A Spicy Kind of High: A Profile of Synthetic Cannabinoid Users

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Aims: Over the last 6 years, numerous products have been made available and marketed as “legal highs.” Many of these products contain compounds similar to those within cannabis and function to create a high comparable to that of smoking marijuana. Though governments have regulated these psychoactive compounds, variants are still sold. At this point, little is known about the characteristics of users of synthetic cannabinoids. Design and Participants: A self-report survey instrument was administered to 2349 university students at a large institute in the State of Georgia. Respondents reported on their lifetime, last-year, and last-month synthetic cannabinoid use and demographic characteristics. Results: Males, Whites and Hispanics, users of other substances, and those from more affluent families were significantly more likely to report having used a synthetic cannabinoid. In addition, those that self-identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) were twice as likely to have used synthetic cannabinoids. Conclusions: This research is among the first to detail characteristics of synthetic cannabinoid users in a large random sample. It appears that use of synthetic cannabinoids (synthetic marijuana analogs) continued after initial bans and that use is concentrated in affluent White and Hispanic males and in the LGBT community.