"Synthetic marijuana, so named because it contains synthetic versions of some of the cannabinoids found in marijuana, is a recent and important addition to the smorgasbord of drugs available to young people in the US. These designer chemicals are sprayed onto herbal materials that are then sold in small packets under such brand names as Spice and K-2. They have been readily available as over-the-counter drugs on the Internet and in venues like head shops and gas stations.
New Psychoactive Substances (NPS)
New or novel psychoactive substances and "legal highs," including synthetic cannabinoids, mephedrone, ketamine, and more
"According to the Crime Survey for England and Wales,238 over the period 2014-2015, 279,000 adults (0.9 per cent of the population aged 16-59) reported the use of NPS. Among young adults (ages 16-24), the prevalence of NPS use was much higher (2.8 per cent), the majority of the users being young men. Herbal smoking mixtures were the most commonly used form of NPS, with 61 per cent of the population aged 16-59 reporting their use.
"Between 2008 and 2015, a total of 644 NPS had been reported by 102 countries and territories to the UNODC early warning advisory on NPS. The emergence of NPS was reported for the first time in 2015 in Kyrgyzstan and Mauritius. In 2015, the early warning advisory also registered the emergence of NPS in previous years in Belarus, Serbia, South Africa and Tajikistan. The majority of countries and territories that reported the emergence of NPS up to December 2015 were from Europe (41), followed by Asia (30), Africa (16), the Americas (13) and Oceania (2).
"In the operating guidelines on the early warning system, EMCDDA [European Monitoring Centre on Drugs and Drug Addiction] made it explicit that 'the term ‘new’ did not refer to newly invented, but rather ‘newly misused’' substances as 'most of the drugs in question were first created many years ago.'20 In fact, investigations into the potential use of piperazines as anthelmintic have been reported in scientific literature since the early 1950s.21 Yet they only started to emerge as a health problem in several countries in the decade 2001-2010.
"To better serve policymaking at the regional and international levels, the term “new psychoactive substances” or NPS was coined. The Commission on Narcotic Drugs introduced this term at the international level in its resolution 55/1 of 16 March 2012.
"The creation of new substances to exploit loopholes in drug control legislation has been a problem since the international drug control system was first established. The proliferation of such substances in recent decades was influenced by the work done by Ann and Alexander Shulgin on phenethylamines8 and tryptamines9 in the 1960s and the 1970s. The Shulgins reported over 230 psychoactive compounds that they had synthesized and evaluated for their psychedelic and entactogenic potential.
Prevalence of Use of Salvia Divinorum Among Young People in the US: "Annual prevalence of this drug has been in a steady decline, and in 2015 levels were only 0.7%, 1.2%, and 1.9% among 8th, 10th, and 12th graders, respectively."
"MTF first addressed the use of synthetic marijuana in its 2011 survey, by asking 12th graders about their use in the prior 12 months (which would have covered a considerable period of time prior to the drugs being scheduled). Annual prevalence was found to be 11.4%, making synthetic marijuana the second most widely used class of illicit drug after marijuana among 12th graders.
State Bans on Synthetic Cannabinoids: "At this time, forty-six (46) states and the federal government have scheduled one or more synthetic cannabinoids by statute or regulation and twenty-nine (29) states have some form of the generic language. Of the four states that have not scheduled one or more of the synthetic cannabinoids, Louisiana and Nebraska include the generic language. The only two states that have not yet scheduled any of the synthetic cannabinoids or the generic language are Maryland and Rhode Island.
Limits on Research: "There is shared concern among researchers that adding these substances to Schedule I could hinder medical research. As previously mentioned, Professor Huffman did not intend for K2 to be consumed by humans.