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Synthetic cannabinoids (SC) use has had a dramatic increase in recent years, but data regarding their adverse effects on mental health is limited. In this study, we compared clinical presentations of SC users with cannabis users in a psychiatric inpatient setting.


Digital charts of all patients who were admitted to a dual diagnosis psychiatric unit in one year were reviewed. Patients who had any current substance use disorder were categorized in four groups: (1) SC use and cannabis use (SC+MJ+), (2) SC use without cannabis use (SC+MJ-), (3) cannabis use without SC use (SC-MJ+), and (4) No SC or cannabis use (SC-MJ-).


A total of 594 charts were included. SC+MJ- patients had significantly more psychotic symptoms (OR: 4.44, 95% CI: 1.98-9.94), followed by SC+MJ+ (OR: 3.61, 95% CI: 1.87-6.97) and SC-MJ+ (OR: 1.87, 95%CI: 1.33-2.64) patients. The SC+MJ- group also had more agitation and aggression was most prominent in SC+MJ+ subjects. Multivariate analyses showed that the psychiatric associations of SC and cannabis use remained significant even after controlling for potential confounds such as other substance use.


The prominent psychiatric features of SC users as compared to cannabis users in an inpatient setting are psychotic presentations and agitation, which have important treatment implications.

© The Author(s) 2016.