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Use of synthetic cathinones and cannabimimetics among injection drug users in San Diego, California

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Use of synthetic cathinones (SC) and cannabimimetics (i.e., "THC homologues" [TH]) is associated with adverse health effects. We investigated the epidemiology of synthetic drug use among a cohort of injection drug users (IDUs) in San Diego, California.


We used logistic regression analysis to identify correlates of SC and TH use among 485 IDUs enrolled from June 2012 to September 2013.


Seven percent of participants reported ever using SC and 30% reported ever using TH. In multivariate logistic regression, age and recent hospitalization were significantly associated with odds of SC use (Adjusted Odds Ratio [AOR] 0.93, 95% Confidence Interval [C.I.] 0.90, 0.97; and AOR 2.34 95% C.I. 1.00, 5.49, respectively) and TH use (AOR 0.96, 95% C.I. 0.94, 0.98; and AOR 2.62, 95% C.I. 1.47, 4.68, respectively). Use of methamphetamine (AOR 9.35, 95% C.I. 1.20, 72.79) and club drugs in the past six months (AOR 3.38, 95% C.I. 1.17, 9.76) were significantly associated with SC use. Being on probation/parole (AOR 2.42, 95% C.I. 1.44, 4.07), initiating injection drug use with stimulants (AOR 1.89 95% C.I. 1.13, 3.16), and past six-month marijuana (AOR 9.22, 95% C.I. 4.49, 18.96) and prescription drug use (AOR 1.98, 95% C.I. 1.20, 3.27) were significantly associated with TH use.


A considerable proportion of IDU use synthetic drugs and may experience harms associated with their use. Findings have implications for criminal justice system management. Prevention efforts should emphasize the risks associated with rapidly changing synthetic formulations, and the potential harms associated with polydrug use.

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