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Daily marijuana use among U.S. college students highest since 1980

From Michigan News:

Daily marijuana use among the nation's college students is on the rise, surpassing daily cigarette smoking for the first time in 2014.

A series of national surveys of U.S. college students, as part of the University of Michigan's Monitoring the Future study, shows that marijuana use has been growing slowly on the nation's campuses since 2006.

Daily or near-daily marijuana use was reported by 5.9 percent of college students in 2014—the highest rate since 1980, the first year that complete college data were available in the study. This rate of use is up from 3.5 percent in 2007. In other words, one in every 17 college students is smoking marijuana on a daily or near-daily basis, defined as use on 20 or more occasions in the prior 30 days.

Other measures of marijuana use have also shown an increase: The percent using marijuana once or more in the prior 30 days rose from 17 percent in 2006 to 21 percent in 2014. Use in the prior 12 months rose from 30 percent in 2006 to 34 percent in 2014. Both of these measures leveled in 2014.

In addition, the use of synthetic marijuana (also called K-2 or spice) has been dropping sharply since its use was first measured in 2011. At that time, 7.4 percent of college students indicated having used synthetic marijuana in the prior 12 months; by 2014 the rate had fallen to just 0.9 percent, including a significant decline in use in 2014. One reason for the decline in synthetic drug use is that an increasing number of young people see it as dangerous.

Cigarette smoking continued to decline among the nation's college students in 2014, when 13 percent said they had smoked one or more cigarettes in the prior 30 days, down from 14 percent in 2013 and from the recent high of 31 percent in 1999—a decline of more than half. As for daily smoking, only 5 percent indicated smoking at that level, compared with 19 percent in 1999—a drop of nearly three fourths in the number of college students smoking daily.

Unfortunately, the appreciable declines in cigarette smoking have been accompanied by some increases in the use of other forms of tobacco or nicotine. Smoking tobacco using a hookah (a type of water pipe) in the prior 12 months rose substantially among college students, from 26 percent in 2013 to 33 percent in 2014.

In 2014, the use of e-cigarettes in the past 30 days stood at 9.7 percent, while use of flavored little cigars stood at 9.8 percent, of regular little cigars at 8.6 percent and of large cigars at 8.4 percent. The study will continue tracking the extent to which these alternate forms of tobacco use are changing in popularity, not only among college students, but also among their age peers not in college and among secondary school students.

Posted: 9/1/2015 3:38:00 PM

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Student fell to death after eating weed cookie

From theGrio:

An autopsy report lists marijuana intoxication as a “significant contributing factor” in the death of 19-year-old Levy Thamba Pongi, a native of the Republic of Congo who fell from a motel balcony on March 11.

Levy was a Wyoming college student who was visiting Denver on spring break. Investigators believe Pongi and his friends came to Colorado to try marijuana, Weiss-Samaras said.

Colorado legalized recreational sales of the drug in January. Colorado law bans the sale of recreational marijuana products to people under 21. It is also illegal for those under 21 to possess marijuana, and adults can be charged with a felony for giving it to someone under the legal age.

Authorities said one of Pongi’s friends was old enough to buy the cookie from a pot shop. It was unclear whether the friend might face charges.

It marked the first time the Denver medical examiner’s office has listed a marijuana edible as a contributor to a death, said Michelle Weiss-Samaras, a spokeswoman for the office.

The medical examiner’s office had Pongi’s body tested for at least 250 different substances, including bath salts and synthetic marijuana, which are known to cause strange behavior. His blood tested positive only for THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, according to the report.

The marijuana concentration in Pongi’s blood was 7.2 nanograms of active THC per milliliter of blood. Colorado law says juries can assume someone is driving while impaired by marijuana if their blood contains more than 5 nanograms per milliliter of the chemical.

Posted: 4/9/2014 2:58:00 PM

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Synthetic marijuana use down, but real pot use up among teens

From CBS News:

While use of synthetic pot is down among high schoolers, more teens are smoking real marijuana, a government survey revealed.

