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HOT TOPICS: Drug and Alcohol Treatment  Heroin

Young Men Hardest Hit by Fake Pot

According to a new government report, synthetic cannabinoids accounted for more than 11,000 ER admissions in 2010.


K2 is landing lots of kids in the ER. Photo via

By Hunter R. Slaton


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Synthetic marijuana—often marketed under street names such as K2 or Spice—accounted for 11,406 emergency-room visits in 2010, according to a new report from SAMHSA, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (The total number of drug-related ER visits that year was 2.3 million.) And it's a unique cohort that is landing itself in the hospital as a result of smoking these substances, with a relatively low age range: 75% of the ER admits for synthetic cannabinoids were for young people ages 12 to 29, with an average age of 24—and a third of these total visits were 12–17-year-olds. Compare that to ER admissions for real pot, where the average age is 30.

It's also mostly males—78%—smoking this stuff (or, at least, getting bombed bad enough on it to necessitate a trip to the ER). Another interesting detail is that, for the majority of synthetic dope ER admissions (59%), no other drug was involved—whereas with other illegal drugs, a majority of hospital trips involve drug combos. Just 36% of synthetics users were doing another drug alongside the designer substances, the most common of which were pot (17%), pills (17%) and alcohol (13%). Commenting on the report, US Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske said, “Make no mistake—the use of synthetic cannabinoids can cause serious, lasting damage, particularly in young people.”

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