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Longitudinal Predictors of Synthetic Cannabinoid Use in Adolescents

NCJ Number
Pediatrics Volume: 139 Issue: 4 Dated: April 2017
Date Published
April 2017
5 pages

Since little is known about the risk factors that contribute to eventual use of synthetic cannabinoids (SCs) by adolescents, and no research has examined the psychiatric, personality, and substance-use risk factors that prospectively predict SC use, the current study tested the hypothesis, based on extent research, that anxiety, depression, impulsivity, and marijuana use would prospectively predict eventual SC use.


Synthetic canabinoids (SCs) are a large, heterogeneous group of chemicals that are structurally similar to δ-9-tetrahydrocannabinol. Many SCs are high-efficacy full agonists of the CB1 and/or CB2 cannabinoid receptors, resulting in a potent group of chemicals with a variety of negative health effects, including death. SCs are available to adolescents at convenience stores and smoke shops and on the Internet. For the current study, data were collected across two time points 12 months apart on adolescents attending multiple public high schools in southeast Texas (n = 964). Path analysis determined that depressive symptoms, marijuana use, alcohol use, and SC use at baseline were predictive of SC use at 1-year follow-up; whereas, anxiety symptoms and impulsivity were not. In addition, SC use at baseline was not predictive of marijuana use at the 1-year follow-up. Females and African Americans were less likely to use SCs than males or those of other ethnicities. Given these findings, SC-use prevention programming should consider depressive symptoms, marijuana use, and alcohol use as risk factors for SC use. It is particularly significant that traditional marijuana use was predictive of subsequent SC use, but SC use was not predictive of later marijuana use. (Publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: April 1, 2017