Health officials are concerned, as the survey also found fewer teens are worried about the potential dangerous effects from marijuana use.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institutes of Health released the 2013 Monitoring the Future survey on Wednesday. The annual survey asks eighth, 10th and 12th graders across the country about their drug use history and how they feel about illicit drugs. This year’s survey involved results from 41,675 students from 389 schools.

Synthetic marijuana -- often sold under the brands K2 or Spice -- was not as popular as it used to be among 12th graders. The survey showed 7.9 percent of high school seniors surveyed admitted to using it this year, while 11.9 said they smoked it last year.

Daily pot use among high school seniors was recorded at 6.5 percent, up 4 percent over the last 20 years. Overall, 23 percent of seniors, 18 percent of 10th graders and 12 percent of eight graders lit up in the month before being surveyed.

The survey's authors are concerned, because less than 40 percent of high school seniors believe that marijuana use will have negative effects. Those numbers are the lowest since 1978.

Part of the concern is because marijuana today is stronger than it used to be. In 1990, marijuana had about 3.35 percent Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient that gets users high. In 2013, pot contained a little less than 15 percent THC on average.

Over the last five years, opioid, alcohol and cigarette use also declined, according to the survey. Vicodin and salvia use was down amongst the oldest teens surveyed, as well as the use of inhalants by eighth graders. Cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine abuse levels remained low among students.

However, researchers were startled to find that non-medical use of Adderall has increased over the last four years. About 7.4 percent of high school seniors said they used Adderall recreationally in 2013. The researchers believe that teens think that using the prescription ADHD drug will help their grades, and there is some evidence they are using the pills to get high.

Randall County nets Texas' first felony conviction for K2

From the Amarillo Glode-News:

A local shop owner was the first person convicted of felony charges for the synthetic drug K2 in Texas.

James Medina has been sentenced to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty in Randall County to selling the drug in his shop, Up N Smoke, a year ago.

Potter County District Attorney Randall Sims said Potter also is doing everything in its power to eliminate K2.

Three other seizures have been made in the past year for similar drugs. Randall County authorities arrested the owner of The Green Gorilla Smoke Shop on a drug charge in November. In April, Amarillo Police Narcotics Unit seized similar substances at Planet X and Borger police arrested a Pampa man for delivering such substances.

Posted: 9/17/2013 1:51:00 PM

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What you need to know about synthetic drugs

From CNN:

What exactly are synthetic drugs?

There is no exact definition, because the term is used to describe a wide range of chemical products that are ever-changing. Synthetic marijuana and "bath salts" are the most common of these drugs. Unlike drugs such as marijuana and cocaine, these drugs do not come from plants; they are manmade.

When did they start appearing in the United States and who's using them?

These drugs first appeared in the United States around 2009, according to Scherbenske, and they have since exploded in popularity, particularly among teenagers.

Social media-savvy teens use the Internet to spread the word about where to find these drugs to -- as Scherbenske explains -- "discuss the effects these substances had on their body."

What's the point of making synthetic drugs?

Synthetic drugs makers have easy access to customers by marketing these drugs as harmless household items. So they make lots of money.

Are these drugs legal?

The federal government and at least 38 states have taken steps to ban the substances. But, as soon as one compound is banned, the molecular structure of the synthetic product is altered and that "changes the whole structure of the drug, so the drug becomes legal and we're at it again," James Capra, DEA chief of operations, said at a news conference in June, according to Time magazine.

Retailers are also skirting the law by labeling the drugs as "not for human consumption," according to the DEA's Scherbenske.

The manufacturers' main goal is to alter the chemical compound to stay one step ahead of the law.

The combination of those compounds and their reactions "is very scary," Scherbenske said.

"We do not know the long term effect that it will have on a person's body."

Who is making this stuff?

Most of the chemicals that are used to make these synthetic drugs are coming directly from China, according to the DEA's John Scherbenske.

Who's selling it here in the U.S.?

Scherbenske says people are starting their own businesses to sell these drugs once they see the profit potential.

These retailers have even taken the feds to court to protect their business: four stores sued the DEA in 2011, claiming the federal agency was "impeding their business," Scherbenske said.

