University of Washington2014-07-15 7:02 PM

Spicing up the military: Use and effects of synthetic cannabis in substance abusing army personnel


Synthetic cannabis (SC) use has been increasing within the United States. Due to difficulties with its detection through standard testing, it may be an attractive substance of abuse for military personnel. However, few studies have examined the consequences of its use in this population, including evidence for its potential for abuse and dependence. Participants included 368 active-duty Army personnel who expressed interest in participating in a “check-up” around their alcohol or substance use, of whom 294 (80%) met DSM-IV criteria for substance abuse or dependence (including alcohol, illicit drugs, and prescription medications) and were not engaged in substance abuse treatment. Forty-one participants (11%) reported using SC in the last 90 days. Of those, 27 listed SC as their drug of choice. There were no significant differences in race, ethnicity, deployment history, or religion between SC users and others. Users of SC were generally younger and had less education and income than those who used only alcohol. Among SC users, 12% met criteria for drug abuse and 68% for dependence. Participants perceived SC use to be significantly more prevalent among military personnel than among civilians. Results suggest that SC is prevalent among substance-using soldiers and that DSM-IV criteria for abuse and dependence apply to SC. In addition, results highlight the importance of assessing and treating SC use among active-duty military personnel.

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