Mon, Dec 5, 2016 | updated 10:09 PM IST

High strength cannabis linked to increased risk of becoming dependent: Study

Updated: Oct 22, 2016 11:37 IST

Washington D.C. [USA], Oct. 22 (ANI): A new study adds to accumulating evidence that high-potency cannabis in associated with an increased risk of users becoming dependent on cannabis.

Estimates suggest around 182 million people worldwide use cannabis each year, a number that could rise as legalisation of recreational use and/or medical use increases. Roughly nine percent of people who try cannabis will become dependent on it at some point in their lifetime. People who are dependent on cannabis are often unable to cut down or quit, despite experiencing persistent negative effects from the drug.

Some people are more vulnerable to the harmful effects of cannabis than others. A number of factors may increase the risks of becoming dependent, such as being younger, male, and mixing tobacco with cannabis.

Another possible factor is cannabis potency. The cannabis plant produces over 100 unique chemicals, and the two most abundant of these (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or 'THC', and cannabidiol or 'CBD') can cause opposite effects on the brain and behaviour.

In the last decade, the illicit cannabis market has become dominated by high-potency cannabis, which contains high THC and no CBD. This may explain why the number of people receiving professional treatment for cannabis problems has continued to rise.

Researcher Tom Freeman presented new data from a sample of over 400 young cannabis users in the UK.

The samples were aged 16-23 years and 70 percent were male. 43 percent of those who preferred high-potency cannabis were dependent compared to 22 percent of those who did not. High-potency cannabis was associated with a two-fold greater risk of dependence (odds ratio 2.2) after adjusting for several confounders including age, gender, cannabis and tobacco use, biological markers of cannabis exposure (THC metabolites in urine, and THC and CBD in hair), and THC and CBD content in cannabis.

Freeman continued, "The illicit cannabis market is dominated by high-potency cannabis containing high THC and no CBD. Our findings suggest that people who prefer this type cannabis are around twice as likely to show problematic use."

"The best way for people to reduce risk is to quit or cut down their use. If this is not possible, they should be encouraged to switch to low-potency cannabis," he added.

This new data is presented at this year's International Early Psychosis Association (IEPA) meeting in Milan, Italy (20-22 October). (ANI)