April 20, 2017

A report published by the Hazelden Betty Ford Institute for Recovery Advocacy, in collaboration with the University of Maryland School of Public Health, raises concerns about the health risks from the ever-increasing potency of marijuana and new methods of consumption.

The report examined the results of studies showing that the concentration of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the chemical component in marijuana that causes a high increased from four percent to 12 percent between 1995 and 2014. This finding is based on statistics from the federal Drug Enforcement Agency. Daily high-potency marijuana users are five times more likely to experience a psychotic disorder than non-users.

The Emerging Drug Trends Report mentions two dangerous, increasingly popular forms of high-potency marijuana intake. One of them is synthetic marijuana. Individuals who consume synthetic marijuana are more likely to be hospitalized and transition to heavier drugs such as cocaine, ecstasy, and heroin.

Another dangerous form of marijuana use is known as “dabbing,” which involves heating up a potent cannabis concentrate, in the form of a wax or oil, and inhaling the vapor. Consuming marijuana in vapor form produces a powerful high that can cause the user to lose consciousness. Other symptoms include lung pain, loss of breath, nausea, and vomiting.

In regard to a recent study analyzing tweets on dabbing, co-author, Patricia A. Cavazos-Rehg, PhD, said, “Our findings signal potentially intense experiences associated with dabbing (e.g., passing out), thereby stressing the need for continued surveillance of marijuana use in this form.”

Despite the medical risks associated with dabbing and synthetics, the report cites that the percentage of adults and adolescents who are not familiar with the risks of marijuana has tripled. Statistics from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration show that the percentage of adults and adolescents who believe that marijuana poses “no risk” increased from five percent in 2004 to 15.3 percent in 2014.

“Recent research highlighting the dramatic increase in marijuana potency is concerning given what is known about the possible negative effects of cannabis on cognitive functioning and mental health,” said Dr. Amelia Arria, associate professor of behavioral and community health and director of the Center on Young Adult Health and Development.

She noted that marijuana use is usually monitored through annual household surveys and classroom-based surveys that only evaluate traditional forms of marijuana consumption. Few studies have delved into the effects of new high-potency of marijuana products. 

Dr. Arria urged that future large drug trend surveys should “look at patterns of high-potency cannabis and new routes of administration so we can more thoroughly understand the impact of marijuana on our society.”

“Concerns Rising Over High-Potency Marijuana Use” was published in the April 2017 Emerging Drug Trends Report published by Hazelden Betty Ford Institute for Recovery Advocacy.


Related Links

Concerns Rising Over High-Potency Marijuana Use, Emerging Drug Trends Report—April 2017

Related People
Amelia Arria