3 deaths may be tied to synthetic marijuana in Colorado

From CNN:

Three people in Colorado may have died after smoking synthetic marijuana, state health officials fear. The Colorado Department of Public Health has launched an investigation into an outbreak of illnesses at hospitals that may be tied to the dangerous substance.

"Initial reports show approximately 75 people who reported smoking a form of synthetic marijuana may have been seen at hospitals in the Denver metro area and Colorado Springs beginning in late August," said Dr. Tista Ghosh, interim chief medical officer for the state, in a written statement. "Several individuals were in intensive care and three deaths are being investigated as possibly associated."

The Colorado Department of Health, with help from local health officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will attempt to figure out if the synthetic marijuana is to blame, and if so, whether all the patients were sickened by the same product or different ones.

Posted: 9/6/2013 2:48:00 PM

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New “Crazy Clown” Drug Hits Streets Of Georgia

From WSAV:

A scary new drug known as "Crazy Clown" is sending some users to the hospital. The synthetic incense is causing authorities to sound the alarm.

Chief Matt Doering says all eight users, ages 16 to 26, were unable to control themselves.  Some were taken to the ICU unable to breathe.

Police are now testing "Crazy Clown" to see what chemicals it contains.  Doering says manufacturers and distributors may be skirting state and federal laws by altering ingredients to stay one step ahead of the law.

The  CDC is now investigating, concerned about effect of "Crazy Clown" on other users across the country.  Right now, all police can do is issue a warning.

Posted: 8/28/2013 10:20:00 AM

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New Zealand: Prove recreational drug is safe, then you can sell

From CNN:

The New Zealand government wants to make sure your high is safe.

In an attempt to tackle the popularity of new-generation synthetic party drugs -- sold widely in convenience stores and blamed for triggering a spate of mental health issues -- New Zealand authorities have taken a radical new tack.

A new law shifts the onus to the makers of synthetic recreational drugs, forcing them to conduct clinical tests to prove their products are safe -- similar to the way pharmaceuticals are regulated.

It's the first nation to take a dramatically different approach to psychoactive substances like party pills and synthetic marijuana.

In a 119-to-1 vote on Thursday, the country's parliament passed the Psychoactive Substances Bill, establishing a framework for testing, manufacturing and selling such recreational drugs.

Under the law, new psychoactive drugs cannot be sold unless they pass health regulations. That process will be determined by the country's Ministry of Health.

Here is what else the Psychoactive Substances Bill entails:
- Restricts where and how psychoactive drugs are sold
- Prohibits sales to minors
- Restricts labeling and packaging of products
- Gives existing products a grace period to begin application process

Death link to synthetic cannabis

From The New Zealand Herald:

Synthetic cannabis has been linked to an overseas death.

A case report published last month by the Japanese Association of Forensic Toxicology connected the death of a 59-year-old man to the synthetic cannabinoid MAM-2201.

The man was found dead in his home, with packets of synthetic cannabis nearby.

No evidence of violence or disease was found, and doctors from Tokai University, where a forensic autopsy was performed, concluded "the man's death was caused by acute intoxication with MAM-2201".

Toxicologist Leo Schep, of the National Poisons Centre, said caution was needed in interpreting the results, and it was difficult to establish conclusively that synthetic cannabis had caused the death. He said that in New Zealand the health effects of the drugs had been linked to paranoia, seizures, psychotic episodes and acute renal injuries.

Synthetic marijuana linked to kidney damage

From MedPage Today:

Synthetic marijuana products such as K2 and "spice" have been linked to reports of acute kidney injury (AKI), government researchers found.

Between March and December 2012, a total of 16 cases of AKI tied to these synthetic cannabinoids have been reported across the country, Michael Schwartz, MD, of the CDC, and colleagues reported in the Feb. 15 issue of the Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report.

Clinicians who encounter otherwise healthy adolescents and young adults with unexplained kidney injury should ask about use of the drugs, they wrote, and cases should be reported to regional poison control centers and state health departments.

Posted: 2/20/2013 8:40:00 AM

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