Higher potency pushing marijuana demand for drug treatment programs

Higher potency pushing marijuana demand for drug treatment programs

Marijuana is a mood altering (psychoactive) drug derived from the Cannabis plant, its two main varieties being Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica. People consume cannabis by smoking, inhaling through vapor, brewing as a tea, with food, as a balm, or eating in the form of brownies or chocolate bars.

Cannabis is the most commonly abused illicit drug globally, popular for its psychoactive properties. Although originally classified as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act, several states in the United States have started making it a legal drug. It has a slew of street monikers, including grass, pot, hash, weed, reefer, dope, herb, mull, Buddha, ganja, joint, stick, buckets, cones, skunk, hydro, yarndi, smoke and hooch among others.

Regardless of age, marijuana led the illicit drug use estimate in 2016 in the country, with 24 million current users aged 12 or older. Although it may have some medicinal value, such as in treating chronic pain, muscle spasticity, anorexia, sleep disturbances and alleviating nausea and other chronic conditions, its abuse also involves serious health concerns.

Cannabis plants produce more than 100 active compounds, out of which THC or delta-9-tetrahydro-cannabinol is the key psychoactive substance. THC acts on specific brain cell receptors known as cannabinoids and is primarily responsible for mood changes, psychosis, dependency, addiction, suicidal thinking and disruption to normal learning abilities. Another important compound in marijuana is CBD or cannabidiol, which counterbalances the effects of THC and reduces some of the adverse mental health effects.


The growing potency of marijuana over the last few decades has become a concern for the people, with a rise in the THC content and depletion of the CBD. An analysis, which involved tracking of changes in cannabis potency over the last two decades (1995-2014), found that the potency of illicit cannabis plant material has consistently increased since 1995 from about 4 percent to nearly 12 percent in 2014, while the CBD content decreased from approximately 0.28 percent in 2001 to less than 0.15 percent in 2014.

From a THC to CBD ratio of 14:1 in 1995 it shot to 80:1 in 2014. This overwhelming change in their potency ratio poses higher risk of cannabis abuse, especially among adolescents. Higher doses of THC cause short-term adverse effects on health, such as memory impairment and temporary psychotic-like symptoms.

Higher potency behind surge in treatment rates

A study by researchers from King’s College London found that increasing cannabis potency may be associated with rising rates of treatment for cannabis-related problems as it accounts for almost half of all first-time admissions to specialist drug treatment centers worldwide, more than heroin or cocaine. More people now cite marijuana on admission than any other illicit substance.

Lead author Dr. Tom Freeman of the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s College, said that it was a maiden study to exhibit relationship between changes in cannabis potency and rates of treatment being sought.

The researchers based their analysis on the data collated from monitoring programs in the Netherlands between 2000 and 2015 that showed increasing concentrations of THC from 9 percent to 20 percent followed by a decrease by 15 percent. The same pattern emerged for first-time cannabis treatment after a five-year gap where national admissions per 100,000 people increased from 12 to 26 before decreasing to 20.

Between 2000 and 2010, the rising potency of cannabis reflected in the first-time cannabis admissions for treatment. It nearly quadrupled from seven to 26 percent per 100,000 inhabitants during that period and then dropped to less than 20 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2015. This means that for every 1 percent increase in THC, about 60 more people entered treatment.

Seeking help

Addiction is a scourge and can be fatal if not intervened at the earliest. However, with treatment one can gain sobriety and lead an addiction-free life. If you or someone you know is suffering from drug addiction and may need help, contact the California Detox Helpline. Our representatives can guide you to one of the best rapid detox centers in California. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 855-780-2495 or chat online for information on the detox centers in California.