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Does cannabis testing in the military drive synthetic cannabinoid use? Self-reported use motivations among justice-involved veterans

NCJ Number
International Journal of Drug Policy Volume: 106 Dated: 2022
Date Published

This study explores use prevalence, correlates, and use motivations of synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonists (SCRA) among veterans.


This study exploring synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonists (SCRA) use prevalence, correlates, and use motivations among veterans concludes that drug testing programs within the military do not appear to have the unintended consequence of routing individuals to more risky drugs; however, SCRAs appear to have been an underappreciated problem within the military. Further, use extends beyond the military with many only initiating use after discharge, suggesting SCRA use may jeopardize the health of veterans post-service. This study focuses on whether United States military personnel substituted SCRAs for cannabis to subvert testing protocols. Though (SCRAs) were controlled after being introduced as a ‘legal high,’ SCRAs likely remain appealing to individuals subject to routine drug screens as not all testing programs consistently include SCRAs. Military populations have been linked to SCRAs due to the unconfirmed supposition that testing protocols led many to substitute SCRAs for cannabis. All veterans appearing in one of eight civilian criminal courts in three U.S. states were invited to answer questionnaire items related to military service, court functionality, and substance use. Of the 579 veterans eligible, 54.9% chose to participate, yielding a cross-sectional sample of 318 veterans charged with a criminal offense by civilian authorities. Sixty-five (21.3%) justice-involved veterans reported lifetime SCRA use. Use while within the military was reported by 15.0% of veterans enlisting after 2008. Only eight (12.3%) reported SCRAs were used as a substitute for cannabis. Boredom (36.9%), experimentation (27.7%), and social aspects of SCRA use (32.3%) were more commonly reported motives. Logistic regression models indicated that use of cannabis (aPR=2.06, p<.05), hallucinogens (aPR=2.50, p<.01), and SCRAs (aPR=2.49, p<.05) while in the military were risk factors for SCRA use after leaving the military, whereas older age at time of military exist was a protective factor (aPR=.87, p<.01). (Published Abstract Provided)

Date Published: January 1, 2022