Examination of Synthetic Cannabinoid and Cathinone Use among a Drug-Using Offender Sample, 2013–2015

Kirsten Elin Smith, Amanda M. Bunting, Michele Staton, Robert Walker, Sara Shalash, Erin Winston, Kevin Pangburn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Use of novel psychoactive substances (NPS) such as synthetic cannabinoids (e.g., “Spice,” “Serenity”) and cathinones (e.g., “bath salts”) has proliferated in recent years; however, there is a gap in research examining prevalence among offender samples. This study examined demographics, drug use, mental health characteristics, and criminal histories of NPS users compared to non-NPS users within an offender sample entering drug treatment. Using logistic regression analysis, combined 2013–2015 assessment data were examined (N = 8,791). NPS users offended more often (x̄ = 10.3), were more likely to have experienced homelessness (12.2%), and to have lived in a metro area (59.0%). NPS users reported significantly more past-year drug use, including substances not readily detected by standard urine analysis (e.g., hallucinogens, alcohol, and inhalants). Individuals with higher anxiety symptom counts (OR = 1.07; p <.001) and those who reported drinking to intoxication (OR = 1.30; p <.001) had an increased likelihood of NPS use. Older individuals (OR = 0.95; p <.001) and those who began using drugs at an older age (OR = 0.95; p <.001) were less likely to report NPS use. NPS use may be a marker of more severe using patterns in an offender sample. Future investigation should focus on NPS use as a possible method for bypassing drug testing measures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)436-445
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Psychoactive Drugs
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 20 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.


  • Criminal justice
  • emerging drugs
  • novel psychoactive substances
  • synthetic cannabinoids
  • synthetic cathinones

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • General Psychology


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