Though it’s often seen as a safer alternative to marijuana, “fake weed” is no such thing. That was the crux of a study published this morning at the website for the journal Pediatrics.
In fact, say researchers, kids who use this so-called “fake pot” or “synthetic marijuana” are more vulnerable to risky sexual behaviors, physical violence and are more likely to move on to abuse other drugs.
The “risky” behaviors blamed on synthetic cannabis products were self-reported by the teens themselves so researchers acknowledge that the actual numbers may be under-reported or even over-reported. But they insist that these data are in line with similar studies.
Though “fake pot” products aren’t in the news as much as they were even just a couple of years ago–largely because they are now illegal in most states–they do still exist. And, as you can see from the photos provided by the New York Department of Health back in 2015, these products are certainly being packaged to be teen-friendly.
So how popular are synthetic cannaboids with kids? In 2015 it was estimated that more than 5% of all US high-school seniors had used some version in the past year. (That number was down dramatically from the 11.3% found in 2012.)
Most kids who admit to using synthetic cannaboids also admit to using real marijuana.
The researchers behind this study urge policy makers, medical professionals and substance abuse program directors to develop and implement programs that discourage the use of both marijuana and the fake stuff–especially when it comes to pre-teens and children.