Saturday, June 14, 2008

New Report Finds Highest-Ever Levels of THC in U.S. Marijuana

Today (June 12, 2008), the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) released the latest analysis from the University of Mississippi’s Potency Monitoring Project, which revealed that levels of THC – the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana – have reached the highest-ever amounts since scientific analysis of the drug began in the late 1970s. According to the latest data on marijuana samples analyzed to date, the average amount of THC in seized samples has reached a new high of 9.6 percent. This compares to an average of just under 4 percent reported in 1983 and represents more than a doubling in the potency of the drug since that time.

As of March 15, 2008, the University of Mississippi’s marijuana Potency Monitoring Project has analyzed and compiled data on 62,797 cannabis samples, 1,302 hashish samples, and 468 hash oil samples confiscated by law enforcement agencies since 1975. In its most recent Quarterly Report, the highest concentration of THC found in a single marijuana sample during this period was 37.2 percent. About three-fourths of the cannabis samples acquired were from law enforcement seizures and purchases. The law enforcement seizures and purchases were obtained from 48 different states. The Potency Monitoring Project is funded through by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and has conducted an ongoing analysis of seized marijuana samples since 1976.

John Walters, Director of National Drug Control Policy and President Bush’s “Drug Czar” expressed serious concerns regarding this trend, “Baby boomer parents who still think marijuana is a harmless substance need to look at the facts. Marijuana potency has grown steeply over the past decade, with serious implications in particular for young people, who may be not only at increased risk for various psychological conditions, cognitive deficits, and respiratory problems, but are also at significantly higher risk for developing dependency on other drugs, such as cocaine and heroin than are non-smokers.”

“The increases in marijuana potency are of concern since they increase the likelihood of acute toxicity, including mental impairment,” said Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Particularly worrisome is the possibility that the more potent THC might be more effective at triggering the changes in the brain that can lead to addiction; however, more research is needed to establish this link between higher THC potency and higher addiction risk.”

The increased potency of marijuana available in the United States corresponds with other troubling research showing links between marijuana use and mental illness. A new report released by ONDCP this last month entitled “Teen Marijuana Use Worsens Depression: An Analysis of Recent Data Shows ‘Self-Medicating’ Could Actually Make Things Worse,” shows that some teens are using drugs to alleviate feelings of depression ("self-medicating"), when in fact, using marijuana can compound the problem. The report shows a staggering two million teens felt depressed at some point during the past year, and depressed teens are more than twice as likely as non-depressed teens to have used marijuana during that same period. Depressed teens are also almost twice as likely to have used illicit drugs as non-depressed teens. They are also more than twice as likely as their peers to abuse or become dependent on marijuana.

Additionally, higher potency marijuana may be contributing to a substantial increase in the number of American teenagers in treatment for marijuana dependence. According to the 2006 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), among Americans age 12 and older there are 14.8 million current (past-month; 6.0 percent) users of marijuana and 4.2 million Americans (1.7 percent) classified with dependency or abuse of marijuana. Additionally, the latest information from the Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS, 2006), reports that 16.1% of drug treatment admissions were for marijuana as the primary drug of abuse. This compares to 6% in 1992. A similar trend is taking place in the Netherlands, where new data indicate that the number of people seeking assistance for cannabis there has risen, from 1,951 in 1994 to 6,544 in 2006 – a 235 percent increase.

To read the whole report visit.

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