HealthDay News — Adolescents who use synthetic cannabinoids are at a heightened risk for violent behavior, high-risk sexual activity, and abuse of other drugs, according to research published online March 13 in Pediatrics.

Heather Clayton, PhD, a health scientist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, and colleagues collected data on 15,624 high school students. The information was collected in 2015. The participants were asked about their use of marijuana and synthetic cannabinoids. They were also asked about other drug use, violent behavior, mental health, and sexual behavior.

The researchers found that adolescents who used synthetic cannabinoids were more prone to being injured or to engage in violent behaviors than those who used only marijuana. Students who used synthetic cannabinoids also were more likely to have started using marijuana very early in life, before the age of 13, compared with students who had used only marijuana. In addition, teens who used synthetic cannabinoids were more likely to have used real marijuana 20 times or more in the past 30 days. Synthetic cannabinoid use was also linked to higher odds of having sex without a condom or other forms of birth control. 

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“To prevent marijuana use and the use of synthetic cannabinoids, it is important that health professionals and school-based substance prevention programs include strategies that reduce the initiation of marijuana and synthetic cannabinoid use, particularly among students younger than 13 years of age,” the authors write.

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