Young Men Hardest Hit by Fake Pot

By Hunter R. Slaton 12/04/12

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

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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Hunter Slaton is the esports managing editor for Blizzard Entertainment. You can find hunter on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.