Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Upton, Thomas


Since their introduction to the United States in 2008, synthetic cannabinoids became the most widely used recreational drug behind marijuana, then regressed to an estimated prevalence of less than 1%. Contrary to expectations for a drug declining in use, emergency department presentations and acute poisonings related to the use of synthetic cannabinoids are increasing. Alongside this phenomenon, a growing body of literature is beginning to uncover a relationship between psychosis and synthetic cannabinoid use. A current gap in the literature exists surrounding harm prevention methods and targeted intervention strategies for users of synthetic cannabinoids. To date, no known studies have examined individuals with a history of use of these substances and investigated the reasons they decided to discontinue recreational use. The purpose of the current study was to fill this gap in the literature while also further confirming and expanding existing research on the characterization of synthetic substance use, perceived harm of synthetic cannabinoids, and users’ knowledge about synthetic cannabinoids. Cross sectional survey methods in a non-experimental comparative design was utilized with participants recruited through the online crowd sourcing platform Amazon MTurk. Significant motivating factors for both discontinuation and continuation of synthetic cannabinoid use were found including personal experience, accessibility, preference towards other substance, and questions surrounding the source and purity of the synthetic cannabinoids. It was also found that individuals who currently use synthetic cannabinoids have less general knowledge about the substance class when compared to individuals who have discontinued use. These results suggest that psychoeducational campaigning surrounding general knowledge about the substance class as well as information on the physiological effects of synthetic cannabinoids may be an effective harm reduction method.




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