Pubdate: Thu, 15 Dec 2011
Source: USA Today (US)
Copyright: 2011 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc
Author: Donna Leinwand Leger, USA TODAY


Nearly one in nine high school seniors have gotten high in the past
year on synthetic drugs, such as "K2" or "Spice," second only to the
number of teens who have used marijuana, a new survey shows.

"Monitoring the Future," the nation's most comprehensive survey of
teenage drug use, found 11.4% of the high school seniors had used the
synthetic substances, often packed as potpourri or herbal incense and
sold in convenience stores, which mimic the effects of marijuana.

"It is astounding," said Rep. Tom Latham, R-Iowa. "I don't think they
have any idea how dangerous these synthetic drugs are."

Latham co-sponsored a bill to outlaw 16 synthetic compounds that mimic
marijuana and 15 synthetic hallucinogens after an Indianola teen shot
himself after taking K2 in July 2010. Latham's bill passed last week.
A Senate bill, sponsored by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, is awaiting
action by the full Senate.

K2 and Spice emerged as a problem in 2008, and their popularity
appears to be rising. Poison control centers handled 5,741 calls about
the drugs in the first 10 months of 2011, nearly double the 2,915
calls received in all of 2010, according to the American Association
of Poison Control Centers. People who smoke the chemical-coated herbs
may experience euphoria, but bad reactions are common, including
convulsions, anxiety attacks, dangerously elevated heart rates,
vomiting and suicidal thoughts.

Federal officials became so alarmed that the Drug Enforcement
Administration used its emergency powers in March to outlaw the
substances. More than 40 states have also passed laws banning them.

"The next survey we do in spring 2012 will tell us a lot about how
this ban has worked," said Lloyd Johnston, the survey's principal

Marijuana remains the most popular drug among teens. Marijuana use
increased for the fourth year in a row after a decade of decline.
Nearly 7% of high school seniors report smoking marijuana daily, the
survey found.

"It's the highest rate we've seen in 30 years, so something is going
on," Johnston said. He added that growing numbers of teens don't see
marijuana as dangerous.

"That's a very bad indicator," said Nora Volkow, director of the
National Institute on Drug Abuse. "Either we do something to change
that, or we will continue to see increases."

Gil Kerlikowske, director of the White House Office on National Drug
Policy, said state legalization of marijuana for medical use is
influencing teens.

"We're sending young people the wrong message when we call it
medicine," he said.

Half of high school seniors reported having tried an illicit drug at
some time, 40% reported using one or more drugs in the past year, and
a quarter said they had used one or more drugs in the past month, the
survey found. Among 10th-graders, 38% said they had tried an illicit

Tobacco and alcohol use are at their lowest levels since the survey
began in 1975, Johnston said. "Kids consider smoking (cigarettes) to
be dangerous. They aren't even trying it," he said.

The survey, conducted by the University of Michigan, questions 47,000
students in the eighth, 10th and 12th grades in 400 public and private
schools around the nation. It is sponsored by the National Institute
on Drug Abuse and the National Institutes of Health.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.