As more states move to legalize its medicinal and recreational use, marijuana is becoming more addictive, public health officials warn, likely because of its rising potency, which has been engineered to placate habitual users and hook new ones.
Nearly 9 percent of marijuana users will become dependent on it, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, increasing to about 17 percent in those who started using it in their teens.
David Smith, a physician who treats drug abuse, told The Washington Post that selective breeding of the cannabis plant can up its content of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)—the psychoactive ingredient that gets users high—which could increase its addictive properties, particularly among young people.
“Back in the day when kids were sitting around smoking a joint, the THC levels found in marijuana averaged from 2 to 4 percent,” Smith told the Post. “That’s what most parents think is going on today. And that’s why society thinks marijuana is harmless.”
In 1995, the average potency of cannabis peaked at 4 percent, then 12 percent in 2014. THC levels have climbed sharply since. As of 2018, average potency hit 20 percent, but that’s not the limit: increasingly popular marijuana extracts, known as “dabs,” contain anywhere from 40 to 80 percent THC, a Drug Enforcement Administration report stated.
Newsweek. “Marijuana Addiction Is Growing And Teens Face The Highest Risk, Health Officials Say” http://www.newsweek.com. 25 June 2018. Web. 5 July 2018.