a result that Johnston said was the most important finding of the study.

“Today, bath salt use is very low among kids,” Johnston said. “A little over one percent of high school seniors say they’ve used it in the past year.”

For eighth and tenth graders, that percentage is even lower: 0.8 percent and 0.6 percent have used bath salts in the past year, according to the report.

Debbra Snyder, Outpatient, Daybreak, and Corrections Program Coordinator at Dawn Farm, said synthetic cannabinoids like K2 were an increasing drug of choice in 2011 for the older teens treated at the clinic with identified substance abuse issues.

Dawn Farm is a nonprofit organization in Ypsilanti Township that assists addicts and alcoholics in treatment and recovery.

However, the state’s crackdown on synthetic cannabinoids in 2012 has resulted in less use in the teen population Dawn Farm treats, Snyder said.

In 2012, the prominent drugs of choice for older teens treated at Dawn Farm were opiates, especially in relation to prescription painkiller abuse, Snyder said.

“A year ago, it was synthetics that was the problem,” Snyder said.

Snyder said marijuana is the number one drug of choice for older teens. Number two is alcohol. Previously, amphetamines have held the third spot, but opiates may soon have that rank, Snyder said.

Amy Biolchini covers Washtenaw County, health and environmental issues for Reach her at (734) 623-2552, or on Twitter.



Mon, Dec 24, 2012 : 2:33 a.m.

Teens may use it, but adults are the ones making it. I'd also bet that adults are the main users of it too

Homeland Conspiracy

Sun, Dec 23, 2012 : 9:09 p.m.

Decriminalization...problem solved!!!

Hesh Breakstone

Mon, Dec 24, 2012 : 2:05 p.m.

You bet and what a great way to fund some of the best schools in the country too by regulating, taxation, etc.


Sun, Dec 23, 2012 : 6:40 p.m.

These synthetic drugs were and are popular because they don't show up on the basic drug test panel. Eliminate the excessive drug testing of our teens, and they'll stop going for dangerous drugs like these.


Sun, Dec 23, 2012 : 9:32 p.m.

Plus they are easy for teenagers to get, cost very little, and lasts for awhile. Couple that with the drug screening info and we've got a serious problem.


Sun, Dec 23, 2012 : 5:03 p.m.

If you read the Wiki article closely you would note that it states: "..., ALLEGEDLY MIMIC the effects of cannabis." Additionally, this article points out: "...However, THEIR EFFECTS DIFFER FROM MARIJUANA. Noted side effects include loss of control, seizures, hallucinations, ..." I don't know anybody that ever had a seizure or hallucination caused by marijuana. And I know a LOT of people that smoked (and still smoke) a LOT of marijuana. How long do you think K2 would have been legal if it were marketed as "...designed to mimic the effects of heroin", or "...designed to mimic the effects of crystal meth"? Hesh makes a valid point.

Hesh Breakstone

Sun, Dec 23, 2012 : 7:46 p.m.

Thanks A2 and I completely agree with you too. I was going to add something here but I forgot what I was going to say.... ;)


Sun, Dec 23, 2012 : 5:05 p.m.

Meant to insert under Hesh's comment.

Honest Abe

Sun, Dec 23, 2012 : 4:36 p.m.


Michigan Man

Sun, Dec 23, 2012 : 3:58 p.m.

Still waiting for any answer to my question - Other than getting high, what good can come from smoking dope?

Hesh Breakstone

Wed, Dec 26, 2012 : 11:46 p.m.

Ok I'll take yet another crack at the question.... It relieves the itching and pain associated with jock itch.... Or so I have been told.... ;)


Mon, Dec 24, 2012 : 1:09 p.m.

It helps relieve pain


Mon, Dec 24, 2012 : 4:37 a.m.

Why does there need to be an additional benefit besides just getting high?

Michigan Man

Mon, Dec 24, 2012 : 3:20 a.m.

Still no answers that make any sense!

Hesh Breakstone

Sun, Dec 23, 2012 : 7:44 p.m.

Well said Goofus! But being the sort that I am I will take a crack at the posters question. I personally have watched in amazement when someone critically ill and losing weight because of the illness smoked pot, got the munchies, and began to eat for the first time in a while... The weight loss was reversed, the patient survived, and the only down side was that one could no longer find a single Dorito or Oreo cookie in the house... There are many other examples that I can think of too but instead of reiterating what most have already heard and likely know I again want to separate this topic, about some crap that is manufactured simply to make a buck and marijuana - they are NOT the same thing....


Sun, Dec 23, 2012 : 6:41 p.m.

You could ask the same question about alot of things. For example, what good can come of asking meaningless questions on message boards?

Hesh Breakstone

Sun, Dec 23, 2012 : 1:51 p.m.

I sure wish that the press and others seeking to discuss this subject would STOP calling this stuff synthetic marijuana. It has absolutely nothing to do with marijuana, uses no marijuana in it's manufacture, and is nothing more than a man-made substance that seeks to make it's makers money by branding that falsely links it to marijuana. Clearly the stuff is dangerous, it should be banned but at the end of the day, beginning too - it is NOT marijuana, has nothing to do with marijuana, does not use marijuana in it's manufacture, and will likely and falsely give pot an undeserved bad rap..... Sheesh! ;)


Sun, Dec 23, 2012 : 9:29 p.m.

Heroin is synthetic. OxyContin is not synthetic heroin. They just have similar effects on the brain.

Angry Moderate

Sun, Dec 23, 2012 : 8:11 p.m.

Synthetic marijuana means the prescription medication Marinol, which is actually a synthetically-manufactured version of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. "K2" and "Spice" are not.


Sun, Dec 23, 2012 : 4:54 p.m.

That is exactly why they call it synthetic. It is a man-made drug that was created to mimic pot. look up the definition of synthetic. Oxycontin is synthetic heroin.


Sun, Dec 23, 2012 : 3:53 p.m.

According to Wikipedia, synthetic marijuana is made from unrelated materials, and with the intent to mimic the effects of marijuana. Based on this definition, the name is appropriate.


Sun, Dec 23, 2012 : 3:20 p.m.

pot calling kettle black?