College students and use of K2: an emerging drug of abuse in young persons

Subst Abuse Treat Prev Policy. 2011 Jul 11;6:16. doi: 10.1186/1747-597X-6-16.


Background: K2 or "spice" has emerged as a popular legal alternative to marijuana among adolescents and young adults. However, no data has been published assessing prevalence of and associations with ever K2 use in any population. This study's aims were to examine prevalence of ever K2 use among a sample of college students, to determine characteristics of persons who use K2, and to access the association between K2 and other drug use.

Findings: Ever use of K2 was reported by 69 (8%) of the sample of 852 college students. Response rate was 36%. Bivariate and multivariate analyses assessed whether sociodemographic characteristics and other drug use were associated with ever use of K2. Ever use of K2 was reported by 69 (8%) of the sample. Among these 69 individuals, 61 (88%) had used a cigarette and 25 (36%) had used a hookah to smoke K2. In multivariate analyses, K2 use was more common in males (vs. females, adjusted Odds Ratio (aOR)=2.0, 95% Confidence Interval (CI)=1.2-3.5, p=0.01) and 1st or 2nd year college students (vs. 3rd year or above, aOR=2.4, 95% CI=1.2-5.0, p=0.02).

Conclusions: Ever use of K2 in this sample was higher than ever use of many other drugs of abuse that are commonly monitored in adolescents and young adults. Although DEA had banned five synthetic cannabinoids recently, clinicians and public health officials concerned with substance abuse in youth should be aware of and monitor the use of this drug in college students over time.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology
  • Age Factors
  • Cannabinoids / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Illicit Drugs / adverse effects*
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Students / psychology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Universities
  • Young Adult


  • Cannabinoids
  • Illicit Drugs