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Research Summary

One in 12 US College Students Report K2 Use

“K2” or “spice” refers to a series of products advertised and sold legally in some states as incense. The herbs in K2 are adulterated with synthetic cannabinoids prior to sale and are smoked to achieve effects similar to marijuana. To estimate the extent of K2 use in a sample of college students, researchers conducted a 2010 electronic survey of University of Florida students. Of 2396 surveys delivered by email, 852 students (36%) responded.

  • Ever use of K2 was reported by 69 students (8%).
  • Among those who reported using K2, 90% also reported using marijuana, while only 36% of those who had not used K2 reported using marijuana.
  • On multivariable analysis, K2 use was associated with younger age, male gender, and cigarette and marijuana use.


This study, although of limited generalizabilty due to response rate and conduct at a single institution, provides a glimpse into an evolving problem of synthetic cannabinoid use. Although 8% is below the prevalence rate for marijuana and tobacco use in college populations, it is higher than the rate for other drugs of abuse such as cocaine, LSD, heroin, sedatives, and anabolic steroids. Physicians need to learn more about these drugs given concerning reports of severe health effects associated with their use. Darius A. Rastegar, MD


Hu X, Primack BA, Barnett TE, Cook RL. College students and use of K2: an emerging drug of abuse in young persons. Subst Abuse Treat Prev Policy. July 11;6:16.