Today's Potent Marijuana Poses Bigger Addiction Risk

Users of high-potency THC products have 4 times the risk of users of low-potency products
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 26, 2022 4:34 PM CDT
Today's Potent Marijuana Poses Bigger Addiction Risk
A customer views a sample of marijuana before making a purchase at the Highland Cafe in Bangkok, Thailand, on June 9, 2022.   (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

Cannabis potency is climbing and with it the risk of addiction to the drug. That's according to a review of 20 studies involving nearly 120,000 people, published in The Lancet Psychiatry, per CNN. "One of the highest quality studies included in our publication found that use of high potency cannabis, compared to low potency cannabis, was linked to a four-fold increased risk of addiction," senior author Tom Freeman, director of the Addiction and Mental Health Group at the University of Bath in the UK, tells the outlet. Another study found the concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis, has been climbing steadily since the 1970s, when it registered around 2%.

Now strains are being sold with total THC as high as 30%, meaning there are 300 milligrams of THC per gram after the product is heated. Freeman and colleagues found THC concentrations increased by about 2.9 milligrams per gram of herbal cannabis each year from 1970 to 2017, and increased by about 5.7 milligrams per gram of cannabis resin each year from 1975 to 2017. This helps explain why the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction registered a 76% increase in people entering treatment for cannabis addiction over the last decade. "A report by the United Nations found that in the past two decades, the proportion of people seeking treatment for cannabis addiction has risen in all world regions apart from Africa," Freeman tells CNN.

In the US, roughly 30% of cannabis users become addicted, according to the CDC, which notes the risk of cannabis use disorder is even higher for people who begin using marijuana before adulthood. Users of high-potency strains are also more likely to experience a psychotic disorder like schizophrenia than users of low-potency products, per a release. There are also suggestions of increased risk of developing generalized anxiety disorder, per CNN, though the researchers say those links are unclear. "In places where cannabis is legally sold, providing consumers with accurate information on product content and access to lower-potency products could help people to use cannabis more safely," Freeman says. (Read more cannabis stories.)

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