Highly Potent Marijuana Has Health Experts Worried
It is common knowledge that the marijuana we have today is much more potent than what stereotypical hippies used back in the 60s and 70s. In fact, according to National Public Radio, cannabis potency has continued to steadily increase over the years.
Of course, many people like having the option to buy dry herb with a THC level of 20 to 30% (or more, in a few cases). Let us also not forget concentrates, whose potency dwarfs even the strongest dry herb.
But while THC potency increases in the U.S., so do emergency room visits. Although a fatal dose of THC is all-but impossible, certain side effects can be highly unpleasant and distressing, such as vomiting, severe dizziness, increased heart rate and hallucinations.
Needless to say, these trends do not sit well with doctors, whose views on cannabis are hardly positive.
Massive Increase in Potency
Cannabis has had decades to become more potent, but it appears that the most drastic spikes occurred more recently. According to NPR:
“One study of pot products seized by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration found the potency increased from about 4% THC in 1995 to about 12% in 2014. By 2017, another study showed, the potency of illicit drug samples had gone up to 17.1% THC.”
Staci Gruber, who serves as the director of Marijuana Investigations for Neuroscientific Discovery (MIND), says that this is an increase of about 300%.
She also mentions concentrates, like hash and hash oil, which can reach THC levels of 80 to 90%. We should also add that these products – especially on the black market – are made with harsh solvents, such as butane, which makes them even harder on the body.
The Balancing Act of THC
The old adage that we can have too much of a good thing certainly applies to THC. The overall effects – and benefits – of THC vary depending on the dosage.
Low doses typically work well and help with a lot of symptoms. Higher doses may appeal to recreational users, but can cause serious issues and side effects.
Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse Nora Volokow says:
“When someone takes marijuana at a low [THC] content to relax and to stone out, actually, it decreases your anxiety. But high concentrations can cause panic attacks, and if someone consumes high-enough levels of THC, you become full-blown psychotic and paranoid.”
Obviously this is the worst of a worst-case scenario, but the high-potency marijuana available makes such excessive doses possible.
The same applies in cases of nausea or blood pressure, with low doses helping reduce both problems and high doses exacerbating them.
Increase in ER Visits
Dr. Andrew Monte has seen firsthand the effects of this increase in cannabis potency. He reports three times as many ER visits as a direct result of excess THC. Most of them, he says, are simply due to excessive intoxication, which can be scary in and of itself.
Others show up with more severe symptoms, like hallucinations or a condition known as “cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome,” which is a chronic condition marked by constant, untreatable vomiting. Doctors believe that this condition is a direct result of cannabis use, noting that the only known way to stop the symptoms is to cease marijuana use.
At the same time, however, he does admit that this is not some massive national crisis, saying:
“Many many people use cannabis safely. The vast majority don’t end up in our emergency department.”
WeedAdvisor’s Emphasis on Cannabis Safety
Although we see safe cannabis use and legalization as a predominantly positive thing, WeedAdvisor is not willing to simply ignore the risks. The truth is, marijuana is not 100% safe –nor is any controlled substance.
The key is moderation. New users should always approach marijuana with caution and opt to try strains with very little THC.
We have nothing against products like concentrates or high THC strains, but as educators, it is also our job to be realistic. There are risks, and we will continue to address them and emphasize the importance of safe, responsible marijuana consumption.