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Teens' Taste for Synthetic Drugs Grows

"K2" and "Spice" are increasingly popular, while high school marijuana use hits a 30-year high.

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By Ariel Nagi

12/14/11

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A new survey shows that teens are using synthetic drugs more than ever, even though over 40 states have now banned them. But marijuana is still the most popular drug of all—and teen use is at a 30-year high, with nearly 7% of high school seniors using pot daily. According to the survey of 47,000 high school students—conducted by the University of Michigan, and sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institutes of Health—11.4% of teens report using synthetic drugs over the last year. Drugs like "K2" or "Spice" are often sold online or in convenience stores, packaged as potpourri or incense; they produce effects similar to marijuana. They started to become popular around 2008 and have caused some serious problems in the past few years—poison control center calls are up to 5,741 this year from 2,915 in 2010, says the American Association of Poison Control Centers. As well as a relaxing high, some users report convulsions, anxiety attacks, high heart rates, vomiting and suicidal thoughts. Overall, 40% of high school seniors used at least one illicit drug in the last year.

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