Background: Synthetic cannabinoids are a rapidly emerging class of abused drugs. Synthetic cannabinoids are typically sold as "herbal blends" or "incense," commonly referred to as Spice products. No controlled human experiments have been conducted on the effects of Spice products or the synthetic cannabinoids they often contain.
Methods: An internet-based survey study was conducted with adults reporting at least one lifetime use of a Spice product.
Results: Respondents were primarily male, Caucasian and ≥ 12 years of education. Use of other psychoactive drugs was common, though 21% identified Spice products as their preferred drug. Spice products were most frequently obtained from retail vendors and smoked, though other forms of ingestion were endorsed. Mean age of first use was 26 and mean frequency of use in the past year was 67 days (range 0-365). Primary reasons for use were curiosity, positive drug effect, relaxation, and to get high without having a positive drug test. Acute subjective effects were similar to known effects of cannabis, and a subset of users met DSM criteria for abuse and dependence on Spice products.
Conclusions: Participants exhibited a diverse profile of use patterns as is typical for other drugs of abuse. There was evidence that users continued to seek and use these drugs after being banned by local authorities. This study should be interpreted with caution due to methodological limitations. Controlled laboratory research is needed to further examine the behavioral pharmacology of individual synthetic cannabinoids found in Spice products.
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