As marijuana becomes more socially and legally acceptable, scientists are taking a closer look at the risk of dependency among users. A new study recently presented at the International Early Psychosis Association meeting in Milan presented data to further back the idea that high-potency cannabis is associated with increased risk of user dependency. Although research finds that only a small amount of marijuana users will ever go on to develop this dependency, for those who do, the consequences can be serious.

In a sample of over 400 young marijuana users living in the UK, high-potency marijuana was associated with a two-fold increase in risk of dependency, Live Science reported. For example, 43 percent of those who preferred high-potency marijuana were dependent. This risk still remained even after the researchers took factors into account such as age, gender, marijuana and tobacco use, and biological markers of marijuana exposure (such as the amount of marijuana components in their hair and urine).

According to the research, potency of the marijuana plant seemed to have the most measurable effect on an individual's dependency risk, although other factors such as being a young male and mixing marijuana with tobacco also played a role. What’s more, according to lead study researcher Dr. Tom Freeman, this high-potency marijuana, (marijuana high in THC and low in CBD), is abundant in the illicit drug market. This puts individuals who use the drug recreationally at higher risk than those who use it for medicinal purposes.

"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 (of) cannabis are around twice as likely to show problematic use,” Freeman explained in a recent statement.

Marijuana dependence is described as an inability to cut down or stop marijuana use, and can lead to a mental health condition called marijuana use disorder. According to a study from earlier this year. in order to meet the criteria for marijuana use disorder, the drug must have had a negative effect on a patient's personal or professional life within the last two months, and the patient must show several symptoms including withdrawal, and a lack of control. 

While the vast majority of individuals can use marijuana without any problem, about 9 percent of marijuana users have serious issues from the drug. Freeman suggests that the best way for a marijuana user to reduce their risk of dependency is to quit or cut down on their drug use.

“If this is not possible, they should be encouraged to switch to low-potency cannabis," added Freeman.

Source: Freeman T. International Early Psychosis Association. 2016

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