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Risk management strategies of synthetic cannabis users

Stephanie Campos (National Development and Research Institutes, Inc., New York, New York, USA)
Ellen Benoit (National Development and Research Institutes, Inc., New York, New York, USA)
Eloise Dunlap (National Development and Research Institutes, Inc., New York, New York, USA)

Drugs and Alcohol Today

ISSN: 1745-9265

Article publication date: 2 September 2019

Issue publication date: 23 October 2019




The purpose of this paper is to explore the various ways users of synthetic cannabinoids (SCs) managed the dangers associated with the consumption of this substance.


This paper is based on a parent study of the use and market of synthetic cathinones (also known as “bath salts”) in New York City, Houston, Galveston and New Orleans. Focus groups were conducted in all four cities with a total of 20 individuals who identified as users of SCs. Grounded theory was used to analyse focus group transcripts.


Participants were aware of drug-related risks and implemented strategies to reduce harm to health. Protective measures fell into two broad categories: marketing and consumption. They noted the instability of SC products and consumer manipulation through packaging. Harm reduction (HR) strategies included: carefully selecting SC sources; sticking to one brand; handling their own SC; managing amount of K2 consumed in one sitting; controlling the pace.


Given the small amount of data on user experience with SCs and its risk to health, it is important to learn from users themselves how they create methods to keep themselves safe. This is one of the first studies recording HR practices of SC users and can contribute to intervention programs and organisations serving substance users.



The authors declare no conflict of interest. This study was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (5R01DA035887-04).


Campos, S., Benoit, E. and Dunlap, E. (2019), "Risk management strategies of synthetic cannabis users", Drugs and Alcohol Today, Vol. 19 No. 4, pp. 270-281.



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