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Understanding Cannabinoid Designer Drugs

Understanding Cannabinoid Designer Drugs

Over the last few years, research has shown that abuse of synthetic drugs is becoming more common throughout the country. In response to this, the United States Drug Enforcement Agency has listed an increasing number of synthetic cannabinoids (SC) as Schedule 1 substances, and Congress has passed the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act. “SC products have received substantial media attention for being sold as legal highs,” explains Patrick M. Lank, MD. Common SCs include “Spice” and “K2,” and these drugs are often packaged as incense. Tough Spot for EDs Complications from SC use have led to an increase in hospital visits, particularly for EDs. “The initial growth of SC use in the U.S. was sparked by reports that they had effects similar to marijuana,” says Dr. Lank. “An added advantage was that they were thought to be undetectable on routine urine drug screens and were widely available by legal public consumer means. We have learned over time that the clinical effects of SCs are quite different from those caused by smoking marijuana.” There is growing concern for the potential of long-term immunologic, neurologic, and psychiatric complications with SC use, specifically in adolescents. Dr. Lank says emergency physicians (EPs) are in a particularly difficult position as the use of new synthetic drugs increases in popularity. “EPs often must treat patients who abuse SCs despite having relatively little knowledge of these substances,” he says. “Considering the increasing popularity of SCs, it’s important to assess EP knowledge of these designer drugs and explore ways to optimize care for patients presenting to EDs after exposure to these drugs.” New Data & Insights In...
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