Potent marijuana linked to growing rates of addiction, mental health problems

BATH, United Kingdom — Marijuana is the most widely used drug worldwide, aside from alcohol and nicotine. The potency of cannabis products all over the world has steadily increased over the years however, sparking concerns over potential new health complications. Sure enough, a recent study by researchers at the University of Bath found that rates of cannabis addiction treatment have increased at nearly the same pace as the drug’s potency over the years.

Scientists from Bath’s Addiction and Mental Health Group systematically analyzed the relationship between cannabis varieties used by people and any addiction and mental health problems. The analysis encompassed 20 prior studies involving close to 120,000 people.

More specifically, cannabis potency refers to the concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) present in marijuana. THC is the key psychoactive cannabinol behind marijuana’s trademark “high.” On a related note, earlier work conducted at the University of Bath found that today’s THC levels have increased significantly over time.

This latest work suggests those who use high potency cannabis may be more likely to experience addiction in comparison to those using low potency marijuana. The findings also point to a higher risk of psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia, among high potency users.

Cannabis addiction has nearly doubled in the last 10 years

Study authors say these findings could help explain why more people have been attending treatment for cannabis problems in recent years. Data provided by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction reveals that 76 percent more people have entered treatment for cannabis addiction over the past decade.

All in all, researchers believe it may be time to begin considering public health guidelines and policies to help promote safer marijuana use.

“Our systematic review found that people who use higher potency cannabis could be at increased risks of addiction as well as psychosis when compared to people who use cannabis products with lower potencies,” says lead study author Kat Petrilli from Bath’s Department of Psychology in a university release.

“These results are important in the context of harm reduction which aims to minimize the negative consequences associated with drug use. While the safest level of use for cannabis is of course ‘no use’, it is important to acknowledge that a significant number of people across the world use cannabis regularly and to ensure they can make informed decisions that could reduce any possible harms associated with it.”

Marijuana use worldwide still varies from country to country

The United States has seen marijuana legalization become more widespread in recent years, with cannabis readily available for recreational use across many states entering 2023. Meanwhile, recreational marijuana remains illegal in the United Kingdom.

Liberal Democrats in the U.K. have argued that a legal regulated market would promote safer cannabis use by enforcing a limit on the potency of cannabis products. Revenue from marijuana products could also help to fund education and treatment programs for cannabis problems.

“Our findings suggest that people who use cannabis could reduce their risk of harm by using lower potency products. 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,” senior study author Dr. Tom Freeman concludes.

While there is anecdotal evidence linking cannabis to anxiety and depression, study authors stress the links between cannabis potency and other mental health problems remain unclear.

The study findings appear in The Lancet Psychiatry.

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  1. These articles keep on saying that weed is more potent now. I can tell you from personal experience that the weed in the 60’s and 70’s was better than most of what
    I see now. Had to start growing my own to get decent weed.

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