High-Potency Cannabis Linked to Addiction and Mental Health Problems

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 High-Potency Cannabis Linked to Addiction and Mental Health Problems

 Jim Windell

            After alcohol and nicotine, the most widely used drug around the world is cannabis. Latest estimates from the UK suggest that over the last year around one in five 16 to 24 year-olds had used cannabis. In the U.S., it is estimated that more than 43 million people have used marijuana in the past year and the percentage of users is almost 16 percent of the 12 and older population. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, this percentage has increased in recent years.

            Various studies have found that the potency of cannabis has increased steadily for decades. And given the number of people using cannabis regularly and given the increased potency, does this suggest increased risks for cannabis users?

            To answer this question, researchers from the Addiction and Mental Health Group at the University of Bath systematically analyzed the relationship between the types of cannabis people use and their addiction and mental health problems. Their study, recently published in The Lancet Psychiatry, draws on 20 studies involving almost 120,000 people in the UK.

           The results of the study suggests that people who use high potency cannabis are more likely to experience addiction than those using low potency products. It also indicates that people using high potency cannabis are more likely to experience a psychotic disorder, such as schizophrenia.

           These findings may help to explain why more people have received treatment for cannabis problems over recent years. Data from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction show a 76% increase in people entering treatment for cannabis addiction in the past decade. Research in the U.S. estimates that more than 14 million people meet the criteria for cannabis use disorder.

           Based on these new results, the authors argue that public health guidelines and policies to help make cannabis use safer should be encouraged. Lead author, Kat Petrilli, from the University of Bath’s Department of Psychology, explains: “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.”

           Petrilli went on to say that their 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,’ She said, “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.”

           Following up on this comment, senior author, Dr. Tom Freeman notes that, “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.”

           To read the original article, find it with this reference:

Petrilli, K., Ofori, S., Hines, L., Taylor, G., Adams, S., & Freeman, T. P. (2022). Association of cannabis potency with mental ill health and addiction: a systematic review. The Lancet Psychiatry, 9(9), 736-750.




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