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Risks Tied to Synthetic Cannabinoids Higher Than Marijuana Use For Teens

A new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study examining teens’ use of synthetic cannabinoids, chemically similar but possibly more potent than marijuana, linked the drugs sometimes called “fake weed” with more health risk behaviors than marijuana.  For the study in the April 2017 Pediatrics, “Health Risk Behaviors with Synthetic Cannabinoids vs Marijuana” (published online March 13), researchers at the CDC looked at a nationally representative sample of 15,624 high school students responding to the 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey. They found among students who had ever used synthetic cannabinoids, there was a significantly greater likelihood of also using other drugs or alcohol, as well as engaging in sexual risk and violence and injury-related behaviors, compared to students who had ever used marijuana only. The associations between synthetic cannabinoid use and these health risk factors is particularly concerning given the popularity of the drug, which 1 in 10 U.S. high school students reported using.

Editor’s Note: Another Pediatrics study publishing online March 13, “Longitudinal Predictors of Synthetic Cannabinoid Use in Adolescents,” found that teens with symptoms of depression or who used alcohol or marijuana were more likely than others to begin using synthetic cannabinoids.


The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 66,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit and follow us on Twitter @AmerAcadPeds.

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